When humans interact, there is much that can be expressed with subtle body language and facial expression. This is something that has so far proved difficult to bring into a virtual environment, even as demand rises for social spaces within virtual reality (VR). Facebook are hoping to improve the situation somewhat with its redesigned avatars for Facebook Spaces.
Feeling comfortable in your virtual skin is important in order to create a sense of presence within the VR. As such, Facebook Spaces have worked with its artists and engineers to give the avatars a complete overhaul.
The latest update introduces techniques from film animation, graphic design, videogame character design and high-end mathematics to create a type of avatar that Facebook hopes will allow for a more flexible and dynamic type of player avatar.
Introduced in the update will be a vast array of new options to customise the appearance of an avatar. These options include new head shapes, hairstyles, facial features and body types. Users will also get access to new controls for adjusting the size, position and angle of features within the avatar creator.
Facebook has said that the update will bring a general enhanced sense of presence for users, as richer materials and more dynamic light and shadows along with more fluid and natural looking body movements in an attempt to avoid the dreaded Uncanny Valley effect. In addition, Machine Learning algorithms will provide users with suggestions on how to update their avatars to take advantage of the new features.
The update for Facebook Spaces should be rolling out to all users later this week, and the team say they are keen to get feedback from users on how to further improve the avatar system and Facebook Space in general.