Second Life Avatars, WOMBO, and Reface: A Tantalizing Glimpse at the Future of Avatars (OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS EVIL SORCERY?!??)

NOTE: For more information about the Reface mobile AI app, please click here.


Okay, one more blogpost (last one, I promise). I plugged the following selfie of my main male Second Life avatar, Heath Homewood:

Into the WOMBO app (which I only discovered via Twitter today), to get THIS:

Boom Boom Boom by the Vengaboys

WHAT. IS. THIS. EVIL. SORCERY?!?? This is the most over-the-top, jaw-dropping, demented thing I have ever seen, and I absolutely want this as my next animation override, NOW! Mind. Blown.

O.K. I want the Waterfield Group (the new owners of Second Life) to DROP EVERYTHING, acquire WOMBO, and merge it with Second Life! Make it happen!

Holy shit. This just leaped past the Uncanny Valley in my opinion. This works so well it is truly scary. Heath looks like a real person!!! Try it for yourself with a facial picture of your favourite avatar, and let me know what you think!

Here are a couple more examples:

Thriller by Michael Jackson
Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley

UPDATE 2:25 p.m.: I just dropped US$$29.99 (about forty dollars Canadian) on an annual Premium WOMBO subscription, and I have decided…I am just going to self-treat my chronic clinical depression today by plugging Second Life avatar selfies into WOMBO all day. I reject your reality and substitute my own!

Don’t Cha by the Pussycat Dolls
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
NEW as of March 13th, 2021! We’re Not Gonna Take It, by Twisted Sister

Of course, it’s not just Second Life that you can do this with; WOMBO works with avatars you create in any social VR platform or virtual world. Here’s an avatar I created in Sansar, singing Thriller:


And, of course, it’s not just avatar pictures, it works with any face pictures. Here is Frida Kahlo (or, more accurately, her self-portrait), singing Tunak Tunak Tun, which is the mashup I never knew I needed until today!

Or, you can now get the Mona Lisa to sing the Numa Numa song:

UPDATE March 11th, 2021: Reza Zadeh just took this whole WOMBO-fying your art thing up to a whole other level! (I suspect Reza used WOMBO to animate the heads, then somehow pasted them back into the pictures. He also used some music clips that are not part of the WOMBO app, so perhaps he used different software. Either way, it’s hilarious. I just lost it at Marat coming back to life in his bathtub!)


UPDATE March 17th, 2021: I am just having so much fun throwing Second Life selfies into WOMBO! The company keeps adding new songs, too! Here are some of the latest additions (the Borat one is an exclusive for Premium members):

A little Twisted Sister, perhaps?
Perhaps some Funky Town disco?
The Borat Bing Bong song is a WOMBO Premium members exclusive!

UPDATE March 20th, 2021: And here are a couple more new songs available on the WOMBO app, as of today! I had actually asked (via the #song-suggestions channel on the official WOMBO Discord server) for Friday by Rebecca Black.

Friday by Rebecca Black
I’m Blue by Eiffel65 (a WOMBO Premium user exclusive!)

UPDATE March 21st, 2021: This afternoon I discovered a new mobile app called Reface, which allows you to insert your avatar’s face into movie clips and animated GIFs. Here’s an example, using the face of my main Second Life avatar, Vanity Fair:

Vanity Fair

Here’s Vanity Fair as Mona Lisa:

But wait, there’s more!

Here’s Vanity in thean animated GIF as Marilyn Monroe. Isn’t this amazing?!??

Vanity Fair as Marilyn Monroe

But wait, it gets even better! Witness the resulting MP4 movie clip, where Vanity Fair’s face is superimposed upon Kate Winslet’s in a succession of clips taken from the 1997 blockbuster movie Titanic:

Vanity Fair stars in the 1997 movie Titanic!

Reface allows you a decent handful of face swaps before it imposes a 30-minute timer to slow down your use of the free version of the app. I signed up for the Pro version, which costs US$2.49 weekly, or US$24.99 annually.

Here’s my main male avatar Heath Homewood as actor Harrison Ford:

Heath Homewood
Heath Homewood as Harrison Ford

And here’s an animated GIF I created of Heath Homewood as Freddie Mercury!

In some pictures, you can even insert more than one avatar’s face. Here are Vanity Fair and Heath Homewood in the famous Grant Wood painting American Gothic:

Vanity and Heath: Second Life Gothic!

