By Caroline Palermo, Staff writer
Meta officials announced on Jan. 31 the implementation of updated 3D avatars to Facebook, Messenger and Instagram for users in North America. These users can appear as their virtual selves through stickers, posts, Facebook profile pictures and stories. This also marks the first time Instagram will have this option, as Facebook users have previously had access to the avatars.
In this new update, the designs of the avatars have been adjusted to appear less bulky and have more pronounced features. They added new eye shapes, noses, beards, hairstyles, a larger range of skin tones, outfits and a variety of body types.
While more customization is expected to appear as the year progresses, Meta officials have expressed their excitement about increased inclusivity, as this update features the option of cochlear implants and over-the-ear implants for all platforms as well as wheelchairs. The avatars are in similar fashion to Snapchat’s Bitmoji and Apple’s Memoji, utilizing different facial expressions that can be sent to friends.
For those who have accounts on each platform, users can either sync their avatar for all platforms or choose to have three different avatars of their liking. Meta officials noted they understand people may want to appear different on each platform and want to support their users’ decision. Meta officials also believe these avatars are a critical step for their plans to create an interactive metaverse.
“(Virtual Reality) and Quest are key parts of our metaverse vision, but we see the metaverse as an interconnected digital world, one that bridges VR and (Augmented Reality), in addition to more familiar platforms like your phone and computer. Rolling out avatars across our platforms is an early step towards making this a reality,” (Aigerim Shorman), General Manager for Avatars and Identity, said. “We hope your new virtual self enables you to be represented online the way you want — whether that’s to friends and family, your local community or beyond.”
While there has been criticism over the viability of the metaverse long-term, companies have already made financial plans for it. Recently, Warner Music Group teamed up with Singapore-based OWNFT World for a project called Guardians of Fashion (GOF). The goal of the project is to release 6,888 NFTs later this month, allowing users to pitch their avatar NFT, which can star in music videos, virtual fashion shows and animated series. They will be using the Ethereum blockchain as their currency.
Each NFT will cost roughly $514, and anytime the user’s avatar is cast in a video they can earn a portion of the revenue. GOF’s ultimate goal is to have these particular NFTs serve as a passive income for their owners.
Although the success of this project is unknown, there are still countless companies who are investing in the metaverse.