High Fidelity Releases Virtual You, a Mobile App to Create a 3D HiFi Avatar from a Selfie

Today, High Fidelity issued a press release:

High Fidelity, the open-source VR software platform, today released Virtual You: 3D Avatar Creator on the Apple App
 and Google Play stores. It enables people to produce a customizable avatar ready for High Fidelity in less than five minutes.

Powered by VR/AR developer Wolf3D, the free Virtual You app generates a 3D avatar from a selfie. Users can then choose from thousands of wardrobe combinations and customize every aspect of their appearance, such as hair, makeup and body shape. Virtual You avatars are sent directly to a user’s High Fidelity account and are compatible with any virtual environment that uses its open source software. 

Virtual You on the iOS App Store

“As VR begins to transform our daily lives, we will often want to easily appear in virtual worlds as we do in the physical world,” said Philip Rosedale, CEO and Co-founder of High Fidelity. “Avatars have always been a pillar of VR and virtual worlds, but unless you’re a dedicated enthusiast, creating them hasn’t been easy. By making 3D customizable avatars available through a mobile app, we’ve cleared an important step towards bringing VR to billions of people.”

Now, obviously, you’re not going to get the high quality results you would see with a multiple-camera, full-body scanning service such as that offered by Doob, but it’s still an attractive option for a somewhat personalized avatar. So I decided to give Virtual You a spin, using my trusty iPhone SE.

I downloaded and installed the app, following directions to take off my glasses and slick back my hair to get the clearest possible face shot. The app then walked me through choosing my hair colour, hair style, eye colour, and style of glasses. You are then presented with a first draft of your avatar, so you can make various adjustments to skin tone, body shape (height, weight, etc.), head shape, eyes, nose, lips, hairstyle, hair colour, makeup, eyebrows, glasses, and clothing:

Here is the final result:

I was then asked to sign into my High Fidelity account, and it sent my avatar off to High Fidelity!

I had to wait a while for the “Sending your avatar to High Fidelity” to clear. From start to finish, the process took me fifteen minutes!

Then I signed in to High Fidelity to see my avatar in-world. The avatar was immediately available in my inventory:

And here is what my customized avatar looks like! I am actually rather pleased with the results.

It’s hard to take good selfies in HiFi; there’s a mirror mode (which I used to take these pictures), but there doesn’t seem to be a freecam mode to allow me to zoom in on the bottom half of my body, or take a side view of my avatar.


There was once a service in Second Life that generated a classic system (i.e. non-mesh) avatar skin based on a single selfie, but the results were pretty abysmal, as you can see from this old photo I took, comparing the original photo of actor Jake Gyllenhaal with the resulting avatar:

I created this avatar to play Jack Twist for Brokeback Mountain roleplay in Second Life over a decade ago, and I thought the result was good enough at the time for that purpose:

The create-an-avatar service eventually shut down, and I never found a replacement for it. I only used it a couple of times. I also made a Heath Ledger-lookalike avatar to play Ennis Del Mar, but the results were even worse than they were for Jake:

I couldn’t find a really good, well-lit full-frontal facial photo of Heath Ledger, so the result doesn’t really resemble him at all, in my opinion!


So you might just want to download the Virtual You app to your iOS or Android mobile device and try it out for yourself! This is a service that I would like to see more social VR and virtual world companies provide. Perhaps Wolf3D could be convinced to export its app-generated avatars into other virtual worlds? I do think that there is a market for this.

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The Pros and Cons of AMP

As I progress towards the second anniversary of this blog, I’m learning new things about blogging all the time, like AMP, which I had never really paid much attention to before. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and it is a project launched by Google in 2015. AMP uses simplified HTML (hypertext markup language, the “code” of your webpage) and streamlined CSS (cascading style sheet) rules to make Google search results display more quickly on mobile devices.

I discovered yesterday that, many times when I use Google on my iPhone to search for and pull up one of my blogposts, it is now formatted differently than before. It would appear that Google is now delivering the AMP version instead. And to be honest, I’m not quite sure whether or not I like this.

Here’s a side-by-side, before-and-after comparison. On the left is what my blogposts used to look like on my cellphone (it’s using exactly the same fonts and design as if you were reading them on a desktop machine). But now, most of my Google search results on mobile come up looking like the image on the right (the AMP format).

