Patstone is using the flexible nature of the VRChat platform to produce avatars that are hand puppets, choosing to represent himself in the virtual world as a character with his hand. This turns traditional social VR on its head because, well, he’s not using his head to animate an avatar. Current VR systems only have limited options to animate avatars in VR because only portions of the body’s movements are tracked — namely the head and hands. Most VR creators have been working around these limitations in a variety of ways, guessing at the locations of elbows and bodies or using jelly-like figures to avoid making arms or legs appear in awkward positions that can make people feel less immersed.
With Patstone’s efforts to animate puppets with his hands, though, he’s approaching this from a different direction. It can be quite surprising to see a small animated character in a virtual world populated by a variety of humanoids. Check out this example:
Here’s another video of the Marlin character seen from the Patstone’s perspective as he animates it:
It’s easy to imagine a number of fun uses for this approach. Disney offers an attraction called Turtle Talk with Crush at its resorts that can be magical for kids as someone behind the scenes puppets the turtle from Finding Nemo and responds on the fly to kid’s answers. It would be technically feasible for VR to make it easy for puppeteers to be hired by parents so they animate characters for kids at birthday parties or holidays, with the puppet show delivered through a camera-connected device like a laptop, tablet or phone.
Of course, I should add that given the weird nature of VR interactions right now these videos are often far from kid-friendly. Warning: bad language: