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Meta Launches Improved 3D Avatars, Expands Avatar Use to Instagram

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Meta Launches Improved 3D Avatars, Expands Avatar Use to Instagram


The metaverse is coming – not now, and not for some time yet, but it is evolving, and as per the name, Meta is keen to take ownership of that next stage, and ensure that it remains relevant in the future iteration of the web as we know it.

And this is another step in that direction – today, Meta has released an updated process for its 3D avatar creation on Facebook and Messenger, while it’ll also now enable people to use their custom avatars in Instagram Stories and DMs as well.

As you can see in this image, Meta’s new 3D avatars have more refined features and customization options to make them look more like the actual people that they represent, while Meta’s also adding more inclusive customization features, including Cochlear implants, hearing aids and wheelchairs, giving more users the ability to represent themselves in its apps.

Meta avatars

Meta’s offered its 3D avatars as an option in its main app since 2019, with the capacity to create a digital depiction of yourself that can then be added to stickers, posts, reactions and more.

But while some people have adopted these characters, they haven’t really caught on in a major way. Meta will be hoping to change that with this new expansion, which also, as noted, will enable Instagram users to create their virtual self.

Meta avatars in Instagram

Which will additionally open up new opportunities for sponsored content.

From now until February 28th, you’ll be able to outfit your Avatar to support either of the two Super Bowl LVI contenders – or if you can’t bring yourself to cheer for either team, there’s also a neutral Super Bowl LVI shirt you can choose instead.”

Meta avatars

Digital clothing is fast becoming a key commerce trend, with Snapchat also offering a range of digital items to outfit your Bitmoji avatar in its app. And when you also consider that a virtual Gucci bag sold for $4,000 on Roblox last year, there’s clearly a rising demand for such items, which may seem odd to those outside of these worlds, but actually makes a lot of sense, given the status and prestige they can bring in these alternate, digital cultures.

When then leans into another element, in NFTs, the latest big trend to takeover social media circles.

One of the confusing things about the current NFT trend is that it’s not entirely clear what the purpose of these artworks is, in relation to the next stage of digital connection. Is the idea that you’ll display these digital artworks in the metaverse, in your own, custom space, or is it, as many NFT projects have suggested, that you’ll eventually be able to adapt these profile images into full-body, 3D avatars, which you could then use to represent yourself in a theoretical, all-encompassing VR or AR world?

In the case of the latter, that seems unlikely to be a big focus, as we already have various metaverse-like platforms, including Roblox and Fortnite, where people can buy digital ‘skins’ for players, and based on the trends we see in those apps, it’s unlikely to be random images of apes and cats that are going to become prominent depictions of people within these settings.

The latest Marvel characters, popular Star Wars villains – character depictions based on trending films and TV shows tend to win the day in these apps, and while users can go for more obscure pop culture references, the most common, coolest skins at any given time generally see the most use. The concept of NFTs is that you own a unique character, that no one else can have – but with the option to either look like yourself or go with a popular character instead, will people really want to look like a pixelated punk in full size? Cultural trends of the time will play a much bigger role than originality in this respect.

Indeed, Fortnite’s character skins are hugely popular – in fact, Fortnite makes the majority of its revenue from the sale of digital items, including skins, not from season battle passes (effectively in-game subscriptions) as some might expect.

Purchasing a new look for your character is second nature to the next generation of consumers, and its these audiences that are likely to drive the metaverse shift, with Meta repeatedly noting that it will take years, likely a decade or more, for the broader metaverse vision to take shape.

Will people really want to depict their digital self as a bored monkey from 2022 a decade on?

I mean, maybe that is the case and I’m missing the point, and maybe displaying your digital art works in your own dedicated space is the goal. But it does seem to me that, as an investment in the metaverse shift, you’d be better off looking at projects that are building universal, transferrable elements, like avatars, which can be adapted for the next stage, and will enable users to create custom visual depictions that align with existing trends, and are being built with portability in mind from the ground up.

That’s why projects like Ready Player Me seem more interesting, with custom avatar creation tools that aren’t confined to a specific trend, and will, ideally, eventually translate into the schemas and requirements of a universal metaverse platform.

Ready Player Me

Which is also where the expansion of Meta’s avatars comes in. With the capacity to build a depiction of yourself that becomes familiar, and which you can adopt as your virtual identity, Meta is positioning itself right now to be the originator of these characters, which will represent you in the space.

