Introducing Expressive Avatars and New Avatar Editor

Oculus Blog
Posted by Oculus VR
April 3, 2019

We launched Oculus Avatars in 2016 as a way for people to meet, mingle, and connect in virtual reality. Since then, we've upgraded Oculus Avatars and added hundreds of customization options, like hairstyles and accessories, to give users flexibility and choice when creating their virtual personas. Today, we’re updating our avatars with new expressive features and updating our avatar editors on both platforms with a range of new customization options.

Meet Expressive Avatars
Expressive avatars simulate eye and mouth movement to help people have natural interactions in VR, whether they’re playing a game or just chatting in Home. Together with the new Avatar Editor, which now delivers enhanced personalization through new skin tones, hairstyles, and clothing, spending time with others in VR will feel more like the real thing. Expressive Avatars are the culmination of user feedback and years of research and innovations in machine learning, engineering, and design, but the goal couldn't be simpler: enabling meaningful interactions between people in VR, regardless of distance.

Creating Social Presence
Since the introduction of the Oculus Platform in 2016, we've worked to improve how people meet and hang out in virtual reality (social presence) through hardware advancements like Oculus Touch and platform updates like Rift Core 2.0. We launched Oculus Avatars in December 2016, letting folks create their virtual selves for the first time through a set of faces, hairstyles, and texture effects. In 2018, we upgraded Oculus Avatars with a new look, enhanced customization options, and a new Avatar Editor in Home. Earlier this year, we made Home more social by adding support for Public Homes, giving people the chance to explore and interact with the Rift community like never before.

Simulating Emotion and Expressions
Expressive Avatars are the next big step forward, but simulating even the most basic human expression in VR (like a smile) is a huge design challenge. It requires the efforts of dozens of individuals across multiple teams, all working together to build something that feels real. To create Expressive Avatars, the Oculus Avatar team developed algorithms to accurately simulate how people talk to, and look at, objects and other people—all without cameras. Expressive Avatars don't track your eye movement or face with cameras; they're all just simulations based on sophisticated models. The Oculus Avatar team were able to codify these models of behavior for VR, and then had the fun job of tuning them to make interactions feel more lifelike.

If you're ready to make your own Expressive Avatar, head into Home on your Oculus Go or Rift today and get started. Over the coming days and weeks, a host of third party apps and games including Poker Stars VR, Tribe XR DJ, and Epic Rollercoaster will also update to support the new avatars, so you can take your new look on the road.

If you'd like to read more about how the team created Expressive Avatars, then check out Avatars: The Art and Science of Social Presence at the Tech@ blog.

— The Oculus Team