Meta, the parent company to Facebook and Instagram, is taking one step closer to a functioning metaverse, rolling out 3D avatars for Instagram and bringing updated avatars to Facebook and Messenger.
Instagram users will now be able to use 3D avatars in the popular Instagram Stories feature. Facebook users will have updated avatars that are far more realistic and can be used in profile pictures and stickers.
Mark Zuckerberg announced the plans via his account on Facebook, stating that the new avatars will have many more “expressions, faces and skin tones.” Soon, users will have multiple avatars ranging from “expressive to photorealistic.”
The move comes as revenue from Snap’s Bitmoji feature is booming.
In addition to the updated expressiveness of the avatars, Meta is adding features to make them more disability-friendly, including hearing aids like Cochlear implants, wheelchairs, and more. The company also plans to expand into digital clothes soon, which would hypothetically allow users to buy “digital clothes” for their avatar to wear.
Meta has not been shy about its metaverse ambitions, changing its name from Facebook late last year, a move that inspired a rash of land grabs in popular metaverses the Sandbox and Decentraland. It believes the 3D avatars, similar in style to the animation in Facebook’s “metaverse rollout video,” will be a step in the direction of onboarding its users into the virtual reality realm.
This change builds on its work in 2021, where facial hairstyles, noses, and more outfits were added to users’ options. Just for the moment, the new 3D avatars are only available in North America (the United States, Canada, and Mexico). There’s no stated timetable for the rollout to other countries.
Meta has an additional option for avatar clothes just for February: clothes from the two football teams competing in the Super Bowl. The option for your avatar to wear team gear or a generic Super Bowl celebration T-shirt runs through February 28th.
Digital clothes, often referred to as “skins,” are already popular amongst certain pre-metaverse users. For Fortnite, the wildly successful battle game, selling skins is its most significant revenue stream, with some gamers shelling out thousands for rare skins that make them stand out during gameplay.
However, the practice is criticized by some in the non-fungible token (NFT) community. The digital “skins” are not player-owned, meaning they could be lost whenever Fortnite decides to close up shop, creating a loss of thousands for some gamers.