Examining New Avatar Chat Features from Magic Leap and Spatial: Where They Get it Right, Where They Get it Wrong
Digital avatars are finally set to break through beyond the gaming industry
Having spent the better part of a year developing avatar creation technology, we’re excited to see that this natural confluence of VR and AR technology, digital avatars, finally moving beyond the confines of gaming.
Sure, video games will always remain a major outlet for digital avatars, but within the last few weeks tech giant Magic Leap and startup Spatial announced avatar-centric products. This is great news for the growth and acceptance of avatar technology, but also requires some examination.
Looking at Magic Leap’s Avatar Chat, which was released at the L.E.A.P. developers conference, the premise of the product focuses on social interaction, bringing users closer together through digital avatars. It’s a fine concept that allows Magic Leap users to interact with avatars of other users (all viewable through a headset). However, Avatar Chat leaves much to be desired.
Consider the actual avatar design
Magic Leap continues to push the cartoon-looking avatars that have already been offered by companies like Xbox for quite some time. Yes, there are customization options available, but nothing that captures true digital likeness, which prompts the overall efficacy of such a product and its ability to push avatar technology to mainstream levels.
Honestly, what is the point of chatting with your friends through avatars if the digital representation is far from lifelike? And how does this help the technology grow?
Looking at Avatar Chat, they appear to have placed significant emphasis on facial movement and recognition, along with locomotion, which is certainly a huge step in the right direction. But Magic Leap also claims that their product can detect hair movement and motion. Given our experience with creating lifelike hair for digital avatars, we remain skeptical on this claim. How did they master one of the more difficult aspects of avatar creation without first addressing the need for lifelike digital representation?
On the other side of the coin, startup Spatial is bringing avatar creation technology into the boardroom in an effort to revolutionize the world of remote work and collaboration.
Using yet another headset (although they claim to be platform agnostic), Spatial’s product allows teams to create lifelike avatars for the purpose of meetings and chats. The product actually has many more features that have nothing to do with digital avatars -- it’s premised on interactive and collaborative AR meetings -- but their representations appear to be rather lifelike and easy to generate.
But there’s one major problem with Spatial -- they’re currently not offering their product to the masses. It’s only available, via subscription, to major companies, meaning that it will be quite some time before this product has any mainstream influence.
So what does this mean for Possible Reality?
Well, for starters, all growth and acceptance of digital avatars can be a good thing. We’re proponents and innovators of this technology, so it’s our mission to see more and more people creating and using avatars. But there’s also the possibility that these products from Magic Leap and Spatial will swing and miss with the general public and not make any major movement in the evolution of avatar technology.
Consider Avatar Chat. Did Magic Leap miss the ball by not committing to lifelike representations and rushing out cartoon avatars? As a company focused on lifelike digital representations, we’re committed to creating the most realistic avatars possible because we believe this provides the best experience for new users, which will in turn push the technology further.
And what about Spatial? Are they limiting themselves, and avatar technology, by only approaching large companies? This is a bit more difficult to say because this is not so much about the actual product as it is about marketing and release strategy. And hey, at least their avatars look pretty good.
In the end, Possible Reality remains committed to creating diverse and dynamic mixed reality solution, focusing a large part of our research and development on digital avatars. Our INTARACT avatar creator provides an easy-to-use solution for all digital avatar needs, generating lifelike representations that will allow users to not only interact within gaming environments, but also with other users, combining social functionality with gaming and other emerging communication media.
So when you’re looking at Magic Leap’s Avatar Chat, consider, just for a moment, how that experience would be improved with lifelike digital avatars, and then remember that there’s already a solution out there that brings realistic 3-D avatars to life.
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