UPDATE March 22nd, 2021: Well, tonight I am howling with laughter as I put my normally sedate Second Life supermodel, Vanity Fair, through WOMBO to sing some Taylor Swift, interspersed with some very well-timed goat screaming! Tonight, this my new favourite thing!!!

And then, I got really creative and starting combing the AI tools!

I pasted Vanity Fair’s face on Kylie Jenner’s body using Reface, then put a screen capture from the resulting animated GIF through WOMBO, et voilà! Here is the result! I am having way, waaay too much fun with this!

And Heath Homewood will sing you out with yet another exclusive song clip for Premium WOMBO users…

UPDATE April 5th, 2021: Three more musical clips from the fevered minds at WOMBO!

Despacito by Luis Fonsi
My Way by Frank Sinatra
Cotton Eyed Joe by Rednex

UPDATE April 6th, 2021: Here are a couple more tunes—enjoy!

Shake It Off by Taylor Swift
It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls

LAST CALL! Leaving My Second Life Avatars to Other People Via My Will: An Updated List of Avatars Available (Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace…)

Photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash

During the brutal combination of a bitterly cold winter and a code-red, province-wide pandemic lockdown, I have been steadily working with my lawyer (mostly via email), who is drafting my will, power of attorney and healthcare directive documents. Over the past 26 months, I have slowly been in contact with a number of people who have expressed an interest in inheriting one of my Second Life avatars.

A bit of background is probably necessary to provides a little context. In July of 2019, I wrote on this blog about an undertaking that sprang from a recent bladder cancer scare (which thankfully, turned out to be a false alarm):

I am still working on which Second Life avatars I will leave to other people in the event of my untimely death, via my will. You can read the entire saga herehereherehere, and here on my blog to see how this quest got started! I know it might sound really silly to some of you, but I consider them perfectly valid possessions, and it would please me greatly to know they will still be providing entertainment and enjoyment to others after I am gone. (If you’re interested in inheriting one of my avatars via my will, please contact me and we’ll talk. I still have a selection for you to choose from!)

That blogpost was followed up with an updated list of available avatars in November 2020, which led to a few more people coming forward, asking to inherit one of my avatars. Now, as my lawyer and I draw up the final version of my will, it’s time for one last call. (Speak now, or forever hold your peace…)

At the time of this writing, I have 23 Second Life avatars whom I am planning to leave to 18 different people (some have requested more than one, which I was happy to oblige). So, my next step is to re-contact all those people, to get a legal, real-life name for my will, if I don’t already have one, and a reliable means of contact (a telephone number or email address, preferably both). All the information about who inherits what avatar will form an attachment to my will, and will be kept private. The only people who will see this information will be my lawyer, and the executor of my estate, and perhaps one or two other key people who will take care of the administrative details after my passing, contacting people and giving out the usernames and passwords of the SL accounts.

I should hasten to assure you that I am only 57 years old, and I have every intention of living at least another quarter century! I may even outlive Second Life itself, which would make all this work superfluous! However, given my underlying health conditions, which put me at risk of a severe, possibly even fatal, response to an infection of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, I feel that I have to cover all the bases here. I hope you understand! Don’t worry about me! I am taking care of myself.

If you are interested in inheriting one of my small army of alts, attached is the current list of who is available, updated as of today.


Please note that all the female avatars in the following list have an assortment of free and inexpensive mesh heads and bodies in their inventories, including the four free group gift Bento mesh heads from Akeruka (Lulu, Kumiko, and Maia, and the recent Limited edition group gift, plus the recent group gift of the W08 head), the recent Catwa Freya group giftthe freebie Genus Strong Face headthe free Chelsea head from LOGO, and the recent group gift of the LeLutka Lilly head. All also have in their inventories the many freebie Altamura full-body mesh avatars that I have picked up over the years (including the full-version Juliet mesh body). These avatars also possess the free, Maitreya Lara-compatible Kalhene Ariadna full-body Bakes on Mesh avatar (no longer available), the freebie versions of the Classic and Curvy eBody mesh avatar bodies, the dollarbie Classic mesh body by Meshbody, and the Afrodite and Atenea mesh bodies by LUCYBODY, which I picked up from a couple of Midnight Madness runs. You’ve got lots of options to work with! Each female avatar also comes with a starter assortment of some of the finest freebie apparel, footwear, and hair which I have picked up over the years as part of my popular coverage of steals, deals, and freebies in Second Life.

