New Day, New You: Avatars are More Expressive and Customizable Starting Today

Oculus Blog
April 23, 2021

We first launched Oculus Avatars back in 2016 to bring you into the virtual world. Today we’re expanding what “You” means, with an overhauled version of Avatars in VR—more expressive, more customizable, more diverse, and in more places.

The new Avatars launch today in a handful of apps and games, but this is just the beginning. Later this year, we’ll enable more developers to use the new Avatars. Our goal is to allow you to be you wherever that makes sense, and for your new avatar to become the representation of your virtual self. And as we’ve said before, over time you’ll be able to take your same avatar style to other Facebook company technologies, where you’ll be able to control how your avatar shows up.

Read on for more details.

A Quintillion Combinations

By far the biggest change coming to the new Avatars in VR is the amount of customization available. There are billions of unique individuals on this planet, and while we know we have a long way to go and plenty more options to add, the new Oculus Avatars reflect more of that individuality than ever before.

And it starts with your avatar’s face. The new Avatar Editor lets you change out your facial features independently. No more monolithic “Face” category—now you can choose the right eyes, nose, mouth, even wrinkles. We’ve also added new body types, hairstyles, beards, makeup, clothing, and more.

While we added more options to our original Avatars over time, this is our most comprehensive Oculus Avatars offering to-date. Our hope is that you’ll be able to create an avatar that’s an authentic representation of yourself—not necessarily your real-world appearance, but how you choose to present yourself in VR. For some, that’s finding the right hairstyle. For others, it’s the perfect hat, a nose piercing, a bindi, or even a seafoam green shirt with a flamingo pattern.

Or maybe sweatpants! When you open the Editor you’ll see legs on your avatar. Elsewhere in VR, avatars will only display from the waist up (for now at least), but in the Editor you can ensure you’ve chosen the body type you want and are dressed-to-the-nines from head to toe. We wouldn’t want you ending up in public in the “Video Call Special,” with a fancy-looking shirt up top and athletic shorts on the bottom—unless you want to, of course.

The new Avatars support over one quintillion permutations (that’s 18 zeros if you’re counting) so hopefully your Avatar will be more “You” than ever before. And if you can’t quite find the right combination yet, stay tuned! As we said, we’ll be adding even more options in the future.

Unified You

We’re also bringing your Oculus Avatars to more places than ever before. As we said, your avatar is you, and it should represent you wherever that makes sense.

We’ll be rolling these new avatars out to our own VR experiences, of course—including Facebook Horizon later this year. We’re also making the new Avatars available to developers. Starting today, you can bring your new Avatar to Epic Roller Coasters, PokerStars VR, and Topgolf with Pro Putt. Hopefully your avatar is better at bluffing than your real-world self!

Riding roller coasters and playing golf are just the start though. We’re working with developers to bring your new avatar to a number of apps and games over the coming months while we continue to test, and later this year we’ll expand support and allow all developers to access your avatar via Avatar SDK 2.0. By providing these more capable and customizable Avatars as a jumping off point, our hope is to create a more unified and cohesive social space in VR. You’ll see your Avatar in Synth Riders soon, and can get a sneak peek below at how ForeVR Bowling plans to integrate the new avatars when it launches later this year:

Avatars are a tool for vibrant expression, a digital representation of self, and we want to make sure that carries across realities. Over time we’ll also be working to ensure that you can also bring your same avatar style, if you choose, to the Facebook app, Messenger, Instagram and more.

Smoother Moves with Smarter Systems

You might also notice your avatar has better moves than before. No, this isn’t a commentary on your dancing, but a nod to the machine-learning based motion prediction technology that powers this next generation of avatars.

Trying to mimic how your body is moving in real-life presents a huge technical challenge. We’ve spent a lot of time in our research and development facilities studying physical movement, and have used those learnings to train a model that predicts your shoulder and elbow positions based on where your headset and controllers are located.

The result is a more nimble and emotive avatar — not because we’ve changed the hardware, but because we’re making some really great educated guesses. It’s one more step towards better social presence in VR, building on the work we did to give avatars physically based eye gaze, microexpressions, and audio-driven facial animations in 2018.

So go ahead and give your arms a wiggle, channel your inner ‘90s kid and do the Snake, and watch your avatar follow along.

More to Come

As we said, the new Avatars are rolling out to select experiences today. Create a new avatar from scratch, or edit an old—and keep an eye out for more announcements later this year.