Your avatar is the basis of your existence in the metaverse. Put simply – in the metaverse you are the avatar. However, an avatar is not just an animated mask that replaces your face on the web. Avatars are much more than 3D human-like models and their influence on the development of metaverse is crucial.
Since the Metaverse is a 3D and social environment, to be able to explore it you need to create a visual representation of yourself. Depending on the specifics of each game or metaverse platform your avatar can be a face, it can be a posture or shape, it can be a character who is dressed in a burning outfit. Yes, you can walk around the metaverse in flames. An avatar can have legs but it can also be leg-less. The most important difference between us in the real world and our representation in the virtual world as an avatar is that there are little limitations.
Our avatar can be who and what we want. It is entirely up to the user, whether they want to make their avatar look alike, or completely different, weird, funny or scary. There are a lot of ways to make your avatar stand out in the crowd, both through physical appearance like for example hair color, but also by wearables, which are an inseparable part of almost every metaverse.
Today avatars exist mostly in games or in early metaverse platforms such as Decentraland. However, we should assume that in the near future our avatars can become a tool of communication in professional or even administrative matters. Imagine sending your avatar to the tax office.
Metaverses can differ in terms of the look of their avatars. The differences come from the spatial model, which has been chosen for the specific platform. They can be assigned in three main categories:
2D – these are the first avatars that were introduced to the internet, they are only two dimensional, so they are simply flat. This kind of avatars should be familiar to most.
3D – technology development allowed avatars to develop into more human-like models. These types of avatars are way more advanced in terms of possible customisation.
VR – that category also divides into a couple of smaller ones – like for example full body avatars. These avatars usually use movement sensors, or even body suits which are copying users movement into the metaverse, making the experience even more immersive.
Each metaverse has its own in-game avatar builder, but many also allow its users to import external apparel or specified avatars looks. Most avatar builders are easy to navigate, user-friendly and intuitive, they are designed in such a way that everyone can make their own unique avatar in usually a span of a couple of minutes. Let’s have a look how avatar creation works in Decentraland:
Even though metaverses differ, the features of the avatars are quite similar.
Firstly, users can customise their avatar in various ways by changing its physical aspects – height, skin color, muscularity. These are just a few examples of the possibilities that most metaverses provide.
Secondly, users are able to dress their avatars. Wearables can make you either stand out in the crowd, or make your avatar look just like you. Wearables are the different clothing items, accessories, and body features that can be used to customise the appearance of your avatar. What is worth mentioning, wearables are already an important part of the metaverse’s economy – some items can be worth quite a lot, and in some cases, be worth even more than their representations in the real world.. A good example of this can be a Gucci bag sold in Roblox for more than it’s worth in the real world.
Thirdly, in the most advanced metaverses, avatars can be customised in the way they move, by animations. Many metaverse dances are no stranger to even outsiders – that’s why metaverse companies have introduced a countless number of unique animations, usually available in the in-game shop. The main idea behind introducing animations is a possibility to express yourself in more creative and unique ways.
Well that’s an interesting question, isn’t it. An avatar itself is rarely worth much, mostly because of the fact that at this stage it is not transferable. What should be considered as a determinant of value of an avatar are wearables. Digital items that are in possession of an avatar like clothes, access passes, different kinds of tokens.
Many marketers have already noticed this opportunity. We hear almost every day about real life clothing brands like Gucci or Nike opening their virtual shops in the metaverse, and selling virtual editions their real-life products. Sometimes those items are sold as NFTs. Sometimes the price of the digital clothing can be higher than the same item is in the real world.
In the metaverse blockchain secures these transactions, which makes each wearable connected to the avatar, and confirms the ownership.
Some metaverses organise annual events, where you can win really attractive prizes if the community or judges find your avatar appearance extraordinary and unique. Events like these are also organised independently by the community or brands that are actively present in the metaverse.
In terms of worth everything changes when your avatar reaches influencer status. There are already examples of virtual personalities who have attracted the attention of millions of fans. How is it possible that they attract such big followings? The depth of their character is human-like, and since the phenomenon is still new those virtual humans often get a lot media attention and business opportunities. You can see them interviewing J Balvin at Coachella, modelling for Prada, and getting millions of streams on Spotify for their music according to virtualhumans.org.
Without doubt, avatars are a crucial part of the metaverse’s future and the new growing metaverse economy. We can expect massive development of new features, marketplaces and wearables trading options. Avatar celebrities will be an industry in itself. Not to mention that new metaverses will open new possibilities for the avatar’s development, in the ways we can not imagine right now.
We can expect that in near future our online identities will be shaped around avatars that we create. You can already see how the avatar feature is promoted by Meta on Facebook and Instagram in a clearly pre-metaverse environment. But that should bring us to the conclusion that mass adoption of avatar use will begin soon.