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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Coming Soon: More Ways to Be Yourself in the Metaverse

The limitless variety of fashion items, skin colors, body shapes, hair styles and other options for digital identities on today’s immersive platforms already allow millions to be whomever they want to be in these environments. 2023 will be a breakout year for people bringing their fully realized selves into the digital space, as increasing innovation for this fun, even life-changing, form of self-expression and identity comes to more people of more ages, in deeper ways.

We believe the wave of innovation that will make people’s digital identities more compelling and real than ever is the gateway that will usher in broader global adoption of metaverse experiences among people of all ages. 

Millions of our Roblox community members today customize their avatars on a daily basis just as we all prepare for school, work, or social events in the physical world. No surprise, it’s most prevalent among digital natives who grew up online and know well how integral this avenue for self-expression is.

For this generation, digital identity is a natural extension of themselves and a reflection of their personality. They get recognized in shared immersive spaces by their friends who notice whether they’ve dressed up for an occasion. It’s their personalized representation in a digital world where they can make meaningful friendships and connect, cocreate, and collaborate with other community members globally.

This will spread. We’ll see more people—across most age groups—get a digital representation in 2023 and customize their avatars. Eventually, every person will have one. And people won’t just use someone else’s creation. They will make their very own, from head to toe, reflecting their style, personality, and physique. 

New cutting-edge technology will help these identities be more personal and expressive, with more opportunities for customization and user-generated avatar body and face creation. This is a big focus for us at Roblox, given how important digital identity is to our community. Outside of our work, companies big and small are also working on ways to enable lifelike digital identity and avatar interactions, from a wide range of startups to established tech players like Nvidia, Unity, and Epic. 

This development follows recent advances in deep learning for real-time avatar animation from video and voice. Unimaginable just a few years ago, especially at scale and on midrange mobile devices, it will fundamentally change how people communicate emotion and expression in immersive environments.

One tangible example already in the works is our technology to help capture real-time facial expressions from a user’s camera and translate it onto their avatar. Because this innovation will include the broad range of facial expressions and nonverbal cues we are so used to in everyday life, it will allow human co-experience in shared immersive spaces to be so much richer.

We strongly believe this evolution of digital identity and avatars will have a positive impact. Think about any in-person or video conversation: We are wired to constantly track head pose or facial expressions to adjust tone, volume, emotional reactions, and what we say. That’s where we are headed in digital social spaces as well—more social context that allows for more and more civil interactions.

Early immersive platforms and technologies that are out there have been offering a few ways to express some emotions. For example, emotes (avatar movements like waving or dancing) or voice technology can already be used for self-expression and communication. However, in the very near future, personalized custom emotions and facial expressions created directly by users will be the kind of innovation that’s going to significantly change the consumer experience and pave the way forward to broader adoption and understanding of the role that digital identity can play in people’s lives.

As the line between physical and digital worlds blurs further, digital identity will become an important part of everyone’s lives, not just a few.

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