The user avatars in current metaverse apps have only heads and bodies, even though they’re all developed by leading tech companies.
Last year, both Microsoft and Meta (rebranded from Facebook), introduced their futuristic virtual worlds.
In the videos depicting these dreamlike spaces – where you can work with colleagues or hang out or play games – there’s an issue that still raises a burning question. That is, the avatars representing the users are all legless.
Microsoft metaverse advertisement
The surreal world that Meta draws is similar. The avatars in both of these virtual worlds of the tech giants are just eerie floating figures. After all, characters in most third-person games have legs. So is it especially hard to do that with virtual versions of ourselves?
And as it turns out, a lot of the problems are related to those sensors. For now, the metaverse experience is largely restricted to VR headsets, some compatible with handheld controllers, like the Oculus touch controller. However, there are hardly any commercially available sensors and controllers that feature our legs. That means your foot movements cannot be accurately detected and depicted in the virtual environment.
But, can’t we just use the camera to capture what our feet are moving?
According to Gijs den Butter, co-founder of Netherlands-based augmented reality (XR) controller company SenseGlove, the cameras on current VR devices aren’t enough to track foot movements.
“It’s very difficult to capture your foot movement from just one headset. Sometimes, your belly can block the line of sight of the cameras on the headset that are capable of recording your foot movement,” Butter said. “We could use your foot-mounted sensors, but that’s just another kind of peripheral to add.”
One of the things that the tech corporations that develop the metaverse are trying to do is put the user’s real-life selves into a virtual setting. And according to Dr.Rolf Illenberger, CEO of VRdirect, an enterprise-focused VR platform company, the misrepresentation of users’ heights in VR can annoy them.
“In VR, the avatar’s ‘physical height’ can be quite different from their real-life impression. So people may feel that the Avatar is rather small or unusually tall, which is a one of the reasons many of these platforms avoid putting extra feet at the moment,” he said.
The CEO also pointed out that in real life, when people look down, they often see their feet at a specific distance from their faces, which they are used to. But in the virtual world, if that situation is not implemented properly, it can make the user feel nauseous. So until there are better sensors to prevent this from happening, companies will probably still avoid creating pins.
Given the limited experience gained in the current metaverse trials, the move is largely dependent on the process of teleporting from one place to another. Butter says that in the coming years, we may have devices in our homes that help us record foot movements.
“If in the future, movement becomes the norm in the metaverse, we will get legs for our avatar. When everyone has an omnidirectional treadmill at home, creating an inverse kinematic model (a digital model of human movement) of your legs won’t be so difficult.” , he said.
While Meta did not comment on the matter when asked, Microsoft has responded openly. The company says the avatar’s legs will be available in future versions.
“Today, in most mixed reality installations, there is no input sensor for the pins, which makes it a difficult task to accurately deduce the pins. Microsoft Mesh uses technologies latest available to represent our users as avatars and make them feel present in shared experiences,” the company said. “Over time, we plan to continue to develop our avatar and take advantage of new abilities to be able to accurately represent the full human form.”
But until then, treat this as a feature, not a bug – and just float freely in the metaverse.