Almost all the male avatars have a similar bounty in their inventories, including the free group gift Bento mesh heads from Akeruka (Aron, Keiji, Leon, Clay, and the M02 model), the recent Chase head from LOGO, and the recent free group gift of the handsome Alain head by LeLutka! They also have all six free Altamura mesh avatars (Robert, both versions of Max, Tommy, Aaron and the full-version Romeo body), the dollarbie Classic body by Meshbody, and the Rick and David mesh bodies from ALANTORI. All male avatars also have a complete set of the freebies from Kauna men’s clothing and the free men’s clothing from Fitch for the brands of mesh bodies they own. Again, you’ll be able to hit the ground running!

All the avatars in the following list which are marked “unisex” have both the male and female mesh avatar heads and bodies listed above.

Most of these avatars were created before Linden Lab retired last names for avatar accounts (although there are three that have just the name given, plus Resident as a last name: MissDrag, OrangeCheeto, and PlayboyCenterfold). In some cases, you might want to ask for an avatar because the legacy first name-last name combination appeals to you, or tickles your funny bone (e.g. Coupon Clip).

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are interested in inheriting one of these Second Life avatars, please contact me via email at ryanschultz [at] Gmail [dot] com (or via the Contact page on this blog). You can also approach me and talk to me in-world in Second Life (my main avatar is named Vanity Fair, whom I am leaving to Strawberry Linden via my will). The best way to contact me is to ping me on one of the many community forums or Discord channels for the various virtual worlds, of which I am a member. I am almost always on Discord!

THESE AVATARS ARE ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY *NOT* FOR SALE! THEY WILL ONLY BE GIVEN AS AN INHERITANCE IN MY WILL, IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH, in accordance with the Second Life Terms and Conditions (Terms of Service) and Linden Lab’s posted official policy on Death and Other Worries Outside Second Life.

I will need your legal (real life) name for my will, and a reliable means of contact (telephone number preferred; email address is acceptable). I will be in touch with you (via email, Second Life IMs, or Discord chat), just to touch base, and I alone will make the final decision as to whether or not to let you inherit one of my avatars, and which one(s).

UPDATE Feb. 24th, 2021: I have had a number of people already contact me about the possibility of inheriting some of these avatars via my will. As I meet with people and accept their requests, I will be adding a note to their profiles on this list below, that they are no longer available to be bequeathed.


