Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and its accompanying apps and services, announced earlier today that it is introducing virtual 3D avatars for Indian users. Users on the company’s platforms, which includes Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, will be able to use its 3D avatars in stickers, posts on their main content feeds, as well as on Facebook profile photos.
This is the first time that Meta is introducing the feature for Indian users on Facebook and Messenger, and for the first time across the world for Instagram users. The latter can use these avatars across Instagram stories and on direct messages, although the use of these avatars as profile images will work only on Facebook, Meta’s flagship platform.
The use of virtual 3D avatars in messaging via stickers and for use in display images has been around for a while through private messaging. In June 2018, Apple introduced memoji, which used augmented reality to map a user’s face, and allowed customization of accessories, skin tones and more in order to create a virtual figure of their choice.
Facebook’s avatars, meanwhile, bring virtual avatars to its social media platforms – which is a nascent but growing industry. Earlier this month, a report on social media platforms using virtual avatars by data analytics firm Data.ai said that usage and adoption of such companies grew by 60% year on year in 2021.
However, most user interest in such applications came from mature internet markets such as USA, UK, France, Japan and South Korea. Such standalone platforms also still have limited adoption – with the Data.ai report stating that virtual avatar social media apps collectively garnered 38 million downloads last year.
The use of virtual avatars on Meta’s platforms – Facebook and Instagram – is also aimed at catering to its metaverse concept via its virtual reality platform, Horizon Worlds. Manish Chopra, director and head of partnership for India at Meta, said that its introduction of virtual 3D avatars and a range of customizability choices is aimed at catering to the diversity of real-world personalities, as part of “representations in the metaverse.”