Which will be a key development focus for the company moving forward – as noted by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

“One day you’ll have multiple avatars ranging from expressive to photorealistic. Looking forward to sharing more soon.”

Meta’s photorealistic avatars are already well-advanced, and could, one day, be used as a true representation of yourself in digital environments.

But we’re a long way off that stage, which would require in-person digital scanning, along with massive amounts of computer power to facilitate full movement.

That likely won’t be a fully-functional option for some time, and until then, you’ll be using cartoonish depictions of yourself, like those we already see in VR, to engage and interact in these spaces.

Meta avatar update

This early development by Meta is a move to own this element, which is also a step towards owning the metaverse more broadly. Because for all the talk of Web3, and a fully decentralized, democratized internet, the reality is that someone will need to provide the platforms on which to build these new experiences.

Blockchain systems are already using masses of energy to facilitate decentralized networks, based on each computer in the chain acting as its own node, and the feasibility of that type of system being used to power more complex digital networks seems tenuous at best. Which likely means that the big tech players will need to, at the least, build the foundations, which others can then expand upon, and within that, it may well be that Meta dictates the requirements of the metaverse, potentially in partnership with other players to ensure interoperability.

But it’s a big ask, and it will take some time to evolve.

Meta’s working now to embed itself into that shift. And given its reach and presence, and its capacity to facilitate connection with custom avatar tools, this could be an important step.

Meta’s new 3D avatar tools are now available to users in the US, Canada, and Mexico.



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Pig butchering and the other peculiar cyber-scams on the rise

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Pig butchering and the other peculiar cyber-scams on the rise

Pointing to a computer screen. Image by Tim Sandle.

The countdown to holiday period shopping is on. While sales are up, so are risks. Barclay’s estimate a 70 percent increase in scams the last year. Hence, consumers need to be even more vigilant with the deals they’re seeking out and the websites they are purchasing from.

To help Digital Journal  readers be more mindful as to the key risk factors, James Walker, CEO at Rightly, explains the main issues. This includes an uptick in recent ‘brushing scams’ and fake reviews, as well as further details around other types of scams to watch out for.

Walker sees this period of time as providing ample situations for “Fraudsters to take advantage of innocent consumers. There are multiple tactics scammers use to convince people to part with their money, particularly in the run-up to a day which promises huge savings. One scam in particular we’ve been seeing an increase in is the so-called brushing scam in the lead up to the festive season, which involves unsuspecting people receiving unsolicited deliveries.”

Expanding on the strange deliveries, Walker says: “If you receive an unexpected package, it may be a scam that online sellers use to falsely inflate ratings and post fake reviews, and may mean your personal data has been compromised. If you have received an unexpected package from a company such as Amazon and suspect it to be a brushing scam, contact customer support directly. They can tell you whether your real account has been compromised and will cancel the fake account. The same goes for other marketplaces like eBay.”

Expanding on this tactic, Walker explains: “Unfortunately, such scams have also led to significant increase in fake reviews on Amazon, with an estimated 61 percent of all reviews classified as fake as fraudulent sellers try to manipulate buyers into making a purchase. Always be cautious when buying online and do as much background research as possible on a company or product before buying anything.”

Among the most prevalent scams, Walker cites:

Social media scams

This is where scammers take over your social profile, gaining access to influence your friends and family. But this is only the start of taking over someone’s life, this can lead to the opening of bank accounts and creating fake identities in your name.

Burner businesses

This is when scammers buy a company for a reasonable amount and appear to trade, genuinely selling goods and services. They build up lots of sales, and then when the time is right, they move the money out and close down the business, leaving people out of pocket and either with fake goods or none at all.

Tickets to events

With the football World Cup taking place, it’s not too surprising to see that ticket scams are on the rise. Ticket selling scams happen when a scammer uses tickets as bait to steal your money. The scammer usually sells fake tickets, or you pay for a ticket, but never receive it. They are common when tickets for popular concerts, plays, and sporting events sell out. Additionally, scam artists purporting to represent musicians or bands have invited promoters to send offers for non-existent tour dates in a phishing email.

Pig butchering

It sounds unpleasant, but so called ‘pig-butchering’ scams are on the rise. These scams happen when someone seemingly friendly and open befriends you online and over time, through a series of conversations, persuades you to part with money. It’s often a little at first, suggesting you put some cash into a ‘too-good-to-be-true’ investment. Only, of course, the investment is a scam and fraudulent.

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