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Meta adds 3D avatars to Instagram Stories, with updates for Messenger and Facebook

Meta adds 3D avatars to Instagram Stories, with updates for Messenger and Facebook

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It’s a step toward the company’s concept of the metaverse

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Mark Zuckerberg’s lifelike 3D avatar
Mark Zuckerberg’s lifelike 3D avatar
Meta

Facebook parent company Meta is introducing 3D avatars to Instagram Stories and direct messages and updating the avatars in Facebook and Messenger, the company announced Monday. People in the US, Canada, and Mexico can appear as their virtual selves in stickers, feed posts, Facebook profile pictures, and more across Meta’s platforms, including its Quest VR platform. The new avatars will include new facial shapes and assistive devices like cochlear implants, hearing aids, and wheelchairs to be more inclusive of users with disabilities, Aigerim Shorman, Meta’s general manager for avatars and identity, wrote in a blog post.

“Since revealing our long-term vision of the metaverse at Connect 2021, we’ve continued building out this next evolution of social technology, building towards a future where you can sit in the same room as loved ones who are actually thousands of miles away or work naturally with a talented team that spans the globe,” Shorman wrote.

The avatars further the company’s foray into the still mostly aspirational metaverse, which Shorman described in Monday’s announcement as an “interconnected digital world, one that bridges VR and AR but also more familiar platforms like your phone and computer.”

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

What is the metaverse?

It depends who you ask, but it usually refers to an array of interconnected digital spaces, sometimes in VR, sometimes experienced through a social network, and sometimes including real-time reference points to the physical world. You can read more about it here.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the metaverse is a priority for the company, which he spoke about when he announced Meta’s new name last year. “One day you’ll have multiple avatars ranging from expressive to photorealistic,” Zuckerberg said in a post on Monday.

A look at Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar across Meta’s platforms
A look at Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar across Meta’s platforms
Meta

As part of its Metaverse preview, Meta showed demos of its Codec Avatars and real-time environment rendering at its Facebook Connect event in October, but the company stressed at the time that much of the work was still in the research stage.

Also on Monday, Meta introduced Super Bowl LVI-themed T-shirts for avatars across its platforms. This year’s Super Bowl will see the Cincinnati Bengals face off against the Los Angeles Rams at the Rams’ SoFi Stadium on February 13th.

New 3D avatars on Instagram
New 3D avatars on Instagram
Meta

Meta will release its fourth-quarter earnings on February 2nd, and the company said it will break out results for its AR and VR Reality Labs unit for the first time, providing a look at the financial impact of its focus on the Metaverse on Meta’s other divisions.