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April 6, 2023

Introducing Virbela’s New Avatar System - More Choices, More Lifelike, More to Come

A newly released avatar system promotes self-expression and natural interactions in virtual workspaces.
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Virbela is happy to announce the release of our new avatars with a reimagined design system. The new release gives users greater control over self-expression and virtual identity. Updates include more realistic facial and body structures and additional personalization options for millions of appearance combinations. 

We invite anyone to enter Virbela Open Campus and try the new avatars for themselves. Download Virbela here to start exploring within minutes.

The Philosophy Driving Our New Avatar System

As the metaverse continues to evolve, avatar representation becomes more important to the user experience. Avatars play a key role in the enterprise metaverse in areas of self-expression, identity exploration, community cohesion, and inclusivity and diversity. 

First, Virbela’s newly designed avatar system allows for greater self-expression. There is a wide range of options that allows users to create a digital representation that reflects their personality, interests, and preferences. This level of personalization facilitates self-expression and helps users to communicate their individuality, making it easier for others to understand and relate to them.

The system also allows for identity exploration. Having more choices in avatar selection enables users to explore and experiment with different aspects of their identity. They may choose to represent themselves in ways they cannot or do not feel comfortable doing in the physical world. This exploration can lead to personal growth and can create opportunities for meaningful connections with others in their virtual world communities.

In this way, the expanded visual range of our new avatar system also helps our customers to create community cohesion. Organizations use Virbela’s virtual worlds to connect their people from anywhere in the real world to share experiences and collaborate on common goals. Our broader palette of avatar customizations use a stylized aesthetic that helps create a strong connection between each user and their avatar, while reinforcing the bond they have with other users in the shared culture of their Virbela virtual world. 

Finally, the new system also drives inclusivity and diversity. A broad selection of avatars that represent various cultures, ethnicities, gender identities, body types, and abilities fosters an inclusive and diverse virtual environment. This diversity helps users feel more welcome and accepted, which in turn promotes positive social dynamics and encourages the establishment of relationships among individuals from different backgrounds.

By increasing each individuals’ ability to express themselves, explore their identity, and represent their diverse backgrounds, our aim is to increase individual, team and organizational performance. The metaverse should be a psychologically safe place to go to work, lean into difficult conversations with colleagues, ideate, and get work done. We are excited to see the impact that these new avatars will have on our existing communities, as well as communities to come.

Technical Considerations in Developing the New Avatar System

Our team of XR designers set out to design this new system with specific parameters in mind. 

First, the goal was to give users much more control over how they design their digital selves. We wanted the customization options to represent a globally diverse professional population. The system allows users to quickly select a “starter avatar” that is the foundation of customization. Once a starter avatar is selected, the user can pick options for features (e.g., style of nose), and fine tune advanced setting sliders (e.g., adjust the size of the ridge of the nose) for those who want to really get into the details.

Second, we aimed to increase the fidelity of the avatar system while avoiding the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley refers to the discomfort or emotional response people feel when they see avatars that look extremely close to humans. To do this, the team purposefully designed the avatars to be somewhat stylized. This also adds a level of playfulness that helps promote inclusion, community cohesion, and psychological safety.

Third, we made sure the increase in fidelity did not come at the expense of scale or accessibility. One of Virbela’s unique capabilities is the number of avatars within a scene we can support with users using commodity hardware and internet connections. We knew we wanted to retain these advantages, so the new system uses some advanced technical tricks to continue to support events with 1,000s of professionals in attendance. One of our methods include using low-level, mid-level, and high resolution avatars based on how close or far away a user’s avatar is from other avatars.

Finally, we wanted the system to be extensible. By this we mean that the foundation of the system should allow for constant iteration to add in additional options in personal characteristics and wardrobe. A few of the next items we will be working on include avatar facial expressions and support to represent people with different abilities, such as wheelchair accessibility.  

What’s Next For Avatars?

We are so excited to get this new system into the hands of our users. 

While our avatar system is entirely new, we see it not as done, but rather a new starting place–a system that we can continue to build upon in time to add more clothing options, cultural representations, ability representations, and expression. 

We have learned so much over the last decade from the various communities using Virbela and our original avatar system – but there is much more to learn with this new system. As we collect feedback, we will continue to iterate this new system. 

This launch is a major milestone in our vision of creating an inclusive enterprise metaverse that serves our users, their teams, and organizations. We want to see Virbela users prosper personally and professionally. 

With more companies building workspaces in the metaverse, avatar design will continue to grow in importance. Ready to design your new avatar? Join us in Virbela

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