The long awaited ‘Expressive Avatars’ update to Oculus Avatars is launching in closed beta ‘shortly’. The update adds simulated eyes and overhauls the lipsync technology.
Oculus Avatars are available for free for any VR developer to use in their app. This new update was first announced back at Oculus Connect 5. It was described at the time as coming “later this year”, but that target seems to have slipped.
The most noticeable addition in the update is eyes. Currently Oculus Avatars avoid eyes by requiring opaque eyewear such as sunglasses or a virtual VR headset. The new eye simulation is based on real human behaviors such as “micro-saccades, smooth pursuit and ballistic gaze shifting”. Developers will be able to specify objects for the eyes to look at.
The lip sync technology has also been overhauled. Previously the lip simply shifted like a wave in response to the volume of the user’s voice. It now uses a machine learning based technology which recreates real lip movements. The new renderer features “differential blending between individual muscle movements” and “facial micro-expressions”.
New avatar customization options are being added in the editor. Users will now be able to change eye, lip, lash, and brow color.
Oculus Avatars went cross-platform last year meaning other platforms will be able to experience these new features too. However currently only Oculus users can customize their avatar- other platforms must select from a predetermined list.
Expressive Avatars is launching as a developer-only closed beta for now. The last major update to Avatars was released alongside Oculus Go, so it seems possible this next update will release alongside Oculus Quest. If Facebook can expand cross-platform support and entice more developers, Oculus Avatars could one day become the standard for VR.