Meta figured out legs for its avatars

Meta’s Horizon avatars will be getting legs. So far, the company’s avatars have weirdly just hovered off the ground, but sometime later next year, Meta will let you add legs to your avatars on VR, mobile, and more as part of the company’s next generation of avatars.

Legs are “probably the most requested feature on our roadmap,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the company’s Connect event while showing off the new avatars, which look significantly better than the avatars available now. (Imagine the improved avatar Zuckerberg showed after his current-gen avatar got memed on but in motion.) “But seriously, legs are hard, which is why other virtual reality systems don’t have them either.”

According to Zuckerberg, the company started off with avatars that don’t feature an entire body because it has been challenging for a VR headset to accurately estimate where things like your elbow or legs actually are. If the system had them show up inaccurately in VR, that would break the immersion.

For arms, Meta has gotten better at figuring out what those body parts are doing as tracking and predictive technologies have improved. Legs can be tricky because of occlusion, Zuckerberg said. If your legs are under a desk, for example, it’s hard for a standalone VR headset to figure out what they might be doing because the desk is blocking the view of the on-headset cameras. Instead, to be able to represent legs, Meta has built an AI model to predict the position of your whole body.

Avatar legs will be coming first to Meta’s Horizon social VR platform, though it’s unclear exactly when. They’ll be coming to “more and more experiences over time as we improve our technology stack,” Zuckerberg said. During the Connect event, they seemed to move quite naturally, though because it was a prerecorded video, we’re not sure yet how they’ll look in practice.

Meta isn’t just working on legs; it’s planning to add a whole bunch of new avatar-related features. The company is exploring how to make expressive and photorealistic avatars to represent yourself in different situations, for example. You’ll be able to bring avatars to Reels so they can be featured in your videos or to Messenger and WhatsApp for video chats. (They’re coming to Zoom, too.) And Meta is launching an avatar store in VR later this year so you can more easily shop for clothes and specific looks.