  • 2My Fairlady: a female avatar, originally created just so I could have her sit on Lucky Chairs and slap Lucky Boards when they displayed “0-9” 😉
  • Alexandra McKenzie (originally created a female Scottish pirate for historical roleplay, and still a pirate to this day)
  • Artist Scientist (unisex avatar; can be either male or female)
  • Autumn Winter (originally created as the avatar embodiment of Autumn, now a generic female avatar; owns a Kalhene Anya Maitreya Lara-compatible mesh body)
  • Beau Coeur (a male avatar)
  • Betsy Blitz (a female 1950s/1960s historical roleplay avatar)
  • Chi Mai (a Chinese empress)
  • Coffee Philter (unisex avatar; either male or female; owns a Kalhene Anya Maitreya Lara-compatible mesh body)
  • Coupon Clip: one of my absolutely favourite avatars, in whom I have invested a lot of time and energy over the years, and therefore I am going to be very, very picky who gets this one in my will. Coupon is currently a 1950s-styled dancer for tips at various bars (no, she doesn’t escort; after all, a girl has rules 😉 ); Coupon usually is wearing her signature 1950 bouffant hairdo, Akeruka Maia mesh head, and Belleza Freya mesh body as pictured below; this avatar has also has also played Alice in Wonderland, Mother Nature, and over time, she has became my avatar embodiment of Winter/Christmas, with lots of snowy/winter/white/ice blue outfits, both mesh and pre-mesh! UPDATE Feb. 24th: Someone has asked to inherit this avatar via my will, and I have agreed.
Coupon Clip dancing at the Pino bar (more information here)
Coupon Clip at Backdrop Cove (more information and photos here)
Coupon Clip as Alice in Wonderland, back in ye olde pre-mesh days… 
Coupon Clip as Mother Nature (more details here)
Coupon Clip as the Snow Queen (more details here)
  • Diana Huntress (a female avatar, originally created as a medieval archer)
  • Easton Weston: Piggu Jonathan fat man avatar with a Fat Boy AO by Voir, who plays Santa Claus every Christmastime; more information here; Easton also has the Piggu Jamie fat boy avatar, who is essentially styled to look like me in childhood (I was always a chubby kid)
Easton Weston’s Piggu Jamie boy avatar
  • Elvis Popstar: an Elvis Presley look-alike classic avatar, complete with white jumpsuit, microphone and wearable spotlights! I am actually rather surprised that nobody seems to want an Elvis avatar…think of the fun you could have, wandering the grid, looking for Priscilla and peanut butter and banana sandwiches!
  • Eve December (a female avatar, originally created as a Cabaret singer/Liza Minnelli look-alike, but now she’s just a generic female avatar)
  • Evil GossipGirl: a female devil 😉
  • Fairy Queen (a female fairy with a large inventory of wings and wands!)
  • Fidelity Constantine (a young Victorian woman) UPDATE Feb. 24th: Someone has asked to inherit this avatar via my will, and I have agreed.
  • Fire Bird (a unisex avatar, either female or male, whose avatar originally was a freebie Firestorm phoenix I picked up several years ago!)
  • Fortune Telling (a fortune-telling female gypsy, complete with crystal ball!)
Fortune Telling and her crystal ball in action!
  • Good Read (a classic, non-mesh male avatar, portraying an old man man with a pipe and smoking jacket, whom I have now upgraded to a fully mesh avatar with the wonderful Victor head by LOGO!)
Good Read (the old, classic version)
Good Read (the new, fully mesh avatar!)
  • Hearts Delight (a 1960s hippie chick, whom I trot out to the BURN2 festivities in Second Life every year!)
  • Heilige Nacht (a Seawolf fire-breathing dragon avatar!) UPDATE Feb. 24th: Someone has asked to inherit this avatar via my will, and I have agreed.
  • Joy Delight (a female avatar)
  • Layne Carpool: (get it? “carpool lane”?) a generic female avatar
  • Ledba Loon (get it? “lead balloon”? This was the very first female avatar I ever created, so her inventory goes way, waaay back in time. Today she usually wears the Piggu June fat girl mesh body, which I recently updated to version 2.0, along with a set of full-perms clothing to fit it; Ledba is also my witch avatar at Hallowe’en, who has in her inventory all my assorted witch outfits, brooms, skins, etc.)
  • Lily Pond (a female avatar, whom I have recently upgraded to a Legacy mesh body) UPDATE Feb. 24th: Someone has asked to inherit this avatar via my will, and I have agreed.
A couple of shots of Lily Pond in her older Altamura mesh body
Lily Pond in her new Legacy body!
  • MARlLYN Monroe: Marilyn Monroe look-alike classic avatar, with a lowercase-L instead of an I in the first name; her nametag looks like “MARILYN Monroe” in-world. I’m actually kind of surprised nobody has snapped her up yet!
  • Mason Carver: a male avatar, Mason—very fittingly—is currently a grey-and-blue stone god with an outfit and skin I won at Fallen Gods, Inc. in a fortune-telling game.
  • Maya Sass (an Indian/Indo-Canadian female avatar who has my entire collection of saris; more information here)
  • Moesha Heartsong: my beloved female Black/Afro-Canadian avatar UPDATE Feb. 24th: Someone has asked to inherit this avatar via my will, and I have agreed.
  • MissDrag (my drag queen avatar, who owns various male and female heads and bodies, plus the Alexa transgender mesh avatar body from Kalhene; you can see her many different looks here, here, and here)
  • Notecard Writer (my professional librarian avatar, male, currently masquerading as an angel)
  • Oceana Waters (my female mermaid avatar; has a complete collection of mermaid outfits and AOs; more information here)
  • Pepper Salter: originally created to be Red Riding Hood or Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz (more information here), now she is a generic female avatar most of the time:
Pepper Salter: check out the palest of pale blue eyes!
Pepper Salter as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz
  • Prayerful Vigil (a female angel, complete with particle effects!)
  • Richard Lionheart (originally created as a King Richard historical roleplay avatar; now just a generic male avatar)
  • Rose Rage (a female avatar)
  • Ryan Harbour: a male avatar who owns a Legacy male body by Meshbody, which I won in a draw (more info and pictures can be found here)
Ryan Harbour: isn’t he handsome? Ryan is wearing the Akeruka Clay mesh head and the Legacy male mesh body
  • Ryan Love (a generic male avatar)
  • Schnitzel Wiener: originally a male avatar wearing German lederhosen and hoisting a beerstein; now another one of my generic male avatars:
Schnitzel Wiener is currently this handsome silver fox!
  • Silver Quick (originally created as an male elf or troll; now unisex, either male and female)
  • Sim Hopper (another unisex avatar, either male or female; usually a male hiker with a random teleport backpack; formerly a female classic superhero avatar)
  • SisterMary Blister: a stern-looking Catholic nun who comes with an Abranimations HUD to rezz a flock of penguins to follow her around; more information here
  • Sitcom Writer (a unisex avatar, but almost always presents as a well-toned, butch lesbian, with a DEV mesh head and body; picture the Linda Hamilton character in the Terminator movies, and that’s pretty much her! Sometimes, she even totes an automatic rifle around…)
  • Sternen Nacht (a male wizard, either from Harry Potter or perhaps Lord of the Rings)
  • Summer Fall (a female avatar; she usually wears the freebie Giselle mesh head and Jenny mesh body from Altamura which I picked up several years ago)
  • That Guy (“Yes, I’m that guy.”; a male avatar who usually wears a combination of the Akeruka Aron mesh head and the dollarbie version of the Classic male avatar mesh body, with a complete set of all the clothing hat The Mesh Project used to sell for that body, when it was free to pick up for a short time before they shut that store down)
  • Treehugger Cliffhanger (unisex; either male or female)
  • Unusual Delight (female Queen of Hearts avatar, owner of a three-ages Clodet mesh avatar body by Altamura, which I picked up when it was on sale for only L$360)
  • Valentina VonBaum (a redhead female avatar, who was originally created as the avatar embodiment of Valentine’s Day)
  • War Hawk (a male warrior; Roman gladiator and the avatar embodiment of war; he has an Aesthetic mesh bodybuilder body and a number of shields and weapons)
  • Woofie Roffo (wolf; TWI Timber Wolf avatar)
  • Yvonne Leblanc (a female *DOLLCOCO* ball-joined doll by Coco Designs)

