As it looks to its metaverse future, Meta’s considering its pathways to optimal adoption, and getting people to move from Facebook and Instagram, into its more advanced digital space.
A key guide point here will be avatars, the digital characters that people will use to represent themselves in these virtual spaces. Which is why Meta keeps adding in more avatar options, as a means to normalize connection via these tools, in the hopes that this will help usher in a new wave of engagement, by better linking you to these virtual depictions.
And today, Meta’s added another avatar option, with users now able to conduct video calls, on Instagram and Messenger, through their Meta character.
As explained by Meta:
“We’ve all been there: A call comes in but your hair looks like a hot mess. Or you’ve just been bawling your eyes out while re-watching ‘From Scratch’ for the umpteenth time (no judgment). Sometimes, we’re just not camera-ready. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a third option between camera-off and camera-on to let you feel a little more present on the call?”
As you can see in the above example, Meta’s video call avatars, which will be available in one tap from the camera, will respond to how your face moves, enabling you to interact via your Meta cartoon depiction.
Yeah, they look a bit weird, but it could give you another option for connection, while also, as noted, serving an important connective purpose, in further aligning you with your digital depiction.
And that’s not all – Meta’s also rolling out animated avatar stickers in Instagram and Facebook Stories and Reels, Facebook comments, and 1:1 message threads on Messenger and Instagram.
“From a jaunty wave hello or a slow clap of approval to showing off your avatar’s dance moves, there are plenty of ways to put your personality on full display.”
Meta’s also adding avatar tagging in stickers, ‘so you and your friends’ avatars can hang out and do things together in the metaverse just like you do IRL’.
Which Snapchat added, like, five years ago – but it may help to further Meta’s avatar adoption all the same.
Meta’s also adding more advanced avatar creation options on Facebook and WhatsApp, which will create an avatar depiction of you based on a selfie, while it’s also standardizing the look of its avatar characters, so you’re digital doppelganger will look the same across all of Meta’s apps and surfaces.
Meta says that more than a billion Meta Avatars have been created thus far, which is a positive sign for its next-level communications push.
But the question now is: ‘Is this really how people want to connect, and will be looking to interact in the future?’
The logic is sound, grounded in how youngsters already interact in gaming worlds like Fortnite and Roblox - though whether that will extend into more types of communications, including professional meetings, will take some time to become clear.
It could certainly reduce anxiety, and with the broader work-from-home shift, sparked by the pandemic lockdowns, it also aligns with modern connective trends.
But we’re still a way off from people looking to conduct more of their interactions via digital characters. And with photo-realistic avatars also in development, it may not ever become a thing.
But this is the thinking. Youngsters already interact via virtual characters, and are accustomed to engaging with each other in this way.
If the metaverse is ever to take off, Meta sees this as an important ‘in’ – which is why it’s continuing to add more avatar options, in the hopes of shifting usage behaviors.