In the physical world, an avatar is the embodiment of a person or idea, originating from the Sanskrit and literally meaning the descent of a deity from heaven to earth.
However, in the online world, an artificial character or graphic representing an online user is referred to as an avatar. The use first became popular with the sci-fi novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson in 1992.
Avatars can be manipulated photo images, icons or 3D characters of the person or other creatures, and are mainly used in or on:
· web forums – online discussion boards / communities – where people that sign up are given the option to upload an image file that matches the user’s character – this together with their username makes up their avatar.
· online worlds, such as Sims Online where players can not only select their avatars, be they human, male or female can be customised to create a unique presence for each player. These avatars can interact with each other in this virtual world.
· multi player online games – RGPs (role playing games) or MMORPGs (online multi-player role playing games) such as and Final Fantasy of World of Warcraft allow users to create characters individual to them, their avatars which is the online version of them for the remainder of the game play.
How Can I create my own Avatar?
A simple Google search under “create my own avatar” will show you results of several avatar maker websites that can do this for you, and the good news is that most of these services are free. You have several options such as:
· Simply resizing a photo or image of yourself to the correct size you need it for online, or creating such as on avatarmaker.net. Here you upload a photo yourself and resize accordingly. Head over to avatarmaker.net to create avatars for free.
· Have some fun using the avatar creator to make a cartoon anime of you at dolldivine. Here you can make up unlimited male or female avatars in the anime style, customising their appearance, hairstyle, facial features, skin colour and attire, as well as emotion symbols.
· You can also download a free avatar maker apk for your Android or iOS device from a variety of websites.
Avatars for Business & Education
Companies and educational institutes can and are using customer avatars for marketing or educational purposes, to use in their advertising campaigns to appeal to a particular type of clientele.
This comes at a cost and providers of this service will start off by determining the type of customer being aimed at and what medium is being used.
What is the Future for Avatars?
There is still a limitation on avatars in that the personalisation of facial features is based on selecting available options, but this area is increasing exponentially and exciting news at the end of 2016 came from three different directions:
1. A start up company called Loom.ai who has developed a process to produce fantastically realistic avatars from a single selfie or image, using an amalgamation of computer vision, facial musculature rigs powered run by image analysis software, special effect techniques borrowed from the film industry, and computational algorithms. So far they have produced avatars for Kanye West, Rihanna, Angelina Jolie and a few other celebrities.
2. Morph3D’s have developed the Ready Room tool, where you can make custom avatars to use across all VR platforms.
This is a more known way of creating an avatar from a database of personalisation items, but it saves game developers a lot of time as it works across all platforms and players can create their own characters.
The company aim to make this process as intuitive and easy to use as possible.
3. Itsme have been working on a body scanning system for 3 years and have invented a free creator that allows the user to see a 3D avatar within 1 minute of using the scanner.
They are working on apps that allow the user to apply filters to the avatars, printing the avatars in 3D figures etc.
The use of avatars is revolutionising the online or virtual world and the future looks exciting and limitless in this area for the near future.