Roblox avatars are about to get more expressive


Roblox, an online gaming platform where people can either play or create games, has 52.2 million daily users. The company’s initial demographic was under-age, but in recent years it has become a popular destination for teenagers and young adults, and more than half of its users are now over 13. The rich, diverse virtual worlds created on the site are considered a precursor to what we might see and experience in the metaverse, with opportunities to connect with other people and custom avatars that players can use in games.

The update is similar to Apple iPhone’s Bitmoji, which uses a depth sensor to measure and track head and face movements. Previous avatars in Roblox have had expressions, but Björn Buk-Larsson, VP of product and avatars at Roblox, describes them as “two-dimensional.”

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The Roblox update would mean users can smile, wink or frown and their avatar will mimic them in real time. Eyes could scan, heads could bob, and eyebrows and ears could wiggle with the same results. And soon, Roblox says, users will be able to talk directly to other avatars, just like in other multiplayer video games. In short, the changes can blend our human experience in the real world with that of the metaverse and make avatars more like ourselves—for better or for worse.

Until early 2023, these updates will be kept within a narrow circle of users and creators, which Book-Larsson says is meant to maintain “trust and safety.” “We expect the unexpected,” he says. Part of this delay is so Roblox’s safety team can make sure expressions are safely deployed within the vast demographic of underage users. For example, Book-Larsson says that one facial expression option — sticking out the tongue — was rejected because of its potential abuse as a sexual overture.



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