Zuckerberg’s team seems to want to make their users ditch the same old emojis that everyone is used to with their new customizable Avatars feature meant to be a virtual lookalike of you that you can use in chats and comments.
Facebook’s new plan to try and redeem themselves from a somewhat soiled reputation seems to be done not only by their recent interface changes and promises of “privacy” but also by creating new playful ways of communication for their loyal fans.
The company may be late in this venture which is something that they very well acknowledge but being that users in Australia are already testing the feature out, they are not likely to back down simply because someone else beat them to it. The feature may be distributed in phases now but every user will be able to have their own taste either later on in the year or early next year.
At such a time when the 15-year old company is starting to look old especially to the younger generation, the feature is meant to bring back the fun and youthful feel like the good old days, even though this may seem almost impossible to achieve. The very word “Avatar” may also not seem quite as hip as “Bitmoji”, its competitor, but it could bring a light mood and slight dazzle to the communication we are used to in Facebook and Messenger.
The feature had, however, been spotted somewhere while in development by app researcher, Jane Manchun Wong, last year who has aired that the Avatars have a more polished, 3D look to give it a more realistic touch which might be a selling point from the flat-styled Bitmoji that we are used to.
What may be a disclaimer to some though is the fact that the Avatars will not be able to integrate into other apps like keyboards as Bitmoji does. It also won’t let users take a photo or selfie to initiate the Avatar’s creation which is kind of ironic for something that is meant to be a virtual representation of the user and the fact that it is from a company with the word ‘face’ in it.
The decision to omit this was defended by a spokesperson from the company saying that considering that there is a lot of sensitivity around facial recognition they wouldn’t want people disappointed with Avatars that looked totally different from them.
Jimmy Raimo, the communication manager in charge of the project also distracts us from all this with a promise of total representation as they have put in a lot of work on the product and design perspective to ensure absolute inclusion. From offering religious clothing like hijabs to a rainbow of skin colours and hairstyles, Facebook has no intention of leaving any demographic out.
Creating an Avatar
So how do you make the Avatar? Facebook users will be made aware of the Avatars existence by pop-ups on their news feeds’ comment composer as well as the Messenger sticker choosing tab where they can tap to start creating their own Avatars.
You will initiate your creation from a gender-neutral selection from which you can personalise with a range of 18 attributes. The company’s intention with the new feature is to cater for those users who prefer to remain anonymous through their profile picture with which they can just use the Avatar.
With no plans of monetizing the Avatars, for now, Facebook will also exclude sponsored clothing options like jerseys or the choice of buying accessories like jewellery for your Avatar. “It would help personalize it for sure and from a business perspective that would be smart.” are the words of Jimmy Raimo hinting heavily of future plans of including monetization maybe when they finally launch their cryptocurrency.
No one really knows. Other than that, it will be interesting to see the acclaim this new feature receives when it is released to everyone else considering the growing trend of making communication based on more on media than just text.