Today I had some fun and wanted to try how easy it is to have a 3D avatar that is tracked by your camera.

What is this ???

This kind of 3D avatar can be used in many ways. For example, you can use them in VR chat, a social app where you use motion tracking, and a VR headset to communicate with people. It’s mostly mindless banter, and I see it as a modern Second Life (remember ?). In many ways, it is what Stephenson described in Snowcrash unlike what Meta or Roblox have been claiming lately.

VRChat (left) and Meta (right). Something funny about how poor and corporate the world Zuckerberg is trying to sell us compared to the rich diversity of VRChat.

It is also used in a big trend called Vtubers, which consists of streaming (often videogames) with the body of a cute anime girls and boys. You can find more info in the Wikipedia link, but it’s a fast-growing trend, with billions of views per month. We might reach market saturation, but it is certain that Vtubers and 3D avatars won’t go anywhere.

Setting up something working is crazy easy. A plethora of tools and tutorials exist but I will give you what I used to set up something quick.

Tools and advice

First I tried VSeeFace, a free open-source software, that tracks your facial expression and sound to animate a 3D body. On my big girl computer with a GeForce RTX 3070 it just WORKS out of the box, with no tweaking. However the default avatar is ugly. The point of having a virtual avatar is that they are your persona, either a character that you really like or something original.

Two quick options are before you if you do not want to spend a kopek. First, you can download an already-made model. Pixiv has a platform, VRoidHub where you have the option to download models as .vrm, the format understood by VSeeFace. A lot of them are free, to the condition that you sign in. If you want something specific, you might have to enter Japanese in the search bar, but that should not be too difficult.

The second option is to make it yourself. However, not everyone has the time and/or skill to modelise, rig, and texture a full 3D body. This is why Pixiv (again) has a free software easy to use called VRoid Studio. It’s easy to use with sliders and preset which will make you able to do what you want fairly quickly.

Once you have created your avatar, you only have to import it in VSeeFace, set up the the virtual camera in the general settings and you’re ready to go!

Nobody will ever see me yawning in a meeting again!

Of course, if you wanted, there are many things to improve. You can have a better and more complex model. You can commission a model from artists. You can also have motion tracking on your different body parts or modify your voice to fit your persona completely. The possibilities are endless and maybe one day, you will meet your CEO as a small squirrel online or a 10 m tall, talking vending machine.