Cell Phone Avatars

Excellent article over on BusinessWeek (Link) discussing the coming wave of 3D animated avatars; something I discuss here quite a bit. In particular, the article focuses on cell phone implementations by companies like Motorola (that’s a nice surprise, tbh), but it includes some technical information as well; watered-down for those of us actually involved in creating this kind of content, but great for the uninitiated. And for anyone wanting to get a sense of what they’re talking about regarding lip-sync and “morphing” facial features, check out the machinima video I posted about earlier (Link).

Anyway, there’s lots of bits in the article I’d like to quote here and discuss, but I’ll refrain and instead focus on the last paragraph:

“Will the animated avatars come out on the market? Yes. Will people buy them? Yes. They’re fun and entertaining. But there’s a limit to what consumers will spend — they’re already buying games, ring tones, videos, and music,” says Julie Ask, senior wireless analyst at Jupiter Research. “The average cell-phone bill is already around $50. And consumers have shown [a willingness] to spend an extra 5% to 10% a month for data services. But they’re not going to spend an unlimited amount for more and more services.” Even on a bad hair day.

I think they’re wrong. “Games, ring tones, videos, and music” don’t communicate a user’s personality quite as well as, for example, what brand of virtual clothing they outfit on their avatar, or the quality of the “skin” they purchase for their virtual rep (I wish I could find the link to a story about some kid in South Korea who ran up his parent’s credit card bill by purchasing multiple “skins” for his online videogame race car).

Further, assuming people use their ring tone to communicate to other people their particular taste in music and – by extension – their personality, it’s worth noting that ring tone’s aren’t necessarily changed daily. However, people have already developed the social habit of changing their real clothes on a daily basis, and clothes are at least as important as ring tones in my opinion. Would it be any surprise if users mimic’d their real world behavior by changing their virtual clothes on a daily basis? Not to me. But then I’m guessing the skeptics out there thought ring tones was a bad idea as well.

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