I, Avatar

I, Avatar

Sep 7, 2019

Hundreds of Avatar making softwares are there for tuning our digital representations as the expectations. Specialized softwares like Adobe Fuse and MakeHuman; Sculpting softwares like Cinema4D and blender; Social media like Facebook and twitter; Mobile apps like Memoji and Kapu…

Here I used Fuse (beta) and Kapu, a newly released app by Tencent (the largest game company on the planet), created two very distinguishable Avatars of me, and analyzed the differences. While both of them are 3D software, Fuse is more for 1:1 human body making, and Kapu is more like a canvas for preschool animation.

KAPU

As the visual character making iOS app for the instant message tool QQ (targeting younger generations), Kapu is social oriented, infantilized, and silly in some perspectives. It's not for any serious sculpting, but minimizing the making process by preset designs and limited adjustable features. Authenticity is the least to be considered in this ACG world. But honestly, the process is quite playful and pleasing, with several features worth mentioning:


Kapu Showcase

  1. Maniac/Interactive Motions

Every time the user switch back to the character page, (it)‘ll maniacally wave Hi to you with exaggerate gestures. Unlike traditional static Avatar making software, the whole process is more like an interactive game instead of a tedious sculpting work with the embedded motion features. While waving seems childish, corresponding feedback after the user changes a particular part helps highlight the adjustment and strengthen the “gaming” experience. For example, a blink after choosing an eye type.

Kapu Wave Gif
Kapu Switch Eyes and Blink Gif

  1. On-body Adjustment

The most important thing for a mobile Avatar app targeting kids is usability: understandable and usable for anyone who has no modeling experience. Putting clear control points on the body, instead of using sliders, Kapu is very easy and straightforward to use. This feature is also quite similar to the Liquify section in Photoshop CC.

Kapu Control Points
  1. Avatar in the House

As a beginner level Avatar creator, the app doesn't offer many parameters to be changed, and the whole process is heavily based on picking from preset haircut, facial features and clothing - can be purchased in the online market. The market is also serving for another feature of the app: My Space. The Avatar can not only stand on the grey plain floor, but also be realtime rendered into a room that can be decorated and visited by the user's friends.

Kapu My Space

Social Avatars

Avatars are never apart from a society as humans can never. And I can see Kapu's attempt to build digital citizenship for younger users - and once the group formed, they shall never leave. When those physical characteristics will not only be seen by the users themselves but also their QQ friends and even anonymous people, users start to hesitate, and choices disobey their interests. Tencent's using anime and infantilized to make it easy: You can never go wrong with a cute smiling character. Actually, the community culture of QQ, started 20 years ago in 1999, plays an important role in the anonymity trend of China's Internet, with which as the mainstream communication tool, people got used to not use self photos as profile photo, and use made-up names instead of real names.

Fuse Beta


Fuse Showcase

In contrast, Fuse is a very serious tool: detailed and cooperated with Adobe suite and Mixamo for further productions. While it's also based on picking from some very limited preset templets, it also offers a great many of sliders for users to customize the face, body, and texture. The user can then choose from another very limited library of ugly clothes.

Although there're tons of parameters for users to adjust, templets as the base are all western faces. And I spent 30 minutes to just get it a little closer to my Asian looking.

Ideas

Quick notes of suggestions for Avatar making software.

  1. Aging:The models from Fuse look too mature for me, and adjusting the dimensions or length of eyes and nose manually is tedious. Since we've already have age recognizing models that could tell an approximate number based on a photo, is it possible for a Machine Learning based model help us generally adjust facial features? And compile the whole process into a slider: from 0 to 99 years old.

Questions

  1. Is people's affection to Avatars affected by how alike between them or not?
    We see very human-alike Avatars, like the characters in SimCity, with preserved body ratio and facial features; some others are beautified intentionally, including the one mentioned above; while there're also some quite different ones: monsters, elves, or even the cursor. What actually decides whether an Avatar will build a emotional connection with (its) owner? Should it be alike a real human? Or (it)‘s owner more specifically? What role does this similarity play?

  2. What makes an Avatar, an Avatar?
    There're more and more Avatar artists, workers, servers, etc. Those are Avatars without a specified owner. Are they still an Avatar? Can we call any artificial character an Avatar? Is the Avatar of AI an Avatar?

Avatars & Psychology/Self Representation

  1. Virtual Worlds Are Real
  2. Touching online funerals that gamers hold for friends they have never met
  3. Controlling vs “Being” Your Video Game Avatar
  4. When We Play Video Games, Who Are We?
  5. Aspects of the Self (Ch.7 of Life on the Screen (1995))