Facebook is launching Avatars, a playful way for users to represent themselves in chats and comments, TechCrunch reports. The feature permits users to create customized digital characters to represent themselves in messenger chats and News Feed comments. The feature is presently only open to users in Australia, however all Facebook users will be able to create them sometime at the end of this year or early next year.
App researcher Jane Manchun Wong initial noticed the Avatars in development over a year ago, and the new designs have a more polished, 3D look compared to their original flat style. They appear decidedly less like Bitmoji, Snapchat’s own customizable emoji, which it draws obvious comparisons to. In contrast to Bitmoji though, Facebook Avatars won’t yet be able to be integrated into other apps like keyboards, and there’s no feature that lets users snap a photograph to get the creation process started. “We want to make sure we don’t show you something totally opposite of the picture. There’s sensitivity around facial recognition,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Users will be able to begin making their avatars with a range of gender neutral people to customize with 18 traits and clothing items. the corporate says it imagines avatars will come in handy for users who want to stay anonymous in profile photos or in groups, that is a funny thing for an organization literally called ‘Facebook’ to say.
Facebook is definitely late to the digital avatar game, as Bitmoji have settled in the pop culture lexicon since it launched in 2014. It’s hard to say whether or not Avatars will be able to top the offbeat charm of a well-placed Bitmoji — one of the best gags on HBO’s Barry is Noho Hank’s use of Bitmoji, cementing his place as the world’s most likeable hitman.