Zoom has launched animated avatars that mimic your movements and facial expressions during meetings.
This feature is currently limited to the video chat app beta program, which allows paying customers to preview future updates. This is due to the release of animal avatars earlier this year, which are available for free.
Zoom says the animated twin can fill in for you in meetings when you don’t want to appear on video, including while eating. The avatar only copies the movements of your face and head, so your boss won’t be able to tell if you’re chewing a sandwich at your next all-employee meeting – just don’t forget to mute your microphone first.
Until now, camera shy people could only use a static profile picture or pet avatar to represent themselves in Zoom meetings. Human avatars are more like Apple’s Memoji, with similarly round faces and cartoonishly large eyes, making them more suitable for work than an animated cow’s head, for example.
Zoom’s latest update is part of the tech industry’s effort to make communications more virtual. Starting with digital avatars like Snapchat’s Memoji and Bitmoji, virtualization has spread to workplace software with the rise of hybrid work.
Earlier this year, Zoom’s rival Microsoft Teams introduced a “Together” mode where meeting members sit side by side in a virtual space such as an auditorium. Zoom copied this feature last spring with the introduction of “Immersive View”.
At the end of niche VR headsets like the Meta Quest 2, you can host VR meetings for up to 16 people using the Horizon Workrooms app. While video game streamers on YouTube and Twitch have long used virtual avatars to represent themselves on screen, often appearing as anime-style characters.
Zoom technology uses your device’s camera to detect faces on the screen and apply the avatar effect. This means that the cartoon character will not be visible if you try to sneak to the restroom or kitchen during a meeting.
Zoom says its technology does not use facial recognition and therefore cannot identify, recognize or distinguish between different faces.
How to enable this feature?
• Go to the meeting toolbar.
• Press the “stop video” button by selecting “choose virtual background” or “choose video filter”.
• Go to the avatars tab.
Is it good?
Free users can currently choose from 23 different avatars, including but not limited to animals such as cat, dog, fox, panda, and bear.
While trying out this feature, we found it to be a bit buggy and limited at the moment. The animal avatar didn’t always move its mouth and head to mirror our movements. It would also disappear for a fraction of a second before reappearing on the screen.
More updates are in the works, including new facial features and hairstyles that may also address some of these glitches.