On April 25, according to foreign media reports, Facebook released a new VR (virtual reality) avatar system on Friday . Users can more finely customize the size and appearance of the avatar , add headwear, etc. At the same time, these new VR avatars can also present full-body images and track the movements of the user’s upper body.
Currently, users can wear the VR headset Oculus Quest for trials in games such as PokerStars, Topgolf with Pro Putt and Epic Roller coaster. Later this year, Facebook will also open a new VR virtual image to more developers and applications, making it a universal image for users on more platforms.
1. “Face pinching” is more free, and hand movements can also be tracked
The previous version of Facebook’s avatar was based on dozens of prototypes, and users can personalize them, but there are still users who think they can’t find a prototype that suits them. Therefore, the new VR avatar allows users to adjust their body shape, face shape, nose shape, etc., while also adding options such as headwear. Mike Howard, head of avatar products at Facebook Reality Labs, said: “We are working hard to ensure that our prototypes are more representative.”
Howard said that the new VR virtual image is Facebook’s new development in social image since the launch of the Toybox demo version in 2015.
The main purpose of Toybox is multi-person interaction in virtual reality, but it does not have a truly personalized image. What people see in the field of vision are translucent, floating heads and hands. When these floating hands move in a certain way, the user can determine what the person on the opposite side is doing.
Based on these early experiences, Facebook Reality Labs has built a more powerful gesture recognition function for the new VR avatar . In order to collect data on users of different sizes, they invited many subjects to perform different actions in the laboratory, and used what Howard called “technology similar to film production” to capture and analyze.
▲VR avatars that can track the movements of the user’s upper body are used in the game
These analysis results are used to train AI algorithms for precise motion recognition, ensuring that users can control the arms and elbows of the avatar through the control handle.
2. The avatar enters the game, making it easier for players to connect
The new VR avatar will also be the key to making third-party applications and games more social. Facebook announced that it has become partners with games Epic Roller coaster, PokerStars VR, Topgolf and Pro Putt.
Later this year, Facebook will release an SDK to bring the new avatar system to more applications and games. Howard believes that although full body images are not supported in the game, presenting a complete body helps users customize and accept their avatars.
Game Topgolf developer, Golf Scope co-founder and CEO Ryan Engle (Ryan Engle) said that Facebook’s new VR avatar can be directly added to its games. The SDK allows users to adjust the avatar’s hands naturally and conveniently. In addition, the new VR avatar system is very suitable for the performance of the VR head-mounted display Quest 1 and Quest 2, and will not increase the excessive load.
As a multiplayer game, TopGolf players are happy to connect with friends all over the world, and the new VR virtual image provides a very friendly visual presentation of the image of each player, deepening the connection between people.
3. From emoticons to universal VR avatars on multiple platforms
When Facebook first launched a personalized avatar emoji package in 2019, it was criticized for copying Bitmoji, the emoji system of photo-sharing app Snapchat.
▲ Facebook’s personalized avatar emoji package launched in 2019
However, this customizing personal image function also inspired FaceBook’s idea of making users’ self-expression more detailed. Mike Howard revealed in an interview with foreign media that this is one of the important factors influencing the development of Facebook’s latest generation of VR avatars.
Facebook said that they will add a new avatar system to more applications, and the company’s goal is to maintain the same avatar style in applications such as Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.
Howard believes that the new VR virtual image system is to allow users to customize a self-image that can be commonly used on social platforms. These images can be similar to themselves in reality, or they can show another side of themselves.
Conclusion: With refined customization, the VR virtual image will also “out of the circle”
Whether it is the diversification of avatar prototypes or the launch of hand movement tracking technology, Facebook’s new VR avatar is more refined, allowing users to better express themselves with it. As Howard said, “Making the avatar not look like a robot is one of the biggest challenges.”
Facebook’s new VR virtual image is an innovation, but also a bold opening. Allegedly, Facebook also plans to introduce these new VR avatars into applications and services outside of virtual reality.