So, if you’re at all interested, contact me and we’ll talk! As I have said before, it would give me the greatest of pleasure to know that the avatars I have created and styled over many years as a pleasurable hobby, would have a life after I shuffle off this mortal coil!

Making Plans on What I Want Done with My Possessions (Virtual and Real) in the Event of My Death

I have been thinking about this topic over the past few days, so I decided to write this blogpost to share some of my thoughts with you, my faithful blog readers.

Irrepressible landlady to the well-known 1920s Berlin historical roleplay sims, Jo Yardley, wrote about it on her blog back in 2017, in a blogpost titled If Someone Vanishes in Second Life: those people in Second Life who just suddenly disappear, leaving all their online acquaintances and friends to wonder what happened to them.

Are they seriously ill? Did they die? Or did they just decide to ghost everybody, abandon their avatar, and set up a new, anonymous one? This sort of thing can and does happen in a virtual world where most users are only known by their avatar name.

I have also reviewed the book titled Living and Dying in a Virtual World: Digital Kinships, Nostalgia, and Mourning in Second Life, by Dr. Margaret Gibson and Clarissa Carden (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), which deals with the subject of how SL residents choose to commemorate those avatars/people who have passed away.

In July of 2019, I wrote on this blog:.

According to Statistics Canada, the average life expectancy for Canadian men is 80 years. I am now 55, which means (if I am lucky) that I can expect another quarter-century of life ahead of me.

It’s time to be thinking ahead, planning for the future. I still need to draw up a will and a power of attorney, for example. I don’t have a lot of material possessions to leave to other people (my biggest purchases have been my computer and my car). But I do need to set something in place with my final wishes clearly spelled out for my next of kin to follow.

And I am still working on which Second Life avatars I will leave to other people in the event of my untimely death, via my will. You can read the entire saga herehereherehere, and here on my blog to see how this quest got started! I know it might sound really silly to some of you, but I consider them perfectly valid possessions, and it would please me greatly to know they will still be providing entertainment and enjoyment to others after I am gone. (If you’re interested in inheriting one of my avatars via my will, please contact me and we’ll talk. I still have a selection for you to choose from!) In fact, when the time comes, I may have some Sansar avatars to pass on to others as well (and I am assuming that Linden Lab will set up similar procedures for Sansar as they already have for Second Life). My lawyer is going to have a ball drawing up my last will and testament!

