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Avatars and The Metaverseby@vincentstephen
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Avatars and The Metaverse

by Vincent StephenSeptember 16th, 2022
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The Metaverse is a virtual universe that exists alongside our physical universe. Avatars are used to show the users’ social status in the Metaverse. The word avatar has been widely used since the emergence of Facebook in 2004 to refer to profile pictures which are used for identification on social media networks. The more detailed an avatar is, the more skillful and talented that a hacker or programmer is, and vice versa. Avatars can show more feelings and messages via facial expressions or body gestures. They are not constrained to one single environment but can easily move among different platforms. Every avatar is customizable, which means users can tweak the avatars’ features and appearances.

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Along with the emergence of the Metaverse, the term avatar has appeared more frequently. This is not a new term as we have been using it for years mainly to address our profile pictures on social media. Therefore, it is usually skipped and many still do not know what it is exactly in the Metaverse and whether it is the same as that on social media.

What is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is a virtual universe that exists alongside our physical universe. This is a 3D environment where everyone with an Internet connection and a select range of smart devices can enter and have deeply immersive experiences. The online space allows people to talk, work, entertain or play games with each other from far across the globe with human-like interactions thanks to the development of AR and VR technology.


However, it is not necessary to own exorbitant devices before entering the Metaverse. Some gaming Metaverses such as Fornite and Decentraland allow users to access them with just their computers, game consoles, or phones.


Built on blockchains, the Metaverse is sustainable, secure, transparent, and decentralized. Henceforth, it is used in many aspects of life like gaming, fashion, commerce, etc.

What is an avatar?

The word avatar has been widely used since the emergence of Facebook in 2004 to refer to the users’ profile pictures which are used to identify each other on social media networks. It was first used in a video role-playing game in 1979. However, many of us have not been clear about the actual meaning of the word and why it is used to refer to profile pictures.


The term avatar itself originated from the word avatāra in Sanskrit, meaning descent. It was used to describe an incarnation of God. The great descent represents one’s greater nature, the divine presence, and supreme self. In other words, an avatar means a form of self. Therefore, the word is used to express himself, herself, or an alter ego in online worlds - like in games or on social network sites.

Avatars in the Metaverse

In 1992, when the Metaverse was first mentioned in a cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, the word avatar was used to describe the online virtual bodies in the Metaverse. As described in the Metaverse, avatars are used to show the users’ social status: the more detailed an avatar is, the more skillful and talented that hacker or programmer is, and vice versa.


Nowadays, with the development of the Metaverse, the concept of avatars are already more attractive, with many companies and business ideating around potential functions and characteristics.


The Role of Avatars in the Metaverse

Representations of users

Avatars serve as virtual bodies in the Metaverse, as was already explained. Therefore, if people want to communicate in the Metaverse, they must create an avatar to represent themselves. Users can interact with anything in the virtual world as if it were the real one through their avatars, unlike avatars on social networks like Facebook or Twitter, which serve primarily as a means of identification.

Uniqueness

Besides, every avatar in the Metaverse is customizable, which means users can tweak the avatars’ features and appearances such as height, weight, skin, and hair colors. Moreover, they can buy NFT clothes, which are well known to be unique to adorn their avatars and express their personal characteristics.

Interoperability

Interoperability refers to the avatars’ ability to transfer across Metaverses. They are not constrained to one single environment but can easily move among different platforms.

Flexibility

Being more advanced and more flexible than avatars on social media platforms which are usually static (pictures) or animated (short videos), avatars in the Metaverse can show more feelings and messages via facial expressions or body gestures. The avatars do not only act as users’ identities but also as the connection of users that allows them to feel everything in the Metaverse.

Sustainability

Every avatar is stored as an NFT, and NFTs, as you know, are sustainably saved in blockchains. That means your avatars will never be damaged or lost.


Types of avatars

VR (legless) avatars

VR avatar is the type of avatar that does not display the whole body of users. It only represents the upper part of them to save resources. As we know, to create an avatar, especially a 3D avatar which is complicated and hard to create, we need electricity as well as human effort. Besides, it is complex to generate leg movement so many people choose to focus just on the upper part for high interaction. Without the legs, VR avatars can still well display users' appearance and general movements like moving or turning around.


Full body avatars can be customized in the Metaverse

Full-body avatars

Full-body avatars are more advanced than VR avatars because they can display the whole body of users. While the gestures of the upper parts can be recorded by hand controllers or haptic gloves, the movement of the legs is recognized by VR and AR headsets or haptic suits. Full-body avatars provide complete representations of users in the Metaverse and make the experiences in the virtual world closers to those of real life.


Full body avatars can be customized in the Metaverse

2D and 3D avatars

We have 2D and 3D avatars just like 2D and 3D NFTs. 2D NFT avatars are easier to create and are just flat representations of the user and are often used in 2D environments. 2D representations are mainly found in 8-bit or 16-bit old games.



A 2D avatar in Minecraft


On the other hand, 3D avatars can display many aspects of the avatars and can be viewed from different angles. They are harder to create and therefore harder to be replicated. 3D avatars, of course, bring better and closer-to-real-life experiences to users.



A 3D avatar in the Metaverse

How to create an Avatar

There are now some apps for you to create your own avatars. Besides, you can create your avatars within the Metaverse’s virtual worlds. For some apps like Ready Player Me, users can upload their pictures and they will be generated to create avatars that look like them. Besides, users can also customize their avatars without photos and choose the skin tone, eye color, hairstyle, etc. that they like. Some prominent tools that can be used to create avatars are Zepeto, Genies, IMVU, OSUVOX, and Ready Player Me.


It should be pointed out that the styles of avatars are different due to the apps and platforms that they are created in. Avatars that are used in the Metaverse are usually more detailed and closer to real life than those used in games. Therefore, if you do not like the style of the avatars of a Metaverse platform, you can use another app or platform to create an avatar and then use it.


Avatars of meta (facebook)


Avatars of Microsoft


Avatars in Roblox