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Understanding the power of the avatar will be essential for VR’s future

August 13, 2018 / AMIR BOZORGZADEH

Digital self-expression has evolved rapidly throughout the past couple of decades, particularly thanks to the gaming industry and strange new social worlds like Second Life that have been key in accelerating the pace. Our conception of the “avatar” has transitioned from Ultima’s symbol of the player character to the digital doppelganger of the user. The customized sprites we choose or create tends to invariably reflect aspects of who we are or want to be, be it a projection of our idealized self, or the staging ground from which to experiment with our sense of self. Yet, however fun and fruitful these experiments can be, the screen has always stood as the nagging perceptual barrier to make us feel separated from the avatar. The real shift in digital self-expression comes only when that barrier starts to dissolve with the virtual embodiment that is made possible with VR, in which both the body and mind can be more readily tricked into believing the fantasy is real, and...