Boz to the Future Episode 8: The Future of Avatars and Identity in the Metaverse with Aigerim Shorman

April 12, 2022

Welcome back for the eighth episode of Boz to the Future, a podcast from Reality Labs (RL). In today’s episode, our host, Head of RL and Meta CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth is joined by Aigerim Shorman, General Manager, Avatars & Identity within the Metaverse Product Group at Meta.

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The founder and former CEO of a travel startup, Shorman’s been at Meta for over seven years, where she’s previously led product teams in Ads and the Facebook app, including Identity and Facebook Dating. Today, her team builds avatars while also helping to create an underlying identity system for the metaverse. She grew up in Kazakhstan, where most of her family still resides. And while she loves to travel, she’s based in San Francisco with her husband and three-year-old son.

Together, Shorman and Bosworth discussed the pivotal role avatars will play in the metaverse, evolving from self-representation in 2D spaces to a 3D version of yourself to inhabit and move through virtual worlds.

While the metaverse is an abstract concept, avatars are more substantial — we can see and understand them today, and they’ll allow us to have an embodied sense of presence in the metaverse. A first key step was unifying avatars across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Meta Quest. It was exciting work for Gorman’s team, with a focus on giving people as many options as possible to represent a wide range of people. Diversity of representation is a big deal, not just for the metaverse but for the apps and experiences we already have today.

And just as we can’t build the metaverse alone, we need the developer community to help build avatars with us. Creating an avatar is an investment for people — the more you invest in this self-representation, the more important it is for you to bring it with you to other places so you don’t have to recreate it again. Continuity is one of the key tenets, and our Meta Avatars SDK is an important early step in that direction. We don’t yet have a single identity that we take with us across digital spaces, and avatars give us an opportunity to thread that needle. Of course, the work is not without its challenges — some of them are obstacles we’ve never seen before, but others we can get ahead of with the tools and insights we’ve gleaned from existing platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

In the metaverse, identity will go beyond avatars — the experiences that shape you will become deeply entrenched parts of your identity, from items you own that represent pieces of yourself to the very spaces that you’ll inhabit. And the creator economy will be an exciting part of that, with a lot more space for people to be influential in spheres in a much more scalable way.

Boz and Shorman also talked travel — she’s been to 53 countries while he’s only been to 44. And with tools like VR headsets already bridging distance for people when physical social connection isn’t possible, it’s easy to imagine how they might change the way people travel in the future. We don’t think virtual reality will supplant actual travel, but it will make digital connections much richer than, say, a phone call when two people can jump into a digital immersive space and do an activity together. Breaking down barriers is going to be incredible when it comes to bringing people closer, letting people teleport to places when physical travel is restricted by borders. And it will unlock education and other opportunities for people around the world.

You can tune in to Boz to the Future on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Facebook — or right here on Tech at Meta. We’ll see you next month for a new episode.

You can follow Bosworth on Instagram and Twitter @boztank. You can also follow Shorman on Twitter and Facebook.

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