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Mark Zuckerberg updates his metaverse avatar to look slightly more human

Is this the metaverse we were promised?

two images juxtaposed vertically: the top one is a virtual avatar of Mark Zuckerberg wearing a black shirt with a dark gray background behind him, and the bottom one is a outdoor scene that looks like a market in ancient Rome Image: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

It’s been a busy week for Meta. On Monday, Mark Zuckerberg announced via Facebook that Meta would be launching Horizon Worlds, the company’s social metaverse platform, in France and Spain. The Facebook post was accompanied by an image of Zuckerberg’s avatar, with the pale, vacuous look of a Victorian ghost, taking a selfie in front of basic renderings of the Eiffel Tower and the Basílica de la Sagrada Família. Commenters and internet denizens subsequently dunked on the image throughout the week, calling out the cartoonish graphics. Probably not the desired reaction to a project that’s meant to usher in the digital future.

On Friday, Mark Zuckerberg shared an update about Horizon Worlds, complete with a new version of his avatar and a rendering of an ancient Rome-style environment. In the post, he admitted “the photo I posted earlier this week was pretty basic — it was taken very quickly to celebrate at launch.” Zuckerberg added that Horizon Worlds is “capable of much more.”

In these images, it does look better. There’s lighting this time, and his avatar’s face has an actual expression. It still doesn’t exactly look like a place that’s appealing to spend time in, but I suppose that’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Horizon Worlds is available on Quest VR headsets. It grew to 300,000 users in the first two months after its December 2021 launch, and in February, the Horizon Worlds Twitter account posted that more than 10,000 worlds had been created — though Meta hasn’t been clear about how it plans to moderate the growing platform.

Meta is currently expanding Horizon Worlds offerings, including bringing it to mobile phones. Horizon Worlds also rolled out “in-world purchases” for a “handful” of creators, which would make it more similar to Roblox. Incidentally, Zuckerberg’s initial Horizon Worlds image did look a whole lot like that particular gaming platform aimed at kids.

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