Facebook is adding avatars to Instagram

In last fall’s name change, Facebook pledged to blend VR, augmented reality, and its existing social media platforms to create a new metaverse. Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger will all begin showing C’s 3D VR avatars. In addition, Meta introduced limited-edition jerseys themed after the Super Bowl to promote avatars. Nonetheless, VR fans might not expect the cross-platform metaverse move.

It is expected that avatar-creation tools available on Oculus Quest 2. That will start appearing on other Facebook apps in the coming months. But for now, users will be able to use them beyond profile images via sticker packs. Using the same technology as Bitmoji and Apple’s Memoji, avatars can be animated with expressions. That can be sent in Messenger messages or incorporated into Instagram posts. Among the new features are expanded skin shaders; hearing aids, wheelchairs, and cochlear implants will be added to Oculus Quest, along with additional avatar customizations.

Meta’s announcement

With this announcement, a Super Bowl-themed promotional campaign will be running that will add Bengals or Rams shirts to avatars for free for a limited time. Accounts will not be able to keep the gear after the experiment ends at the end of February. In the beginning, the avatar changes will be available in the US, Mexico, and Canada, but they will be made available in other regions as well. Avatar profile image options have existed on Facebook before, but the update offers 3D animation options. The addition to Instagram is totally new.

CNET’s interview

As Meta’s GM of Avatars and Identity Distribution, Aigerim Shorman commented about the changes to CNET in a Zoom conversation, “We perceive the metaverse as an interconnected digital world between VR, AR, mobile, and computers. Being able to offer avatars across all the platforms is the first step in bringing that vision to reality. Despite the expansion of Facebook’s avatar tools to other platforms. Meta has not yet allowed multiple avatars per profile in any application. At the moment, Meta’s avatars are designed to be singular, and humanoid-based. It is possible to create a different type on each of the apps, but at the moment you cannot create multiple avatars in one app. Shorman confirmed, explaining that they could either remain the same across Messenger, Facebook and Instagram, or they could be synced up.

In CNET’s interview with Metaverse head Vishal Shah last year, Shah stated that a big part of the company’s avatar and metaverse strategy will be selling virtual items, either as avatar accessories or for virtual spaces. Those ventures are still not happening at this time. Sherman believes that finding something that is exciting and new for clothes and accessories is a step towards that vision.

Some issues with avatars

Avatars may also not seamlessly sync as expected. Avatars created through other Meta apps won’t sync back to VR; people are expected to create additional avatars through other apps. Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook have much higher usage rates than VR. So, this move also suggests that avatars may not necessarily be useful incentives for people to buy VR headsets. Rather, they seem to be similar to placeholders for apps that do not yet have a metaverse.

Facebook has promised future AR glasses and a number of AR-enabled features in Instagram and its Portal smart displays, but these avatars will not be AR-enabled just yet as well. Adding AR support to Memoji avatars seems obvious. However, these avatars still cannot be used to record animated messages from VR into applications like Instagram or Facebook. The company’s far-flung conceptual metaverse dream, which Mark Zuckerberg introduced last year when it changed its name, suggests that those features are still in the works.

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