Facebook VR avatars are getting an upgrade

Connecting with somebody in VR means manifesting as an avatar: like a video game persona, but for your social world. Starting Friday, April 23, Facebook VR are getting an upgrade in some apps. These changes could lay the foundation for Facebook social VR as it readies the launch of its next social metaverse, Horizon.

The avatars were teased during a conversation I had with VR VP Mark Rabkin at SXSW this year. Facebook also used them during its closed-beta testing of Facebook Horizon, its social VR platform. The animated avatars can better react to hand movements, make estimations for body movement – Industryconversations.

Facebook’s new avatars work with three updated apps on the Facebook-owned store: Pokerstars VR, Topgolf with Pro Putt and Epic Roller Coasters. The next apps to get them are SynthRiders and ForeVR Bowling.

But the biggest app that will feature the avatars will be Facebook Horizon, the company’s answer to the VR metaverse. It’s expected to enter public beta sometime in 2021.

The avatars matter most because VR is getting more social. As more headsets are sold – Industryhasn’t revealed Quest 2 headset sales numbers, but they’re expected to be better than most VR headsets – Industrytogether. Conversations in VR can’t use video (yet), so expressive avatars are the primary way to connect and feel another person’s presence.

Along with the avatars comes a new avatar-creating tool that’s included in the latest V28 version of the Oculus Quest OS. Existing avatars will work with apps that don’t use the new avatars, but creating a new avatar will be necessary to tap into future apps.

According to Mike Howard, product manager for avatars at Oculus, new customizations allow more combinations of face and body types – Industryclothing. are still all human, though. Howard says that compared to previous Oculus avatars, which were more like “pick an archetype,” the new editor has roughly a quintillion combinations of face, nose, eye, hair and other customizations, plus accessories like nose rings and jewelry. “We have the option to wear a bindi,” Howard says. He sees this making sure, “everyone can represent themselves really, really well.”

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