Is your VR avatar as expressive as you are?

Tommi Rapeli
July 20, 2022
expressive avatars

In real-world interactions much of our communication is nonverbal. Gestures, facial expressions, head movements and eye contact help us convey what we’re feeling and get our message across.

Nonverbal behaviors are just as important in virtual reality. While we interact using avatars in VR, it helps that the characters we appear as are as expressive as the real person behind them.

For example, scientific research has shown that expressive avatars have a positive impact on social presence and task performance in VR-based collaborations.

The art and science of a good avatar

Creating expressive avatars involves blending studio-grade digital artistry with new technology. 

Glue animators have developed a distinctive art style for avatars that’s somewhere between abstraction and photorealism. It’s a deliberate, calculated choice that balances design and technology needs. Avatars should capture a person’s likenesses in a natural way, but they needn’t overdo the virtual realism. We’ve found a high level of expressiveness can already be achieved without giving you digital legs or wrinkles.

What’s more important are people’s facial, head and upper body movements. If you observe people in conversation in a real-world setting, these movements can be quick and subtle, yet pack an enormous amount of information. 

Glue uses advanced software to recreate them in avatar form. For example, AI-powered face animation technology adjusts facial dynamics in sync with the energy and emotion contained in our words. Through audio input alone, we ensure that eyes and eyebrows adjust in the right ways and that mouths and lips form the right shapes.

Seeing eye to eye

Eye contact plays an especially important role in VR. Several studies such as this one have shown that greater levels of eye contact are associated with higher levels of conversational enjoyment and closeness among participants. 

Glue avatars feature an algorithm that automatically creates eye contact with other avatars, redirecting eyes depending on who is speaking. Again, the aim is to make conversations feel as natural as they would face to face.

Being yourself

We also believe it’s important for people to express themselves and their identity through how they appear to others. Using our avatar configurator, users can configure skin color, face shape and hairstyle as well as choose something to wear. And for those who want to express their faith, Glue offers caps, headscarves and veils offered alongside ethnic wear like the sari and thawb.

We continue to add more clothing and headgear as well as new gestures to complement those already available, so stay tuned for future updates.


Avatars have a big impact on people’s experience of VR. In virtual collaborations, expressive avatars are better at mimicking our behaviors, creating immersive interactions that feel like those in face-to-face situations.

If you would like to experience working in a 3D workspace via a Glue avatar, book a demo today.

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