Facebook Spaces: Look, New Avatars! Ryan: Yawn.

Apparently, Facebook Spaces is rolling out a new-and-improved update to their cartoony avatars. It’s disgusting to me how even the smallest Facebook Spaces announcement gets oceans of fawning press coverage, and this latest planned update is no exception.

As I have said before, I am not a fan of social VR apps that lock you into place:

But what Sansar, High Fidelity, and VRChat offer is an opportunity to let both VR and desktop (non-VR) users connect, in three-dimensional virtual worlds that you can actually move around in. And that’s what I consider true social VR. What’s the point of using a VR headset and being in an immersive, three-dimensional environment at all, if you’re just going to be locked into one place? 

So until Facebook Spaces fixes what I consider this fundamental flaw in its platform, I don’t especially care how much they try and tart up the avatars. As The Verge reports:

Of course, we’re a far ways off from the avatars of Ready Player One. Facebook Spaces still makes you look like a goofy cartoon, and that creates a somewhat off-putting effect when those avatars move in realistic fashion as the Rift headset tracks your head and hand motions. Facebook says it’s working to make the movements feel even more natural, so perhaps that will change for the better with this update. And the realism it seems will only get better over time.

Want to see the difference between before and after? Glad you asked. Here’s a picture from VentureBeat’s coverage:

Facebook Spaces Avatars Before and After 4 Apr 2018
Facebook Spaces Avatars: Before and After

Big whoop-dee-doo.

Even with the upgrade, the humanoid avatars in Sansar and Sinespace still look much, much better than Facebook Spaces. And of course, there are no limits to the many different kinds of avatars you can create in High Fidelity and VRChat if you have the know-how. (If Second Life has taught us nothing else over its fourteen-plus years of existence, it’s that people are heavily invested in the appearance of their avatars.)

And, more to the point, all four virtual world platforms I just mentioned—Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace and VRChat—allow you to move around freely in a three-dimensional environment, explore, break off into separate discussion groups, and interact not only with other VR headset users, but also non-VR (desktop) users. Facebook Spaces still can’t do that. (And no, I’m not counting the ability to video call friends without VR headsets via Facebook Messenger from within Facebook Spaces. That’s just plain stupid.)

Has Facebook learned nothing from the many other companies that are putting out more fully-featured social VR platforms, with much better-looking avatar options? Are they paying any attention at all? The continued lameness of Facebook Spaces, now a full year after its launch, continues to astound me. Sorry, but I’m seriously unimpressed.

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