Facebook Introduces More Realistic Avatars for Virtual Reality Facebook Spaces

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Creating an avatar of yourself can be fun, especially when you have plenty of options to work with in terms of hair color and style, face shape, clothing, etc. I made one for myself in Snapchat recently, and I like it, though it doesn’t look all that much like me – it has my coloring and clothing style, but that’s about it. It’s hard to make what is essentially a cartoon look like yourself, though I’ve seen people do it successfully, and it’s almost a little bit spooky.

Following its recent support of 3D file formats allowing for 3D posts, Facebook Spaces is Facebook’s new virtual reality environment in which people can interact with their friends face to face – or avatar to avatar, at least. The goal is to make you feel as though you’re really standing there with your friend, having adventures or doing whatever it is that avatars do in virtual space. There’s not much they can’t do, in fact. But to truly feel like you’re with somebody you know, you want to be able to create an avatar that looks like you, and that’s what Facebook wants to help you do.

The first version of the avatars in Facebook Spaces had some limitations: there were only a few options to choose from in terms of things like hair color and eye shape, and some of the movements didn’t seem as lifelike as they could. So they made some improvements. Facebook brought together artists and engineers from across their team and drew on techniques from film animation, graphics, game character design, and mathematics to completely revamp the avatars.

The team added hundreds of new options to customize appearance, including new head shapes, hairstyles and facial features. Body type can also be customized for the first time, and users can easily fine tune their appearances with new controls to adjust the size, position and angle of their features. Richer materials, better lighting and shadows have been added to make the avatars feel more “present” in the virtual space, and avatars’ body movements now look more fluid and natural. The team also updated the system that makes avatar suggestions based on machine learning, so that it can take advantage of new and expanded feature options when matching users to suggested looks.

The updates will be introduced to Facebook Spaces this week, and the Facebook Spaces team says that they’re not done yet; they’re continuing to work on making their avatars even more expressive, dynamic and realistic. The avatars can be used through VR sets such as the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.

It may not be long before we’re interacting with each other in virtual spaces using avatars that are perfect, realistic copies of ourselves. It seems as though we may be getting closer and closer, and as virtual reality technology continues to evolve, the more virtual spaces are beginning to mirror the real world – except, of course, that in the real world you can’t have dance parties on the moon. Yet.

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