UPDATED! Decentraland Avatar Creation: How to Get a Custom Avatar Name for Free

Early this morning, I received an invitation in my email inbox to create my own custom avatar to use in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland when it launches. Today marked the official launch of the avatar creation program.

Note that Decentraland (DCL for short) was originally supposed to launch in open beta at the end of June, but that has been pushed back. Instead, DCL is going to invite groups of users in successive waves over the next month in a closed beta test, before opening the doors to the general public. Creating your avatar is the first step to setting foot in-world (once you are invited into the closed beta).

Here’s a brief new promotional video from Decentraland, showing off the different ways you can style and animate your avatars:

You can start the avatar creation process at this page. The avatar creation module is pretty straight-forward, and in no time at all you can customize an avatar to your desire. You have a choice of a male or a female avatar (sorry, no non-human avatars yet):

But there’s a catch. You can style your avatar as you like, but if you want to pick a name for your avatar (other than “Guest”), well, that’s going to cost you:

The fee is 100 MANA, which is the name of Decentraland’s in-world cryptocurrency. According to this cryptocurrency exchange calculator, that works out to US$5.10 at the moment. Not to mention the hassle of actually having to set up a cryptocurrency wallet and buying MANA, which I really don’t want to deal with right now.

However, according to the official blogpost of the announcement:

It usually costs 100 MANA to claim a name, but for the first 1,000 people claiming a name with cryptocurrency wallet, Trust Wallet, it’s completely free. What’s more, Trust Wallet and exchange partner Binance will stump up the gas fee.

Hey, free works for me! So, I downloaded the free Trust Wallet app onto my iPhone and set it up. Only to get hopelessly lost about how to actually connect the mobile-based Trust Wallet to use with the Decentraland avatar creation website on my desktop computer. It turns out that’s not possible (D’oh!).

Finally, I tried using the built-in web browser in the Trust Wallet app on my iPhone, but I only got as far as being able to select a name. The CLAIM NAME button at the bottom of my screen was still greyed out and unresponsive:

So, for a while confusion reigned on the official Decentraland Discord server as various people tried to troubleshoot my problem (thank you to everyone who offered suggestions!). Nobody seemed to know exactly how this promotion with the Trust Wallet works. Shouldn’t DCL have all this figured out before making the official announcement? Just sayin’.

Eventually, however, I was connected with someone from Decentraland who walked me through the process, step-by-step, through claiming my 100 MANA (a step they neglected to tell anyone about!), and then claiming my custom avatar name, all done using the web browser built in to the Trust Wallet app on my iPhone.

And finally, I got an email confirmation:

And checking my account, I now see:

Yay! Success! But it should not be this complicated. If a geek like me is having trouble with something as simple as setting up a username, you can imagine how confused the average Joe consumer is going to be. Hopefully, the team at Decentraland are rewriting their communications on the Trust Wallet offer, and providing STEP-BY-STEP instructions for other clueless cryptocurrency newbies.

Frankly, I think charging cryptocurrency for a custom avatar name is a significant stumbling block for many potential Decentraland users. I can understand needing to charge for land and goods and services, but something like a user name should be free to set up. DCL is setting itself apart from most of the competition in charging for a custom avatar name. I can only think of a few virtual worlds (IMVU, Twinity) that use this model. None of the major social VR platforms and virtual worlds charge you a fee to choose an avatar name. Decentraland might want to carefully re-think this policy.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: The following message was posted to the official Decentraland Discord server by toonpunk:

Anybody having issues with Trust wallet not being free please visit this link and it will work – https://claim.decentraland.org/ thanks.

You will need to visit this website in the built-in browser in the Trust Wallet app on your mobile device, then visit the avatar creation page.

UPDATE July 9th, 2019: Wow, that was fast! Toonpunk announced this morning on the official Decentraland Discord server that all 1,000 offers to create a custom avatar name for free are now completely used up. So it will now cost you 100 MANA to create a DCL username. Here’s a list of markets where you can buy MANA.

