Enterprise Metaverse Users Prefer Simplified Digital Avatars Over Hyper-Realistic Alternatives
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Metaverse users now favor less human-like, more animated avatar representations raising questions, whether realism remains is ultimate for VR.
Virtual Reality (VR) has opened up exciting new possibilities, enabling individuals to immerse themselves in virtual worlds and interact with their surroundings. At the heart of these VR experiences are avatars, which serve as digital representations of users.
Avatars play a vital role in enhancing these experiences by providing a profound sense of presence and establishing digital identities. In shared virtual space like the metaverse, avatars play a pivotal role in shaping social interactions. They facilitate the creation of a unique presence and individuality for users, bridging the gap between the physical and digital realms.
As users engage with others and explore virtual environments, avatars have become increasingly significant in the metaverse, enriching social connections and enabling personal expression.
But, accurately portraying human bodies in virtual spaces requires precise application of physics and graphics. The connection between avatars and the metaverse environment has long been pivotal. Avatars can assume diverse forms, from lifelike depictions to stylized characters, providing users with a unique digital identity akin to digital fingerprints.
However, users have recently favored less human-like, more animated avatar representations. This shift in user preference raises questions, whether the pursuit of ultimate realism still remains the primary goal in VR.
The Paradigm Shift in the Enterprise Metaverse
Frankie Cavanagh, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of enterprise metaverse platform Gemba, conveyed to Metaverse Post that an escalating number of clients have expressed a preference for low-resolution, vaguely humanoid silhouettes to replace traditional, lifelike avatars.
Gemba’s VR training platform is used by some of the world’s biggest commerce companies – including Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Nike, Adidas, Dell, Volvo, Roche and more.
“We noticed this intriguing shift in preference quite recently. Historically, we leaned heavily toward stylized robotic avatars. While many do adore our current avatars, there’s been a discernible trend of increasing demand for the reintroduction of, or the option to use, our original (less- life) avatars,” Cavanagh told Metaverse Post. “The newer, more realistic avatars unnerved some users. But perhaps the most enlightening insight is the emphasis many users placed on the neutrality of their avatars — not being constrained by things like gender or race. In training environments, such neutrality can foster unbiased interactions and ensure a singular focus on the content itself, rather than avatars’ appearance.”
Cavanagh explained that aside from the clear advantage of mitigating unconscious biases, these avatars also introduce an element of uniformity, which has its benefits. In an enterprise skill training context, it helps maintain trainees’ attention on content rather than getting distracted by the intricacies of more realistic avatars.
“It levels the playing field, allowing all participants, regardless of their real-world identities, to engage on equal terms. This can be a powerful catalyst for fostering unbiased input and collaboration,” he added.
The current trend reflects both technological progress and societal shifts. Ideally, the metaverse hosts diverse entities and identities, promoting inclusivity. However, in professional environments such as training and workplace collaboration, the necessity for focus, neutrality, and unbiased interaction has now led to a preference for less hyper-realistic avatars.
Cavanagh told Metaverse Post that although the company explored different digital avatar forms, it was the mannequin-inspired, less-lifelike design that resonated most with customers.
“These avatars resemble clay models, undergoing continuous deconstruction and refinement until only the most fundamental, universally recognizable human characteristics remain,” he said. “Such digital avatar designs offer substantial promise in metaverse workplaces, striking a balance between individuality and uniformity.”
Cavanagh asserts that the metaverse offers versatility, allowing organizations, individuals, and communities to establish the optimal balance for their specific context or application.
However, he contends that realistic avatars provide essential non-verbal cues for nuanced communication. Nevertheless, as technology like Apple’s vision tech advances, bridging this gap becomes increasingly feasible.
“The uncanny valley remains a hurdle, but with advancements, it’s a challenge we’re poised to overcome. In meta workplaces, the balance between realism for communication and stylization for neutrality will be pivotal,” said Gemba’s Cavanagh.
He anticipates that ultra-realistic avatars will play a significant role in shaping the VR future, but user autonomy in avatar selection will be equally vital.
“In the meta workplace, the emphasis will be on avatars that bolster effective communication while minimizing distractions,” Cavanagh told Metaverse Post. “Technologies that allow for customization, while preserving essential communicative cues will play a critical role in VR advancements.”
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