Among the many updates on its work in VR given at F8 this week, Facebook’s tease of photorealistic avatars was perhaps the most promising.
Many believe VR will one day become the way we meet up around the world to work and play with people we can’t easily meet in real life. Facebook obviously hopes this is the case, which is why it bought Oculus four years ago now and has since launched its own social VR platform, Facebook Spaces, on the Rift. But for VR to be a really convincing social tool we’re going to need photorealistic avatars that digitize and mirror our real bodies for the virtual space. During his section of F8’s second keynote, CTO Mike Schroepfer showed Oculus was getting close to this.
Schroepfer began by taking a look at the current cartoonish avatars from Facebook Spaces, which themselves have evolved significantly over the past year. But what we saw on screen after was far from cartoonish.
“Our teams have been working hard trying to take a photorealistic avatar and animate it in real-time for VR,” Schroepfer said as he ran a video of two Oculus employees with Rift headsets on. Their digital faces were also shown on-screen looking remarkably lifelike. Mouths accurately synced with the words each user was saying, and the user’s eyes realistically blinked, too. We didn’t get details on exactly how Facebook was pulling this off, but it looked hugely promising all the same.
Sadly, Schroepfer didn’t say anything about when we might see these avatars integrated into Oculus software, though it’s very likely that we’ll need new headsets with crucial features such as eye-tracking before we can truly bring our digital selves into VR. Thankfully, Oculus is working on that, too.