Notice that the web address of the image on the left (my regular blogpost style) says “ryanschultz.com”, while the web address of the image on the right (the AMP version) says “google.com”. Google is serving a cached version of my content.

Now, the good news is that these AMP blogposts are supposed to load faster for mobile users, but the bad news is that the AMP display strips out several user navigation details I had deliberately put in, such as the the “sandwich” menu in the upper right hand corner of the picture on the left, which led people to my blog’s search box and to other areas of my site. The AMP version also strips out the three related blogposts links that appear at the bottom of each of my blogpost pages. In other words, AMP is removing many of the ways that users could navigate within my blog, instead forcing them back out into Google. Google is basically using AMP to drive more traffic back to itself, rather than keeping people clicking around within my blog, and exploring. I hate that.

According to the Wikipedia article on AMP, many developers have criticized aspects of the service:

AMP has been widely criticized by many in the tech industry for being an attempt by Google to exert its dominance on the Web by dictating how websites are built and monetized, and that “AMP is Google’s attempt to lock publishers into its ecosystem”. AMP has also been linked to Google’s attempt to deprecate URLs so that users will not be able to immediately see whether they are viewing a webpage on the open Web or an AMP page that is hosted on Google’s servers.

Now, there’s nothing stopping the user of the AMP page to click on the chain link icon found in the upper right hand corner (it’s right next to “ryanschultz.com”, below “google.com” in the image to the rght) and use that link to see the page as I really want them to see it. But really, who is going to be bothered to take that extra step? Most people just take the info they need and run.

So now I have a difficult decision: turn off AMP completely on my blog and give everybody the same design experience, or leave AMP on and give up some more control to Google (which, I might add, drives a significant amount of traffic to my blog).

So, what do you think? Does it matter to you which version of the blogpost you see when you search Google? I’m willing to bet most people didn’t even know about AMP and could care less, as long as they find what they are looking for. So (for now), I am leaving AMP turned on.

A First Look at Rec Room on iOS

VBunny Go is a VR game vlogger and Twitch livestreamer who was one of the beta testers of the iOS version of the social VR platform Rec Room, and she has posted a video of her experience to YouTube (I can’t embed it in this blogpost, but I can link to it).

VBunny Go is quite an entertaining and enthusiastic commentator, as she puts Rec Room through its paces (including playing several levels of a dungeon quest as part of a team). She finds that most of Rec Room’s functionality is still present, despite playing the game on an iPhone.

I need to get a setup like hers, so I can start doing my own in-world videos! She’s a good example of someone who is slowly building a YouTube audience with her videos of her VR gaming adventures.

Another enthusiastic early tester posted on the Rec Room subReddit:

As a VR only player, I’ve been excited to be able to try the mobile version and see what everyone is ready to complain about. And since today I was invited, I hurriedly downloaded it to finally witness the horror of mobile gaming. And guess what? It’s good. The game runs beautifully and looks absolutely gorgeous. The UI and UX is intuitive and snappy. The controls just make sense. I was literally jealous of the mobile menus compared to the VR version. It’s a smooth, polished ride with all of the content at the ready. It’s GOOD. And you all are going to love it.

This marks a significant shift in the social VR/virtual world market: support for mobile devices. Linden Lab is also working on an official mobile client for Second Life (no word on when that will be released), and of course there have been other mobile SL clients such as Lumiya for Android devices. There’s also a beta Android client for High Fidelity.

Zepeto: A Brief Introduction

I have Strawberry Singh to blame for this one! She wrote up a blogpost and posted a YouTube video about an avatar-based mobile social networking app called Zepeto:

Now, Zepeto reminds me a lot of another mobile app I had covered before on this blog, called Avakin Life, only it doesn’t seem to have as many features (for example, you can’t move your avatar around inside an environment). It takes a real-life self-portrait using your cellphone’s camera to create your default avatar, which you can then modify as you wish. Here’s what I came up with after only a few minutes of fiddling:

And here’s a couple of selfie poses:

Work that camera, gurl!!! Cute, but overall I found there’s not really a lot to do in Zepeto. Basically, you pose for photos alone or with your friends, and you chat… and that’s about it! If you find this sort of thing interesting, then you might want to check out Avakin Life first, since it lets you do a bit more.