Social service AltspaceVR is taking a big step adding a slew of new avatars including a diverse set of male and female humans. The Redwood City-based company started with robot avatars for people to occupy as an easy way of representing the limited amount of movement data available from an Oculus DK2. Along with the diverse humans, Altspace also added a few new robots, too.
Human avatars are a big challenge because of technical constraints, but apps like Daydream Blue and Oculus Social have settled on simple cartoon-like avatars that do a good job of communicating head movements without feeling too awkward.
Here’s the male version of the human avatars shown with a variety of skin and hair colors:
Tony Sheng of the Altspace product team described the challenge designing the new avatars on the company blog:
..it’s hard to design human avatars that are pleasant to interact with in VR. The balance of detail and animation has to be perfect. Show too much detail on the avatar without enough animation and it feels like a mannequin. Don’t show enough and it doesn’t feel human. We iterated on many different concepts before landing on these two models for our initial release.
While Oculus, Valve and PlayStation VR are prepping tracked hand controllers, avatars in social networking services have to be flexible enough to work with people who may or may not have them. In addition, Altspace can also be viewed in 2D with a traditional monitor and the company is working on a version of its budding social network for the Gear VR, so avatars need to work well across a wide variety of configurations.
Here’s a gif showing how one avatar with hands and one without looks in Altspace: