Wolf3D, a company that specializes in making personal 3D avatars for games and virtual worlds, has released a new browser-based program called Ready Player Me. Ready Player Me allows you to create a personalized 3D avatar for use in Mozilla Hubs, using as your starting point a single selfie from your cellphone or webcam!
Using Ready Player Me could not be easier. Simply visit the website, click on the blue Create Avatar button to get started, and take (or upload) a selfie. You are then given an array of options to change your skin, hair, eye and eyebrow colour, and hairstyle, facial hair, shirt and eyeglasses. After only a few minutes, here is what I was able to come up with:
Once you are satisfied, just click the checkmark in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, and it saves the avatar, giving you a URL which you should bookmark somewhere for later use and re-use.
To use your newly-created avatar in Mozilla Hubs, open a world, click on the three-bars menu in the upper left-hand corner, and click on Set Name & Avatar:
On the Name & Avatar screen, click on Browse Avatars:
On the Browse Avatars screen, click on Avatar GLB URL in the upper right-hand corner of your screen:
Enter the URL you received from Ready Player Me, and click Accept:
That’s it! Here’s what my customized avatar looks like in Mozilla Hubs:
I am hoping that we will see Wolf3D-made avatars pop up in other social VR and virtual worlds! It’s such an easy way for somebody to create a personalized avatar.
P.S. Starting with this blogpost, I have created a new category called Mozilla Hubs, since I find myself writing about this platform more often. I will try to go back and add my older blogposts about Mozilla Hubs to this category, but that is going to take a little time, so please bear with me!
VRChat allows you endless avatar customization options—provided you can wrap your head around a workflow which requires some knowledge of Unity and the VRChat SDK. If you’re not using a pre-existing model and you want to create an avatar from scratch, you’ll also have to have skills in using complex 3D design software like Blender (or pay someone to create an avatar for you).
And, unlike social VR platforms such as Sansar and Sinespace that have dressable human avatars, if you decide you want your VRChat avatar to have a yellow shirt instead of a red shirt, then you’ll pretty much need to start over with your avatar creation process.
However, a company named Tafi wants to make the customized avatar creation process much easier, including the ability to easily make changes to what your avatar looks like (physical build, hair colour and style, eye colour, etc.) and what clothing they’re wearing. And Tafi is now open in beta for people who want to create avatars for VRChat, and the best part is, the beta is free!
It’s quite easy to sign up for free access to the Tafi beta avatar creator for VRChat avatars; just click the Join the Beta button on the Tafi website, and provide your email address, and you can then download and install the program. Here’s what the initial screen looks like:
The pop-up screen says:
Thanks for signing up for our beta!
To make sure you have the best experience and can explore all of our assets, we are giving you exclusive access to our entire asset library, including the premium ones!
But, these are only going to be available for free during the beta time period. Once we launch the application for all users, the premium assets will be available with a small cost.
Good news though, whatever your avatar is wearing the day of our full launch will be yours to keep (don’t worry, we will remind you when we get closer).
Thanks again! Have fun exploring and creating!
The interface offers dozens of options for customizing your avatar, and offers over 400 clothing options. Basically, it’s point-and-click. Here’s a sample of what it looks like in action:
In less than half an hour, I had created a custom avatar I was very happy with!
All I had to do then was connect my avatar account by clicking on the button under the head-and-shoulders icon in the upper left hand corner. You are then automatically taken to the VRChat website to grant the Tafi app access to your account:
Once you have connected your account, you simply click on the blue button in the upper left-hand corner of the Tafi app to upload your customized avatar to VRChat:
It took about two minutes to upload my customized avatar. Then, I signed into VRchat and the uploaded Tafi avatar was sitting in my Avatar folder, ready for me to select and use. The whole process was quick and easy, taking less than 30 minutes from start to finish! Here’s my brand new avatar, a selfie I took of myself using the in-world camera tool:
And the best part is, I can change my outfit quickly and easily! If I want to wear a different shirt, all it takes is a few clicks to select the style and colour, a fresh upload, et voilà! A new avatar look.
Tafi is available to try for free during their beta period. Why don’t you give it a shot? I’m quite impressed with this new tool.
Just a few scattered thoughts, blogged in quick takes and snatches in between my training and committee duties on a very hectic day in the life of this academic librarian.
First: social VR has officially ARRIVED, people. Sept. 25th, 2019 is the date that everybody begins to take social VR seriously. Facebook’s entry into the social VR market today, with the announcement of Facebook Horizon, is the clearest sign yet that social VR is moving from a niche market into the mass-market mainstream.
It’s not if it will happen, but when, and how quickly it will take off from here. Remember that VR hardware is no longer the bottleneck it once was; Mark Zuckerberg said today that wireless Oculus Quest headsets are selling as fast as Facebook can make them, and soon you will be able to access Oculus Rift content via your Oculus Quest headset (although it’s still not clear how processor-heavy environments like Sansar will fare).