I added:

The important thing is to make plans for the future, but to be flexible and prepare for any eventuality. For example, if I were to be run over by a bus tomorrow, I currently haven’t left any sort of instructions to let people know my wishes concerning my blog and my show (which I would want to be archived for future historians to pore over). I also have an experience called Ryan’s Garden in Sansar, that I would like to be kept in perpetuity as my personal virtual memorial in the event of my passing. I haven’t given anybody else access rights to my blog to post a message in case something should happen to me. I need to set all these things up. Strawberry Singh (whom I admire greatly) wrote an excellent blogpost on these topics, which I recommend you read. You should be thinking about all these things too.

Well, instead of being run over by a bus, I might contract COVID-19 and die. Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is raging out of control here in Manitoba, especially here in the city of Winnipeg, and anything could happen over the next few months. As someone who is older (almost 57), significantly overweight, and who also has asthma, type II diabetes, and hypertension, I am at high risk of a severe, possibly even fatal, reaction if I were to become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. I take every precaution and follow all the experts’ guidance, but I still worry.

I regret that I have been unable to contact the lawyer whom my financial planner recommended to me, in order to draw up a proper will and a healthcare power of attorney. But we now live in perilous and uncertain times, so I have decided to spend the day today doing two things:

  1. Identifying the key people (both my real life and my social VR/virtual world community) who should have each other’s contact information if the unthinkable happens (real name, telephone number, email, etc.); and
  2. Drawing up a list of my personal wishes, for example, what I want to have done with the RyanSchultz.com blog, my Second Life avatars and other virtual possessions such the Ryan’s Garden world in Sansar, and my real-world possessions as well, in the event of my untimely death. I will also need people to do various tasks, for example putting a message out on social media such as Twitter, and on each of the almost 100 social VR/virtual world Discord community servers I belong to, in order to let the people there know that I’m gone.
My main Second Life avatar, Vanity Fair. I have already contacted Strawberry Singh (now known as Strawberry Linden) and she has agreed to let me bequeath Vanity to her in the unlikely event that anything should happen to me. I take great pleasure in the thought that Vanity Fair will live on after I am gone, and Strawberry will no doubt find it useful to have another avatar available to her as she creates top-notch marketing content for Linden Lab.

I think that doing this will give me some ease of mind, knowing that, in the absence of a will, a number of people will still know what I want to happen to my stuff (both virtual and real) if I should die. In one of my blogposts about my cancer scare two years ago, I wrote:

I…had a nice long chat with my psychiatrist today, and she made me realize that what I am doing here is simply trying to assert some control in a situation where I am not in control. This is apparently a very normal, human response to a situation like a health crisis.

And that is exactly what I am doing here: trying to assert some control in a situation where I am not in control. Obviously, I will not be blogging all the details of what I decide here, but after I have done this, I will tell you what I have decided to do about my blog in the case of my death. All the rest will be shared only with those key people I have identified in Step 1 above.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although I suffer from a chronic form of clinical depression, I am not suicidal. I have every intention of living that extra quarter-century to age 80, and beyond! I have to live to witness and document what happens next in the ever-evolving metaverse! But I do need to get some practical matters settled. I hope you understand. Please don’t worry about me. I am taking good care of myself and coping with the current situation as best I can.

As always, stay healthy, stay sane, and stay strong in these trying times.

UPDATED: AltspaceVR (Finally) Has New Avatars!

Please note that I am taking the entire month of July off as a self-imposed vacation from the blog so I can focus on my other work, except for sponsored blogposts, plus occasional breaking news such as this. See you in August!


The ever-reliable members of the RyanSchultz.com Discord (my eyes and ears to the multiverse and its happenings!) informed me that, as of 9:00 a.m. Eastern time, AltspaceVR finally released their new, updated avatars, and they are definite improvement over the first-generation avatars. Michael Zhang shared a picture with us of his AltspaceVR avatar’s transformation from one year to the next:

Michael Zhang (upper left) and three pictures showing how his AltspaceVR avatar has changed from year to year (source: Michael Zhang)

So, I went into AltspaceVR today to check out the new avatars. But, before I talk about the avatar update, I wanted to share with you a few user interface problems I encountered.

One of the things that I do find rather irritating about AltspaceVR is that there seems to be no easy way to switch from VR mode to flatscreen mode. I have uninstalled and reinstalled the client software, and if you already have a VR headset set up (like my Oculus Rift), then the VR client is automatically loaded, and I cannot seem to find any switch that will allow me to switch back and forth between flatscreen and VR modes (the best example of this ability is Sansar, which seamlessly switches back and forth between VR and flatscreen mode when I put on and take off my Rift, including changing the audio and microphone locations).

