Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, made a significant announcement yesterday, revealing that users can now utilize their avatars to answer and make video calls on Instagram and Messenger. This new functionality, according to Meta, will enable users to participate in video calls even when they are not camera-ready. As a result, participants can engage in animated video calls, interacting with each other without revealing their actual appearances.
In a blog post, Meta expressed the need for this feature, stating, “We’ve all been there: A call comes in but your hair looks like a hot mess… Sometimes, we’re just not camera-ready. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a third option between camera-off and camera-on to let you feel a little more present on the call? Cue your Meta Avatar.”
While this innovation could be seen as a welcome addition for individuals who prefer not to show their faces during certain video calls, some might perceive it as an unconventional and slightly eerie method of communication, considering the alternative option of a voice call.
The newly introduced functionality is now available on both iOS and Android platforms, ensuring widespread accessibility for users.
In addition to the avatar-based video calls, Meta also shared other updates related to avatars. The company is currently testing a simpler method for users to create avatars on Facebook and WhatsApp. Users can take a live selfie, and from there, Meta’s algorithms generate suggested avatar options based on the selfie. Users can then further personalize these options to accurately represent themselves.
Meta has also introduced animated avatar stickers, which can now be shared on popular platforms such as Instagram and Facebook Stories, Reels, Facebook comments, and 1:1 message threads on Messenger and Instagram. These stickers depict avatars performing various actions, including waving hello, dancing, or slow clapping.
Furthermore, Meta is now allowing users’ avatars to interact with their friends’ avatars in stickers. By tagging multiple friends in Facebook Stories, users can create stickers that feature avatars of themselves and their friends together. This feature, called “Social Stickers,” enables users to share personalized stickers with a single friend in 1:1 message threads.
Meta’s commitment to standardizing the appearance of avatars across all its platforms is another noteworthy development. Previously, avatars in virtual reality (VR) looked different from those on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. To ensure consistency, Meta will adjust the proportions of avatars, making them more realistic and avoiding distractions caused by exaggerated features.
In a blog post, Meta explained their approach, stating, “No one wants to look like a cake pop, and now, you don’t have to… We’re standardizing the look of our avatars across all our platforms, so the way you show up in VR will match how you show up on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Not only does that mean your avatar will look a little more realistic, it also means you’ll be better able to show off your ‘fits since the focus won’t be drawn to your comically oversized noggin.”
Meta initially introduced avatars in 2020 as a response to Snap’s Bitmoji and has been continuously updating them to enhance their realism. Back in April, Meta revealed that over 1 billion avatars have been created across its platforms. The company views avatars as a glimpse into the self-expression opportunities that will arise within the metaverse, as stated in their blog post.