According to today’s platform announcement, Roblox users will soon be able to give their avatars facial expressions that resemble their own.
The update, which was revealed today at the Roblox Developer Conference, will initially only be accessible to a few creators on the site, but it is anticipated that all Roblox users will have access to it by the beginning of 2023.
52.2 million individuals use the online gaming platform Roblox every day, where they may play games or make their own. Although the company’s initial target audience was children, in recent years it has grown in popularity among teenagers and young adults, and more than half of its users are now older than 13.
With options for social interaction and customizable avatars that players may use across games, the rich, diverse virtual worlds generated on the website have been seen as a prelude to what we might see and experience in the metaverse.
The upgrade is comparable to Apple iPhone’s Bitmoji, which tracks and measures head and facial motions using depth sensing. Bjorn Book-Larsson, vice president of product and avatars at Roblox, called the previous avatars’ expressions on the platform “two-dimensional.”
Users could wink, smile, or scrunch their foreheads after Roblox’s upgrade, and their avatars would imitate those actions in real time. With the same outcomes, eyes could scan, heads could sway, and brows and ears could move.
Users will soon be able to communicate directly with other avatars, just like in other multiplayer video games, according to Roblox. In other words, the alterations could make avatars more like ourselves, for better or worse, by fusing our real-world human experience with that of the metaverse.
These improvements won’t be made public until the beginning of 2023, according to Book-Larsson, in order to uphold “confidence and safety.” He states, “We anticipate the unexpected.” The safety team at Roblox needs some lag time to ensure that expressions are used securely by its sizable population of young players. For instance, according to Book-Larsson, the possibility of someone misusing the facial gesture of putting out your tongue as a sexual invitation led to its elimination.
The gradual distribution will also give testers an opportunity to observe how elderly users would react to the emoting capability of their avatars. According to Book-Larsson, users aged 17 to 24 have the fastest rate of growth and have access to a wide range of social media and gaming platforms.
According to Book-Larsson, the goal is for them to become “more involved” with emotional avatars and subsequently spend more time on the platform.
However, a professional advises Roblox to be cautious about how expressions are interpreted across cultural boundaries. According to a neurologist and How Emotions Are Made author Lisa Feldman Barrett, “Reading a smile as cheerful is a fairly Western stereotype. That is a legitimate issue given that 44.7% of Roblox users are located outside of Western nations.
According to Book-Larsson, the most common facial expressions on Roblox right now are grins and other happy expressions. However, a smile can also mean invitation or supplication in other cultures. Even if two players are Western, they may interpret a smile differently: possibly scary or possibly sarcastic.
Making avatars more expressive may have these negative effects, and Book-Larsson notes that this is one of the reasons the rollout is taking so long. And as Feldman Barrett emphasizes, linguistic communication is essential for a precise understanding of emotions. Avatars will soon be able to communicate through voice chat, according to Book-Larsson. He explains, “We want to make sure it’s safe. “We’re going to find out soon,”