Meta announced today that users can now use their avatars to answer and make video calls on Instagram and Messenger. The company says the new functionality will allow users to take part in video calls in instances where they’re not camera-ready. The result is an animated video call where you and your friends are looking and talking to each other, without actually seeing each other.
“We’ve all been there: A call comes in but your hair looks like a hot mess,” Meta wrote in a blog post. “Or you’ve just been bawling your eyes out while re-watching From Scratch. Sometimes, we’re just not camera-ready. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a third option between camera-off and camera-on to let you feel a little more present on the call? Cue your Meta Avatar.”
The idea of real-time calls using your avatar could be a welcome addition for people who don’t want to show their faces on certain video calls. On the other hand, it can be seen as a somewhat odd and creepy way to communicate with a friend or family member when you could just communicate via a voice call.
The new functionality is available on both iOS and Android.
As part of today’s announcement, Meta shared a few other updates regarding avatars. The company shared that it’s testing an easier way to create avatars on Facebook and WhatsApp where you can take a live selfie and receive a suggested avatar option generated from your selfie. You can pick from these options and further personalize them to best represent yourself.
Meta also announced that you can now share animated avatar stickers in Instagram and Facebook Stories and Reels, Facebook comments, and 1:1 message threads on Messenger and Instagram. You can send stickers where your avatar is doing certain actions, like waving hello, dancing or slow clapping.
In addition, Meta is rolling out the ability for users’ avatars to hang out with their friends’ avatars in stickers. You can now tag a few friends to Facebook Stories, so you and your friends’ avatars can appear in a sticker together. The new functionality is called “Social Stickers” and lets you share stickers of you and a single friend in 1:1 message threads.
Meta says users may start to notice that VR avatars look a little different than those across its apps, noting that the proportions are more proportional.
“No one wants to look like a cake pop, and now, you don’t have to,” the company wrote in the blog post. “We’re standardizing the look of our avatars across all our platforms, so the way you show up in VR will match how you show up on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Not only does that mean your avatar will look a little more realistic, it also means you’ll be better able to show off your ’fits since the focus won’t be drawn to your comically oversized noggin.”
Meta revealed back in April that more than 1 billion avatars have been created across its platforms. The company first introduced avatars in 2020 as a way to compete with Snap’s Bitmoji and has been continuously updating them since to make them appear more realistic. In today’s blog post, Meta says, “[A]vatars give us a glimpse of the opportunities for self-expression that will be afforded by the metaverse.”