Exploring the future of my Avatars Shape

Since mesh first appeared on the Second Life Beta Grid i’ve been toying with the idea of replacing the SL Default avatar mesh with one build by myself.

From the point of view from anyone outside of the Second Life Virtual World this might seem like a simple easy thing to do by just replacing the avatar mesh, but there technical aspects that a replacement Avatar Mesh can’t replicate that i feel are important to giving my avatar life in SL. So when approaching replacing my avatars default mesh there is a lot of things to consider.

1. Do i want my avatar to still be able to smile and laugh
2. Do i want my avatars head to still be customisable with the SL build in editor sliders?
3. Do i want my avatar to be able to wear the same clothes as everyone else?
4. Do i want my replacement Mesh Avatar to be some i can offer commercially to others?

I started with CyberMeshing my avatar by replacing his legs and feet so i finally had individual toes and legs that did not look like tree trunks. I also changed my hair to mesh and occasionally toyed with replacing my arms and hands. Combined with my clothes my Avatar started to look more like how i envision him and less like a 2005 Default SL Avatar.

Every now and then i would consider wether replacing my entire avatar with a mesh one was worth it? If my avatar spends most of his time covered by mesh clothes whats the point in making a mesh avatar that ends up covered up? But an argument for working on a replacement mesh is simply progress. The more i work on making clothes for my avatar, the more detailed they become, the more i find issues with how the default mesh deforms to get my size and shape.

So now i’ve come to a point where i’m really starting to look into the possibilities with making a replacement avatar. I’ve seen some great ones already on the grid. Some avatars are total replacements, some only replace to your neck to leave your head. I’ve not yet decided which approach to take and will probably try them all and there is a lot of different issues that arise from each method.

Method 1: Replace Default Avatar Size.

I would create my mesh shape to the size and rig of the Second Life default male avatar then shrink using the ‘tiny avatar’ work flow. This should result in 5.5″ avatar with all custom sliders set to 50 as if a full size default avatar in theory. The reason for doing this is hopefully the shoulders will bend more naturally. I really have a problem with shoulders.

Method1

 

 

 

Method 2: Replace Deformed Size. 

I grab my avatars current deformed state and import into blender and rigg my new mesh shape in relation to the deformed hight. This would be compatible with my clothing, but i’m left with the horrible shoulder problem that i really have a problem with.

Method2

shoulders

The Evil Shoulders problem is when the deformer shrinks the arm but does not move where the pivot points are leading to low rounded shoulders.

Keeping Face

Which ever method i go with, i have to consider keeping the default mesh head. I have seem some replacement avatars do this really well and it might be worth doing just to keep my avatars facial expressions active. For a commercial possibility, keeping the avatars default head would make sense since a big part of creating your own avatar is the ability to make a unique face. The difficulty is getting the neck of the replacement mesh to align with the default head seamlessly.

keepingFace

 

 

Method 3: Total Replacement.

Why so much trouble to keep the face? Perhaps just simply replacing the entire thing is best? Well thats another avenue to explore. I’ve seen people with hamster avatars, horse avatars, all sorts of avatars that have limited customisation and facial expression, but they manage to bring their own spin on it that defines them from others with the same avatar shape. Perhaps this need for retaining my avatars expression is making the whole process harder than it needs to be.

Method3

 

test

 

I’m still in the early stages of exploring whats possible with mesh and my avatar. There is no guarantee that what i finally decide on will be released commercially. What if i end up with something that looks great but in doing so end up with something with clothes that can’t be worn by regular default mesh avatars? So there is a tonne of testing to be done yet. I’m always open to suggestions and tips from those who have already experimented in replacement avatar mesh, so feel free to comment.

 

Avatars of the Future

As more virtual worlds come online perhaps they will allow for more freedom in the type of avatar i have created from scratch. Creating shape keys for my avatars unique smile and expression.  It’ll only be a matter or what that platforms supports rather than what it allows so really i should be creating a new avatar with that in mind.

My top 5 films about VR

Here is a top 5 VR Movies i’ve seen over the years which some of you might agree with or not depending on how you view and experience virtual realities. If you know any more, post in the comments 🙂

 

No.5 – The Lawnmower Man

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This came out when i was around 13 year old and i had only just started delving into computers at school. This was the era of what some might call ‘the first VR fad’. The story was ‘very’ loosely inspired by a Stephen King short story and tells of a scientist using virtual reality to unlock the brains ability to learn. The film is typical 90’s tomfoolery but the idea of using virtual reality to expand the mind through virtual feed-back loops is a good one and there is lots of studies about how Virtual Reality can be used to improve learning.

 
 

No.4 – The Matrix

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Yeh so you can’t really have a top five VR movies without the Matrix being in here somewhere. I was at collage and just getting into Cyberpunk 2020 and this film not only changed everything to long black coats and wearing dark shade in the dark, but it also boosted the idea of virtual realities into the mainstream asking the question ‘what is reality?’.


 

No.3 – Existenz

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A classic Cronenberg movie where game consoles are biomechanical pods and the players end up in a game within a game within a game, a confusion that was way before ‘inception’. I loved how it asked what games are and when do they stop being a game, when reality becomes so real do games stop being game?. This being a Cronenberg film its full of gorgeous oddities and the rather intimate nature of plugging yourself into virtual reality is something current VR is only just now starting to play with.

 

No.2 – Surrogates

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A  future where people use Robots called Surrogates to walk around in the dangerous world for them. The film follows a detective investigating the murder of a guy who died while plugged into a Surrogate. For some reason i loved this film. Its not really VR, its probably more Augmented Reality but the film resonated with me because of the way Surrogates mirror many aspects of having an avatar in VR. the whole film is packed full of VR ideas that if you use Second Life you will find yourself relating to this future world. I especially liked how the main character gets sensory overload & anxiety attacks when stepping out into the real world for the first time in ages.

 

No 1. Summerwars

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Yeh this is an anime film, but its a good one. It directly looks at the VR of today (or a few years back) and projects a world where we all use Virtual World Wide Web called OZ. It follows an OZ maintenance coder who gets roped into a weekend with a friends family. Meanwhile the Virtual World of OZ gets taken over by a mischievous AI called ‘Love Machine’ that causes the whole world to come to a stand still since its so dependant on ‘the internet of things’. The film while having some great ideas about Virtual Worlds and Avatars has a great message about family, friends & community which was unexpected. Although it is funny how Phillip Rosedales ‘Love Machine’ project is the bad guy :-p

 

Bonus – Tron

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Disneys Tron was ahead of its time in all respects. The special FX team were not considered to have artistic merit as CGI was simply typing in numbers and so were not entered for an Oscar nomination. many people just did not get this idea of a computer world. As a kid watching it, and then later seeing virtual worlds, the two seemed the same. To me Tron also introduced the idea of an avatar, although called Programmes, they took on the appearance and characteristics of their User Programmers much like how our Virtual World avatars are a collection of our own characteristics and inspirations.