Oculus is rolling out its new and more expressive avatars starting today


Oculus is starting to roll out redesigned avatars that are more expressive and customizable than the avatars launched in 2016. They will appear in just a few games for the Quest VR platform as of today, including Epic roller coasters, PokerStarsVR, and Top golf with Pro Putt. Soon they will appear in Synth Riders, and later in the year, a new game called ForeVR Bowling will feature them.

The avatars launching today, starting with those few select games, seem a lot more fleshed out. For example, they have legs in the editor (although they don’t show up on your avatar in VR yet). The new avatar editor apparently offers a trillion possible combinations of hair, eyes, body type, facial hair, piercings, clothing and other features. There is no gender switch, nor is there a pre-baked set of face presets. Instead, the editor lets you dive into every facial feature, down to wrinkles, nose, and makeup. It’s like a glorified character creator from an RPG. You can create an avatar that looks like you, or just one that is ambitious, that reflects how you want to be seen in social VR spaces.

A look at the new avatar editor

By the end of 2021, Oculus will have opened its new avatar SDK to all developers, and these VR personas will be supported in Facebook Horizon, the company’s own extensive social VR playground. However, games are just one application for these revamped avatars. Oculus says the avatar you create will eventually show up in some form in the Facebook app, Messenger, Instagram, and more, but only if you choose to. Oculus would not disclose details of exactly how your avatar will appear in those apps or when. “We are at the beginning of a long journey,” said Mike Howard, product manager for avatars at Oculus The edge.

Avatars first launched on the Oculus Rift platform in 2016 as “monochrome busts with floating hands,” as my colleague Adi Robertson put it. Howard said all the early avatars wore glasses because they didn’t try to simulate realistic facial features, especially the eyes. Hand motion was the big breakthrough at the time as Oculus had launched its Touch controllers for the Rift.

Avatars in Top golf with Pro Putt.

The design of these new avatars builds on the lessons of the now-defunct Facebook Spaces and the aforementioned Horizon experience which is currently in an invitation-only beta – both of which opted for a more welcoming, cartoonish look than the more realistic Expressive Avatars. that Oculus showed in 2018. Howard recounted The edge that these new avatars in their design are focused on fun with attributes of animation techniques. The expressions look a bit exaggerated, and they look about as harmless as Memoji. They are cute.

Despite their modest appearance, Oculus studied behavioral characteristics, such as how often people usually blink and the speed at which their eyes rotate to look at points of interest, to make the new avatars more like reality. It worked to get an immersive look, even though Oculus’ current headsets don’t track what your eyes are doing. Perhaps the next-generation Quest headset will. Mark Zuckerberg recently spoke about eye tracking in an interview with The information, saying, “One of the things I’m really excited about for future releases is getting eye tracking and face tracking because if you’re really excited about social presence, you want to make sure the device has all the sensors to really animate realistic avatars so that you can communicate as well. “

epic roller coasters
epic roller coasters

Epic roller coasters with avatars.

To make the rest of your body move in a believable way, Oculus relies on machine learning to make your arm and head movements look less stilted. It has trained a prediction model that can guess your shoulder and elbow positions based on where the headset and Touch controllers are located.

You can create a new avatar within the Quest and Quest 2 headsets by clicking in your profile. For Rift users connected to a PC, the new avatar editor is located in the floating row of navigation buttons at the bottom of your field of view.