Following an initial announcement eight months ago, Meta has released its latest avatar system for all Unity VR developers, including support for App Lab titles and limited support for non-Oculus platforms like SteamVR.

Update (December 13th, 2021): Meta today announced that its latest avatar system is finally available to all Unity developers. Formerly called Oculus Avatars 2.0—and now called Meta Avatars—the system brings a huge upgrade to avatar style and expressiveness compared to the company’s prior avatar systems.

The Meta Avatars SDK offers support for Unity-based VR applications on Quest and Rift, with limited support for non-Oculus platforms, like Unity VR apps built for SteamVR. Meta says that Quest apps on App Lab can make full use of the Meta Avatar SDK, just like those on the official store.

Meta Avatars aren’t yet supported in Unreal Engine, but support is expected eventually.

The company says it has built the Meta Avatar SDK “with developer needs in mind.” Developers can override the system’s positioning of avatar bodies and facial expressions if necessary to fine-tune avatar behavior for their given application.

The company also says the Meta Avatar SDK uses an interesting distributed architecture for performance. Instead of having all headsets redundantly calculate all of the positions and expressions of all avatars in a given scene, each headset performs the calculations for its own avatar and then streams that information to other participants. Developers are also free to use the system with whichever networking stack they’d like, which increases flexibility over a proprietary solution.

Oculus-based applications using the Meta Avatar SDK will use the avatar that player’s have customized through their headset’s avatar creator. SteamVR applications can use the Meta Avatar SDK, but because those apps aren’t tied to the Oculus platform players are restricted to choosing from one of 32 pre-configured avatars. In cross-play scenarios, Meta says that although non-Oculus players can’t fully configure their own avatar, they will see the fully customized avatars of Oculus players.

Documentation from the Meta Avatar SDK also includes a ‘Best Practices’ guide for developers to consider how they handle avatars within their apps.

As far as we know, the Meta Avatar system currently doesn’t support multiple avatar outfits or app-specific outfits, which means you can only have one ‘look’ at any given time. Similarly, it doesn’t appear to be possible for applications to offer their own unique outfits, accessories, or styles for players to use with their avatars within a specific app.

The original article, which overviews the preliminary release of Meta Avatars to select developers earlier this year, continues below.

Original Article (October 28th, 2021): Facebook began rolling out its latest avatars in the Oculus Avatars 2.0 update in April, which creates new default avatars for the company’s first-party social VR platform, Facebook Horizon.

In addition to being more lifelike and visually appealing than its prior releases, Avatars 2.0 is also positioned to unify the Oculus and Facebook ecosystems somewhat by bringing them to the full swath of Facebook properties including the Facebook app, Messenger, Instagram, and more.

Over the past year a number of third-party applications have worked with Facebook to adopt the system. You can already see the new avatars in Epic Roller Coasters, PokerStars VR, and Topgolf with Pro PuttSynth Riders and ForeVR Bowling. This SDK release will allow all Quest developers to do the same thing.

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In comparison to previous avatar systems created for the Oculus platform, Avatars 2.0 offers up more possibilities for customization, including customizable skin tone, hair style, face shape/markings/lines, eye shape, eyebrows, eye makeup, and more. You can also choose clothing, glasses, and body types—something Facebook says makes for one quintillion possible combinations.

The company hasn’t said exactly when to expect the Oculus Avatar 2.0 SDK, although we’ll be glued to the company’s developer blog then to give you the heads up.

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  • Dino

    This looks extremely limiting in what you can do. Based on what Facebook has shown so far, other VR social platforms give you so much more freedom in style and substance. I understand this is more for getting average people into the VR social space, and lowering the barrier of entry, but this whole thing seems strange. And the “Corporate Art style” is objectively not a great choice imo.

    • Marc-André Désilets

      At oculus connect yesterday they showed that they are planning to separate the avatar system in 3 categories, one cartoonish one (this one) the photorealistic one (wip in progress consumer tech isn’t yet ready) and a more fantasy sci-fi one (for gaming and more open applications)

      At the moment they start “baby step” with this (very limited) one since the tech is ready and they can assure a stable performance cost to app 3rd party app developers.

      • Lucidfeuer

        Except the photorealistic one (which I’m pretty sure we won’t ever see), the cartoonish and the sci-fi fantasy art style are terribly designed. Some casual housewife mobile game have better art direction.

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  • FranTesla

    I understand this is the cartoonish version (look other replies), but even so, it looks extremely bland, to the point that most people will not care, at all

    • Anonymous

      Cartonnish or not it looks dated and a throw back to Xbox 360’s avatar system 10 years ago. Makes you wonder if that MS team just went to FB and a lot of the designers have basically entered shut down mode. Absolutely garbage looking compared to all the creativity we see on VRChat.

      • kontis

        Xbox360 is a good performance target for Quest 2 (even though Quest is more powerful, but VR is much more demanding than 720p 2D), so it’s not coincidental, but I agree the art direction is meh.

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    • To be fair, it comes across a bit better in-app.

    • Muhammad Nidzamuddin Bin M Asa

      I feel that MetaHero will still lead the metaverse with its advanced technology. Go check them out guys.

  • gothicvillas

    Honestly, these avatars is a big put off for me. Yikes!! They look like right from Facebook office lol

  • Rudl Za Vedno
  • sfmike

    Although I really like the facial animations and lip syncing of these avatars, they really are way to unisex for my taste. Every avatar created looks vaguely transsexual. Very politically correct but limiting when trying to tweak your avatar into a more masculine representation. It looks to me as being designed by people pushing the “there is no gender” idea. Glad I can say this here because this comment would probably get me banned on Facebook.

    • guest

      That’s probably because the closer to the gender borderline, the better the dancer, Allbeit their avatars can’t really dance…

    • Adrian Meredith

      Yeah that’s my issue too, there’s effectively no male combination here. I appreciate they didn’t want a male female toggle filter but if gender isn’t binary give us a slider instead.

    • PK

      it’s not that facebook knows anything about gender and how people express it these days, so their by-committee attempts to not offend are bland and still offensive.

  • lol

    meta = fail
    I look at this and it screams I know you better than you because data(?) tells me so, lol.
    I was think of som of the ideas offerd here : https://www.makeuseof.com/reasons-why-myspace-was-great/
    cudo’s to the source, RAUL MERCADO
    flame on *)

  • Octo

    Meta avatar for Unity, not to be confused with MetaHuman for Unreal…nice naming.

  • Rogue Transfer

    The limited selection of 32 pre-made avatars for other platforms makes this a no go for any cross-platform app. Useless for the big upcoming PSVR2 market too.

    They’re just too bland and can’t fit most games with good quality graphics and with no developer custom gear, it really limits the possibilities for a company. There are better free avatar systems available for Unity like UMA 2, including lip-sync too.

    • Baldrickk

      Not to mention that really, there’s no reason why other platforms couldn’t have access to the avatar creation.
      Facebook are just restricting it because they can.

  • Mrfox Babbit

    Ha ha! Wheres the little jump and confetti animation? Limp.