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Decentraland Moves to Unity, Releases More Pictures of Its Avatars

Decentraland (DCL for short) is launching its public beta at the end of this month, and more details are coming out about the platform and how it will work. Carl Fravel reports:

DCL just released SDK v6.1.1. By default it now uses the Unity rendering engine, performance is better. I see FPS of 120 to 160 on my GTX 1070 laptop. There are now shadows, [and] HUD UI elements.

When asked why they decided to move the project to the Unity game engine, which is not open source, Carl replied:

They were seeing such poor performance and severe scene limits with both WebVR and BJS [BabylonJS, an open source webGL engine] that they opted for a higher performance rendering engine. The rest of the stack above that remains open source, and they will be catching the open source BJS client up to the SDK 6 version, which means that if some wizard is able to come up with an open source rendering engine that performs well enough then they can work it into that environment in the future. Nobody seems to have an open source rendering engine that is fast enough to make scene devs and users happy yet. One can clone their open source reference client that uses BJS and deploy it on one own servers. That sounds pretty open source to me.

And on their Instagram channel, they have released some more pictures of what their avatars are going to look like. They’re looking pretty good!

I’m looking forward to actually getting in-world at the end of June!

Decentraland Finally Gives Us a Sneak Peek at Their Avatars

Decentraland has finally provided an answer to one of the most burning questions I have had about the project so far: what will the avatars look like? You can now get a sneak peek at them on this page:

Now, I don’t know anything else about their avatars others than this one picture, like exactly how customizable they are. But at least we have something to go on! Frankly, they look much better than I expected.

You can, if you wish, enter your email address into this page to be kept in the loop on future Decentraland news and announcements.

Facebook Reality Labs Gives Us a Preview of What Your Avatar Could Look Like in the Future

Have you ever wondered what your virtual-world avatar could look like, 10 to 20 years from now?

A recently published article in WIRED covers the work of Facebook Reality Labs, which is developing stunningly lifelike virtual reality avatars, called codec avatars, which can recreate the full gamut of facial expressions:

Examples of Facebook Reality Labs’ Codec Avatars

For years now, people have been interacting in virtual reality via avatars, computer-generated characters that represent us. Because VR headsets and hand controllers are trackable, our real-life head and hand movements carry into those virtual conversations, the unconscious mannerisms adding crucial texture. Yet even as our virtual interactions have become more naturalistic, technical constraints have forced them to remain visually simple. Social VR apps like Rec Room and AltspaceVR abstract us into caricatures, with expressions that rarely (if ever) map to what we’re really doing with our faces. Facebook’s Spaces is able to generate a reasonable cartoon approximation of you from your social media photos but depends on buttons and thumb-sticks to trigger certain expressions. Even a more technically demanding platform like High Fidelity, which allows you to import a scanned 3D model of yourself, is a long way from being able to make an avatar feel like you.

That’s why I’m here in Pittsburgh on a ridiculously cold, early March morning inside a building very few outsiders have ever stepped foot in. Yaser Sheik and his team are finally ready to let me in on what they’ve been working on since they first rented a tiny office in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood. (They’ve since moved to a larger space on the Carnegie Mellon campus, with plans to expand again in the next year or two.) Codec Avatars, as Facebook Reality Labs calls them, are the result of a process that uses machine learning to collect, learn, and re-create human social expression. They’re also nowhere near being ready for the public. At best, they’re years away—if they end up being something that Facebook deploys at all. But the FRL team is ready to get this conversation started. “It’ll be big if we can get this finished,” Sheik says with the not-at-all contained smile of a man who has no doubts they’ll get it finished. “We want to get it out. We want to talk about it.”

The results (which you can see more of in the photos and videos in the WIRED article) are impressive, but they require a huge amount of data capture beforehand: 180 gigabytes of data every second! So don’t expect this to be coming out anytime soon. But it is a fascinating glimpse of the future.

Would you want your avatar in a virtual world to look exactly like you, and have their face move exactly like your face, with all your unique expressions? Some people would find this creepy. Others would embrace it. Many people would probably prefer to have an avatar who looks nothing like their real-life selves. What do you think of Facebook’s research? Please feel free to leave a comment on this blogpost, thanks!