Facebook Inc. for most of the past decade was Silicon Valley’s 800-pound gorilla, squashing rivals, co-opting their best ideas or buying them outright as it cemented its dominance of social media.
Now the knives are coming out. A number of Facebook’s current and former competitors are talking about the company’s hardball tactics to investigators from the Federal Trade Commission, as part of its broader antitrust investigation into the social-media giant’s business practices, according to people familiar with the matter.
One of them is Snap Inc., where the legal team for years kept a dossier of ways that the company felt Facebook was trying to thwart competition from the buzzy upstart, according to some of those people. The title of the documents: Project Voldemort.
Among other things, Snap accuses Facebook of “discouraging popular account holders, or influencers, from referencing Snap on their accounts on Instagram, which Facebook owns”. Now stop and think about what would happen if Facebook decides not to promote those posts that refer to Sansar, High Fidelity, or VRChat on your Facebook friends feed.
The WSJ article goes on to say:
In recent months, the FTC has made contact with dozens of tech executives and app developers, people familiar with the agency’s outreach said. The agency’s investigators are also talking to executives from startups that became defunct after losing access to Facebook’s platform in addition to founders who sold their companies to Facebook, according to some of those people. The discussions have focused on the aggressive growth tactics that propelled Facebook from a social network for college students 15 years ago to a collection of services now used by more than one in four people in the world every day.
Facebook can and will use whatever tools and tactics available to dominate the market and crush their competitors in the social VR marketplace. And Facebook has tons of money at their disposal to spend on advertising, lawyers, programming talent, etc. Whatever they need, they can buy—and they can buy it several times over, if necessary. Linden Lab, High Fidelity, VRChat, and other social VR platforms need to pay attention and act accordingly. Facebook is playing to win, and they are playing for keeps.
Third: Innovative social VR platforms will still be able to survive, if they can offer something that Facebook Horizon cannot. In other words, it’s not time to panic yet. For example, Linden Lab’s Sansar will still allow for much more realistic-looking, full-body, dressable human(oid) avatars. And we know from 16 years of Second Life that people will invest significant amounts of time and money on their avatar appearance. For example, let’s compare a Facebook Horizons avatar, from a picture used in Facebook’s own promotion:
With a recent picture of a modern, mesh-body Second Life avatar:
Here’s another Second Life avatar, in fact the very picture I use to illustrate the term avatar on my definitions page:
And here’s a couple of examples of Sansar avatars (the first one is courtesy of blogger Chic Aeon):
I think you’ll agree that Sansar (and yes, even 16-year-old Second Life!) can give Facebook Horizon a definite run for its money in the avatar appearance market! But keep in mind: this is just the starting point for Horizon. Facebook can and will keep iterating, working tirelessly on improving the Horizon avatars until they look as good as—or even better than—Second Life’s and Sansar’s. Count on it. It’s the new arms race.
Another key point: there are tens, perhaps even hundreds, of thousands of Second Life and Sansar users who eschew human avatars altogether, choosing instead to be tinies, furries, robots, mermaids, centaurs, mechanical spiders—you name it. For all we know, Horizon may insist on human-looking avatars, at least to start. So other platforms may still be able to carve out a lucrative niche market for themselves.
I’m sure you can think of other examples. For example, I rather doubt that Facebook Horizon will allow adult content like Second Life does.
However, if your social VR product does not offer anything remarkably different from what Horizon offers, Facebook will relentlessly steamroll right over you without a second’s hesitation (see my second point, above).
OK, that’s all my thoughts for now. I might have more to add this evening as I reflect a bit more on all of today’s announcements from OC6.
Oh, and as you might have guessed, I have already put my name down to be on the early list of beta testers when the closed beta test of Facebook Horizon does launch sometime in early 2020. One way or another, I am going to be among the first people who kick the tires on Horizon!
I know, I know, I know…I know. I am totally and completely caving in! Don’t judge me! After all, unless there is a very strict non-disclosure agreement that I have to sign and abide by as a beta tester, my blog readers are counting on me to report on all the social VR platforms that I encounter, and that includes those run by the mighty behemoth Facebook.
At first glance, Horizon seems like a modernized Second Life, a first-person Sims, a fulfillment of the intentions of AltspaceVR and a competitor to PlayStation’s PSVR Dreams and cross-platfrom kids’ favorite Roblox. Back in 2016, Facebook was giving every new Oculus employee a copy of the Ready Player One novel. It seems they’ve been busy building that world since then.
Facebook Horizon will start centralized around a town square. Before people step in, they can choose how they look and what they wear from an expansive and inclusive set of avatar tools. From inside VR, users will be able to use the Horizon World Builder to create gaming arenas, vacation chillspots and activities to fill them without the need to know how to code.
You could design a tropical island, then invite friends to hang out with you on your virtual private beach. An object creator akin to the Oculus Medium sculpting feature lets you make anything, even a custom t-shirt your avatar could wear. Visual scripting tools let more serious developers create interactive and reactive experiences.
