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Meta brings cartoon avatars to video calls on Instagram and Messenger

Meta's cartoon avatars for Instagram and Messenger.

The pandemic was supposed to have made us all comfortable with video calls, but many folks still don’t particularly enjoy the process.

Having to think about what to wear, or how our hair looks, or even fretting about puffy eyes following another bout of hay fever can sometimes be a bit much, even more so if it’s an early-morning call and your brain is still in bed.

Meta has thankfully taken such drawbacks into consideration and launched cartoon avatars for video calls on Instagram and Messenger.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there were a third option between camera-off and camera-on to let you feel a little more present on the call?” Meta said in a post announcing the new feature.

As you’d expect, Meta’s cartoon avatars in video calls follow the movement of your face, and will even capture gestures like eye rolls, so do be careful if your friend tells you something you don’t want to hear. In that way, the avatars responds in a similar way to Apple’s Memoji avatars for FaceTime calls.

A video promoting the new feature, which works for both iOS and Android, reveals that you can also select a cartoon avatar of an owl or llama, or some other animal, though that may be an unwise choice if it’s someone important you’re speaking to.

The company’s avatar system is a key part of its grand metaverse plan, as it’s the cartoon image of you, your friends, and colleagues that populate its envisioned virtual reality world.

Bringing cartoon avatars to its apps, however, is an expansion that makes perfect sense, and one which should prove popular for users who might sometimes prefer to keep their mug off a call.

The company also said it’s working on a tool for Facebook and WhatsApp that makes it even easier to build an avatar by simply taking a live selfie. An update on this should be coming soon.

It’s also launching animated avatar stickers for Instagram and Facebook Stories and Reels, Facebook comments, and one-to-one message threads on Messenger and Instagram.

Finally, Meta said it’s standardizing the look of its avatars across all of its platforms, “so the way you show up in VR will match how you show up on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.”

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Trevor Mogg
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