Online meetin gplace AltspaceVR has a lot of things going for it. It’s incredibly user friendly, it’s free, and it can be accessed on desktop mode when your headset is in the Cleanbox.
One of the biggest downsides to the platform is that the customization scheme was, until last week, super basic. Most of us understand that some social VR platforms have less-realistic avatars on purpose to avoid the uncanny valley. However, Altspace avatars didn’t just not look like people – they didn’t look different from one another. That is, until a recent update.
If you haven’t been on AltspaceVR this week, think about the last time that you signed on. Remember how the avatars looked? A basic body shape, a basic head shape, a few hairstyle options, two or three clothes options. In case it’s been a while, below is a photo that I took at HP’s Reverb G2 launch that took place in Alspace during AWE.
Now, finish this article and log into Altspace again. The team announced in June, via blog post and social media, that updates would be coming soon.
“As AltspaceVR continues to grow and mature as a versatile product, it becomes increasingly important that individuals seeking a new way to connect, share, and explore feel comfortable, welcome, and represented,” read the post. “With that in mind, our team set out to build new avatars that prioritized customization and empowered authentic self-expression.”
The update launched on July 15 and included over a dozen separate changes, according to the Patch Notes on Steam. In addition to the customization options, which we’ll jump into in a moment, the update includes fixes to the teleport system as well as “improved blink animations” and “reactive eye movements.”
Updated Avatar Editing
Unfortunately, I can’t do a real side-by-side comparison between the old system and the new system. When I logged in, the program immediately required the update so I haven’t played around with the old avatar customizations since AWE. I also didn’t have a good photo of my old avatar (because it wasn’t worth photographing) so I can’t compare it to my new one.
That having been said, the new customization system is definitely a noticeable improvement. There are additional pages of options for everything, including hats, facial hair, and clothing.
More Detailed Clothing
Not only are there more clothing options, the clothing is stylistically textured. Further, each clothing item has two customizable color options – a main color and an accent color. There are also outer garments like jackets that can be layered onto inner garments like shirts and dresses.
Non-Gendered Customization Options
On the topic of dresses, clothing and hairstyles are accessible to all avatars, not limited by gender. If you think red nails would match your beard, you can do that. Short hair, leather jacket, and a sun dress? You can do that. As the team put it,
“The new avatars give individuals the freedom to choose how they define and express things like gender or race,” read the blog. “They’ll be able to construct the version of themselves that will make them feel comfortable and safe, as well as allow them the freedom to explore their own curiosities around identity.”
Skin Color and Body Types
For the most part, color options for hair and clothes have a number of default colors that users can choose from as well as a color wheel for even more customization options. While the skin color palette doesn’t include the color wheel, it does include 24 color options including shades of blue and pink.
The avatar body shapes have also changed from the classic rectangle avatar options. Body and head shapes are more customizable, realistic and expressive. The avatars also have necks now, though they’ve lost their legs and still haven’t found arms – just hands floating an arm’s distance away.
Showing Off Your New Avatar in AltspaceVR
A special event gave users the opportunity to do a “VR fashion show” of their updated avatars. Instead of a catwalk. Earlier, another event had a picnic feeling, complete with tables, a grill and burgers, and slices of watermelon. There was also a “#GetSocial” board for users to take selfies with.
While some picnickers roamed around each other testing out the new reactive eye capabilities, others met with friends or just threw watermelons slices at each other. The event lasted a total of eight hours in half-hour increments that filled up as soon as they opened.
The event is over now, but Altspace still encourages you to post photos of your updated avatar on social media with #AltspaceSelfie. Further, the technical artist behind the new avatar design will be speaking at an event in Altspace on Thursday.
Love the new avatars? Still not impressed? There’s a feedback form you can submit to the Altspace team. They’ve also promised more avatar updates to come. My request? Neckties.