Facebook details its Horizon safety features on its “Citizenship” page that explains that “As citizens of Facebook Horizon, it is all of our responsibility to create a culture that’s respectful and comfortable . . . A Horizon citizen is friendly, inclusive, and curious.” Horizon Locals will wander the VR landscapes to answer questions or aid users if they’re having technical or safety issues. They seem poised to be part customer support, part in-world police.
Horizon makes perfect sense for a business obsessed with facilitating social interaction while monetized through ad views based on time-spent. It’s easy to imagine Horizon including virtual billboards for brands, Facebook-run shops for buying toys or home furnishings, third-party malls full of branded Nikes or Supreme shirts that score Zuckerberg a revenue cut or subscriptions to access certain gaming worlds or premium planets to explore.
As Facebook starts to grow stale after 15 years on the market, users are looking for new ways to socialize. Many have already ditched the status updates and smarmy Life Events of Facebook for the pretty pictures of Instagram and silliness of Snapchat. Facebook risked being cast aside if it didn’t build its own VR successor. And by offering a world where users can escape their real lives instead of having to enviously compare them to their friends, Horizon could appeal to those bored or claustrophobic on Facebook.
If nothing else, I picture this digital world dripping with ads after just a short time. I don’t want to picture that, but ads are the backbone of Facebook‘s business, and I can’t believe they’d miss the opportunity to shove even more of them into our faces.
More details later, but Mark Zuckerberg has announced the name of Facebook’s social VR platform: Facebook Horizon, which will launch sometime next year:
The avatars seem to be upper-body only, at least from the screen captures I took directly from Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote presentation (note that these first couple of images seem to be more stylized than the later images in the update below, which I suspect are much closer to what the avatars actually look like):
So there you have it! The 900-pound gorilla of social VR has been announced. And you can bet that Facebook is going to use every single tool and tactic at its disposal to make sure that Horizon is your social VR platform. Count on it.
Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace, Somnium Space, VRChat, and Rec Room—and all the other existing social VR platforms—now have a new and formidable opponent.
I will try to write up another blogpost this evening when I get home from work, with details of other announcements made today at OC6.
UPDATE 12:52 p.m.: Here’s a few more screenshots of Facebook Horizon, which plans to have its closed beta launch early next year. It was announced that everybody in attendance at the keynote will receive an invitation to the closed beta.
The avatars remind me strongly of Facebook Spaces—not necessarily a good thing. It’s clear that they will be more cartoon-like than realistic-looking (at least they won’t be the extremely low-poly ones used by AltspaceVR and Rec Room):
In the following screenshot, you can just make out name tags over the avatars’ heads (which I assume you can turn on and off as required):
And it would seem that Horizon will have in-world building tools, similar to the venerable prim-building tools available in Second Life, but hopefully more powerful:
Also, it would appear that you are going to have to have an account on the Facebook social network in order to participate in Horizon. I am not happy about this, but this is hardly a surprise. I will be more surprised if you don’t have to have a Facebook account to use Horizon.
And… well, OK, I want to get my hot little hands on an invitation to the closed beta of Facebook Horizon early next year, which apparently all the attendees at today’s keynote will receive. I need to know: is there anybody at OC6 willing to give me their invite? I want to get into that closed beta!
VR is already a great place to hang out with friends, play games, and watch movies. It’s also a fantastic way to learn new skills and explore our world. Human curiosity and connection are central to each of these experiences, and they’re also at the heart of Horizon. Starting with a bustling town square where people will meet and mingle, the Horizon experience then expands to an interconnected world where people can explore new places, play games, build communities, and even create their own new experiences.
Before stepping into Horizon for the first time, people will design their own avatars from an array of style and body options to ensure everyone can fully express their individuality. From there, magic-like portals—called telepods—will transport people from public spaces to new worlds filled with adventure and exploration. At first, people will hop into games and experiences built by Facebook, like Wing Strikers, a multiplayer aerial experience.
But that’s just the beginning. People will also jump into various other Horizon worlds, built using the World Builder, a collection of easy-to-use creator tools. Everyone will have the power to build new worlds and activities, from tropical hangout spots to interactive action arenas, all from scratch—no previous coding experience needed. Whether people choose to build, play, or simply hang out, Horizon will ensure a welcoming environment through new safety tools and human guides—Horizon Locals—to answer questions and provide assistance, if needed.
As we focus our efforts on launching Facebook Horizon in 2020, we’ll be closing down Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms on October 25. We’re grateful to each and every one of you who joined us in those experiences and have followed us on this journey—and we look forward to having you join us in Facebook Horizon in 2020.
The Horizon beta will open early next year. Sign up at oculus.com/facebookhorizon/sign-up to be notified when the beta opens in 2020. We can’t wait to see all of the new experiences, communities, and worlds people will build together.