Why is this so important? Well, it’s important to me because I find it far easier to take screenshots from a flatscreen display.

Even more irritating, you cannot use the built-in camera tool to take any pictures of the new avatar customization tools; the camera disappears completely when you load up the main menu where the customization features are found.

In the end, I was forced to take off my Rift, hold it aloft, very precisely, with one hand so that the internal sensor is blocked (so it thinks it’s still on my head), pivot it so that whatever image I want to take a screenshot of is centred on my desktop monitor (which mirrors what I see looking forward in the headset), and then hit the PrintScreen key with my other hand, to capture the screenshot using SnagIt.

It is a futzy workaround and it is a MAJOR. PAIN. IN. THE. ASS. whenever I want to demonstrate something in the AltspaceVR interface. Why you making this blogger’s job harder, Altspace?!??


UPDATE July 16th, 2020: I have been informed by Michael Zhang that the easiest option to switch from VR to 2D is simply to unplug the VR headset’s USB-C or the HDMI cable from your computer, and it will by default switch to flatscreen mode. Thank you for this tip, Michael!


Also, despite my best efforts, the in-world camera automatically takes selfies, and I could not figure out how to turn the camera around to take pictures of what I was seeing! (I’m sure there exists a way, but I couldn’t figure it out, and a quick Google search didn’t help me, either. In this instance, I assume the problem is with me, and not with the client. But if the AltspaceVR in-world camera only takes selfie shots, then that’s yet another criticism I have about the platform.)


UPDATE July 16th, 2020: It would appear that AltspaceVR is aware of the new bugs in the in-world camera tool:

Hey everyone!

Thanks very much for all of the feedback about the changes to the camera. We understand that this is a useful tool and our team is currently investigating options and working on a fix. To shed some additional light on the change: the PC-only camera code stopped working when we introduced some changes to the way we draw your first-person avatar. The same bug is affecting the JimmyCam, as well, causing you to look headless when you look at yourself!

We’ll continue to investigate options, and are currently working on a hotfix that will enable you to take front-facing photos.

In the meantime, the selfie camera and the screenshot tool are still available for use. (Remember, in 2D mode on your PC you can hide the menu UI by typing Ctrl+Alt+P; and on Windows 10 you can take screenshots easily with the windows key+print screen.) To view, download, and share your photos log into your account at altvr.com and go to the “Photos” tab.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with our team!


Anyway, back to the main topic of this blogpost: the new AltspaceVR avatars.

Here is what my new, default avatar looked like before I started working on him, taken with the previously-mentioned selfie camera (I assume that this was a randomly-generated starter avatar look):

And here is what I came up with, after spending about ten minutes of fiddling with all the options. He looks a lot more like the real-life me (but he’s still too thin):

Yes, the new avatars are much more customizable than the old ones. No, they still do not have arms or legs, probably to avoid dealing with IK (inverse kinematics) issues.

I went through all the various avatar customization options and I must confess that I am a bit disappointed. The good news is that there are so many different kinds of eyes and hair styles and skin colours and hair colours/dyes to choose from! But only six types of noses, all of which are on the small side? Only three jaw shapes to choose from? Only two styles of mouths, one obviously male and one obviously female? While what’s there allows you to get pretty creative, and it’s a definite improvement over the old system, I still think that there are too many restrictions on what you can do. (If you want to be a furry, you are definitely out of luck, although a green space alien is possible, as long as she or he is humanoid.)

I know that one of the goals the AltspaceVR avatar redesign team was aiming for was for all the avatars to have a somewhat consistent look to them, while allowing for personal variations in looks, skin tones, hairstyles, and clothing (no need to worry about shoes, since there are no feet). Also, they obviously did not want to have higher-poly user avatars that would make the rendering of AltspaceVR more difficult on lower-powered devices such as the wireless Oculus Go and Oculus Quest. And in both of these goals, I feel that the Altspace team succeeded; this was a definite (and very welcome) upgrade.

A look at the new AltspaceVR avatars (source: Twitter)
A gathering of the new avatars in the #GetSocial world (source: Twitter)

In summary, I think most AltspaceVR users will be happy with this upgrade. And it addresses one of my pet peeves about the platform to date: the old, low-poly, dreadfully cartoony avatars are now banished. Hallelujah!