DIGITAL FASHION SPECIAL

SynergyXR suits and boots your professional avatar for extended reality meetings

Digital meetings became massively in demand during the pandemic, but they’re not going anywhere even when things return to normal. Some digital meetings will use artificial, virtual, and extended reality technology, meaning that you attend the meetings in avatar form. But how do your dress your virtual avatar?
By ERIK SEDIN
April 27, 2022

Introducing the forerunners of the new digital fashion industry. In this 16-part special, we list the most exciting designers, brands, and platforms that are helping our digital selves get dressed to progressThis is part 5.

Gaming is perhaps the most developed and natural platform for digital fashion, at least while you’re reading this. Major gaming worlds like Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft, and others are filled with billions of gamers that spend tonnes of money and time on the appearance of their digital avatars. But one digital phenomenon with similar user counts and resembling social self-thoughts have skyrocketed over the last two years: virtual meetings. The virtual meeting platform Zoom alone has over 300 million daily users, and it’s safe to say that our behaviour and technical abilities have changed since we took our first stumbling steps in digital meeting rooms. The webcam has made a sudden comeback since work-from-homers want to have better resolutions, and video call lights are now almost a necessity to go with the blurry background filter. Essentially, we care a lot about how we’re presenting ourselves in virtual meetings. 

This has resulted in what researchers are calling Zoom fatigue. Having to watch ourselves on our screen while we talk makes us insecure and emotionally drained. Although, one recent development, which is backed and pushed by Meta, Microsoft, and other tech giants, is the need for XR and VR meetings with digital avatars, that work as a digital twin to represent you in the meetings. One company that develops this service is SynergyXR, with over 15 years of experience. The Aarhus-based software developer’s chief experience officer and co-founder Thomas Fenger knows the potential of avatars, and he knows how to dress them. 

— In virtual reality, we can become an avatar version of ourselves — a digital version of you. Some people, probably most, choose an avatar that has some resemblance to their real-life selves. But just as you can become a different person (or feel like it anyway) by dressing up, down, or putting on a costume, your avatar — whether it’s a human or a unicorn — also lets you become a different person. That’s one of the most exciting things about virtual reality and we’re already seeing that play out today on popular metaverse games like Fortnite, who’re already making a killing selling bespoke avatar skins, Fenger explains.

How does the design process go when designing clothes for the avatars?

— In general, clothing in virtual reality is simply a 3D model that’s attached to an avatar’s body. But when it comes to real-time 3D (vs. rendered 3d that we know from Hollywood films like The Avengers), which is where we operate and see things headed, there are still some limitations to the overall fidelity when it comes to things like fabric texture. For example, when an avatar moves, the clothing doesn’t change shape the same way it does in real life. 

— However, if we look five to ten years ahead, things will look a lot different.  We’ll likely be able to take instant 3d snapshots of ourselves, which can then be dressed in a virtual wardrobe (hello NFTs) that’s far more realistic than what we’re capable of today. This will give rise to a whole legion of virtual fashion designers, whose primary focus will be to dress us as we spend more time in the metaverse. 

Will users be able to import fashion pieces from other platforms? 

— The short answer is yes. One of the things we’re focused on is the next evolution of user-generated content, where we no longer have to wait on tech companies like Meta to design our collections for us. We believe that we’ll need more independent content creators to meet the demand that’s inevitably going to accelerate over the coming years. Current brands will also be able to leverage this. Imagine buying a pair of Nike AirForce sneakers and automatically getting an NFT version for your avatar. That’s very likely to happen sooner rather than later since Nike is already applying for patents for many of its most popular designs. 

”Imagine buying a pair of Nike AirForce sneakers and automatically getting an NFT version for your avatar.”

Speaking of dressing your avatar in shoes. It looks like every single developer makes ”floating torsos.” So no legs in the virtual meeting metaverses then?

— So, the reason why most avatars look the way they do today is because of technical limitations. It’s simply easier to create virtual experiences that way because we’re only able to track where people’s heads and hands are via headsets and controllers. Looking into the crystal ball, there are three things to consider. 

— The first is that a lot of developers are working hard to come up with better ways to predict how your body should look in virtual reality based on what we’re able to track today (head and hands). In other words, imagine a full-body avatar whose movements are ”predicted” based on just two major data points. That’s not easy. Another direction is that we’ll be able to track the whole body by using cameras. The bottom line is that we need inputs (data) to deliver outputs (full-body-avatars) and this approach gets its inputs from cameras.  A third approach is being led by a Danish company called Rokoko, which is developing high-end body-tracking suits and gloves that will allow for even more precise tracking of movements. It’s hard to say when this will become mainstream, but it isn’t unimaginable that this technology could be integrated into physical clothing to improve the look, feel, and movement of our avatars. 

— In the not-so-distant future, we ­believe avatars will become so realistic (from head to toe) that we not only won’t be able to detect the difference between an avatar and a human, but we’ll also be able to exist as hyperreal versions of ourselves — and who doesn’t want to be the best version of you?

Related