Avatar-First Products & Platforms

Thoughts on our future avatar identities and how to build avatar-first products

Michael Dempsey
Sep 12, 2018 · 6 min read
Me using various avatar apps — From left to right: Memoji, Facemoji, FaceRig, FaceHub, WeMoji, Puppemoji
Apple Animoji

Avatars as the new identity layer vs. reaction layer.

I don’t believe that one can build an avatar-first product without having a clear view on which layer they are enabling.

Memojis are Apple’s take at the avatar identity layer
Gifs = Reaction Layer (via Giphy)
Spaces is Facebook’s latest attempt at owning the avatar identity layer

Avatars & Social Limits

The identity layer allows us as a society to potentially push social barriers or sidestep social biases that we haven’t previously been able to.

Black Mirror covered Waldo, a cartoon Avatar of a comedian who runs for political office in their episode The Waldo Moment

Avatar-First Product Thoughts

Killer Use-Case

Across the 20+ face filter/avatar apps I’ve seen, the usage seems to be fairly similar. The filter/avatar is either used as a cherry on top of a social interaction (think Snap filters), or as a funny experience that people churn from after 10–30 minutes (Animoji Karaoke). The reality is, people don’t know what to do with their digital selves.

How should we describe Avatars?

When talking about allowing someone to create a digital and visual manifestation of themselves online (and perhaps someday in the real world via augmented reality) there’s a tendency to push users towards the aspirational and use words like “beautiful” or “cool”. This is dangerous.

Design vs. Technology

A year ago the possibility of creating a real-time manipulated avatar on a mobile device (vs. through heavy software like FaceRig or others) seemed like a major triumph.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks to Kunal Tandon and Sophia Dominguez.

Michael Dempsey

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