SXSW kicked off this year with a new VR experience developed by Austin-based tech startup, TheWaveVR, featuring eight experiences from the upcoming Steven Spielberg blockbuster, Ready Player One. The film won’t hit theatres until March 29, but fans of the film will be able to dance, explore, and otherwise step inside the film’s VR world, OASIS, two weeks before the premiere through these experiences.

Exclusively on HTC Vive, users navigate through eight different experiences from the film with avatars powered by Morph3D, which allows for anybody to fully customize and create an avatar to use. Avatars are becoming an important topic of discussion in VR, in social platforms especially, as developers ask themselves how to design the avatars. Will the avatars be a realistic reproduction of the user or something ambiguous, allowing them to become anything?

Greenlight compared five popular VR social platforms and the avatars used on those platforms to see how the choice made was affected by platform functionality.

VRChat

 

(Photo by VRChat)

VRChat is an online platform that puts the power in the hands of the player. Released for early access users via Steam on Feb. 1, 2017, the success of the platform has been tied to other online communities, like YouTubers and their audiences, coming to VRChat to further interact. With over three million downloads, the social platform quickly grew with its peak popularity in mid-January of this year.

Focusing on the expression of the user’s personality, VRChat allows users to upload their own 3D images and design to make avatars and worlds to interact in.Their avatars can be as complex as Laura Croft from Tomb Raider, to something as simple as a cube. Personal expression through avatars is the primary focus of the platform.

AltSpaceVR

 

(Photo by AltSpaceVR)

A social platform meant to bring people together through games and virtual events, AltSpaceVR runs on most major operating software, connecting as many people as possible. The software is even available for people to use without VR technologies, expanding its ability to reach a broader audience to be connected. As one of the first VR social platforms, the avatars are relatively rudimentary in appearance and customization capabilities.

With regular celebrity appearances, the platform helps create a primarily social community. Effectively, the purpose of the platform is to provide a place for users to connect with other users. The point is being a family-friendly community for everyone to explore and interact.

AltSpace VR has customizable but generally ambiguous and friendly-looking cartoonish avatars. This gives the first impressions of human interaction but ultimately serves to provide a baseline-look for all users to feel connected and a sense of presence.

Facebook Spaces

 

(Photo by Facebook)

Facebook Spaces allows users to bring their existing Facebook profiles and friend connections into VR. Available via the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, the platform promotes using VR as a social space with existing friends and acquaintances in an all-ages supporting environment. The experience is a controlled meeting space among friends and family.

Avatars use your already existing Facebook photos to customize an avatar that resembles each user. The avatars are created to look friendly with exaggerated expressions and simple features. Video calls, VR live stream, and virtual hang out spaces all bring the typical Facebook social media functions into VR, letting people bring their own individual lives into VR.

High Fidelity

 

(Photo by High Fidelity)

Unlike Facebook Spaces, High Fidelity offers a world that users can interact with on their own, building whole new lives on the platform. Using a blockchain system to allow users to purchase and actually own virtual objects is just an added layer of depth to this free, open-sourced social platform.

Offering users the ability to be anyone, avatars are completely customizable. As an escape, High Fidelity is an incredibly open-sourced world, allowing users to create their own objects, supporting its own marketplace, and existing to users through user-designed virtual spaces.

Oculus Rooms

 

(Photo by Oculus)

A small hang out space for friends to gather, Oculus Rooms emphasizes just enough of a realistic reproduction to allow users to distinguish each other from one another. Released by the Facebook-owned Oculus in mid-December 2016, the platform is designed for close friends to have a place to gather in VR.

Animating colored busts of each user, each avatar is simplistic in that it is only a floating face to represent each person individually. Users can customize their bust from a variety of options, but the avatars are limited and non-distracting because the endgame of the platform is to provide a space for close friends. Deeper levels of customization to allow for ambiguity or representation of each user's individual personality is not needed because it is assumed the users in the room are primarily already familiar, almost as if the space were a private residence for users to gather.