In the real world, your body is always yours—you might dress differently for a business meeting or a cocktail party, but you’re still the same person underneath the outfit. Now an avatar-making startup thinks the same should be true in virtual reality, too.
Virtual reality is still so new that most people haven’t even tried it, and there isn’t all that much connecting with other people in virtual space, nor much control over how you look when you are doing so. The medium is slowly becoming more social, though, with the emergence of social VR companies such as High Fidelity and AltspaceVR, and companies like Modal VR and the Void working on in-person interactive experiences. And to make you more comfortable in your virtual skin, a company called Morph 3D is letting people easily make their own avatars that persist across different virtual experiences.
In March the company publicly released a free software demo called Ready Room that lets you craft and manage avatars, which can then be used in VR on partner platforms. So far, Morph 3D has partnered with two social VR companies: High Fidelity and VRChat. It says more partners will be added in the coming months. Ready Room is meant to work just with HTC’s Vive headset for now, but Morph 3D says some users have gotten it to work with the Oculus Rift, too, by running it through the Steam entertainment platform. (Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, offers its Oculus Avatars product, which lets users customize their own avatars for use with compatible apps, but that is limited to the Oculus platform.)
The Ready Room demo lets you choose your avatar’s gender, pick from two different body types (both somewhat cartoony), adjust a range of body traits like skin hue, weight, and head shape, and dial in such specific things as the shapes and spacing of eyes, nose, and lips. You can choose clothes, hairstyles, and sneakers, and you can keep a portfolio of the same avatar in different outfits or make several different ones.
Chris Madsen, Morph 3D’s director of augmented and virtual reality, says people tend to say they want to be about 80 percent themselves when it comes to avatars.
“I imagine people will have 12 or 20 virtual skins in their wardrobe they can pull out for different occasions,” says Madsen. “If you’re going to an ’80s party, why would you want to be stuck in a modern outfit?”