napchat just launched a new, exciting feature enabling anyone to create their own, personal virtual human. Though, the company’s decision to step beyond the 2D medium and commit to a 3D future is long overdue. While the launch may be a game-changer for everyday users, the long-term effects on the virtual industry will be seismic.

Since the social network’s launch in 2011, Snapchat users have sent pictures and short-form videos (affectionately known as “Snaps”) to one another, and, as you know, they would disappear after a distinguished amount of time. Snapchat also boasts an impressive amount of editing capabilities and augmented reality options for users, including a variety of filters and lenses to create content with, such as the latest viral hit allowing you to turn yourself into a cartoon:

Photo by Snapchat

Now, Snapchat attracts over 280 million daily active users, with over 53% of those users between the ages of 15 and 25. This generational shift for Snapchat is important considering studies show how Snapchat users are three times more likely to experiment with augmented reality (such as filters, lenses, etc.) to try on products than those who do not use Snapchat.

In other words, Snapchat is a pioneer for the metaverse among the youngest tech users, normalizing virtual and augmented experiences from an early age. Think: how do the digital experiences of your youth affect you to this day?

“Players who use their Bitmoji in a game spend twice as much time playing, which is one reason Unity is bringing 3D Bitmoji into their mobile, PC and console games with our new Unity plugin." Evan Spiegel, Snap CEO

We may see a future where your Bitmoji begins to appear in video games, on your PC, or in other digital experiences totally separate from your mobile device, specifically the Snapchat app.

Photo by The Verge.

The social media platform recently announced an update that allows users to pose in physical Snaps as their 3D Bitmoji avatars. Snapchat users can now feature 3D, full-body versions of their Bitmoji avatars atop their profile. While Bitmoji was already integrated into Snapchat via the Snap map, stickers, and the avatar, this new feature will give users the ability to take and send photos and videos entirely using their Bitmoji personas. 

This seismic platform shift sets the stage for a surge of new, entirely-bitmoji virtual influencers, who’s purveyors never show their face or break the immersion of their character. Where there’s a character creation tool, there’s a virtual influencer.

Users can now choose between different facial expressions, basic gestures, body positions and backgrounds, with an impressive 1,200 total combinations to pick from. Snapchat also updated the detailed way in which Bitmoji avatars are presented, giving users the ability to curate their personas down to clothing texture and embellishments. Customization is key to curation, and Snapchat’s 3D Bitmoji update is giving users the ability to become the best virtual version of themselves.

For industries that specialize in products, Snapchat’s 3D Bitmoji feature will open a new world of opportunities for virtual reality and augmented reality try-ons. Imagine a new user’s experience when they can try on a new pair of Adidas shoes using a social media platform like Snapchat—it would be so easy! Not only is augmented reality changing how users interact with each other, it’s also changing our understanding of consumer culture as a whole.

Furthermore, the potential for Snapchat to monetize atop their new virtual human offering almost goes without saying. As the youngest generations age into the world, pre-primed to respect avatars and virtual experiences involving personas, spending real money on equipping one’s virtual human with a nice lifestyle is not a far-fetched idea. In fact, it’s already happening—the video game cosmetics industry is expected to grow. DMarket, which has a platform for trading skins, estimates the global virtual skin market is $40 billion a year as of 2020.

Snapchat’s ongoing respect for virtual beings as an offering sets a significant precedent for the future of the metaverse. More humans will be able to create and curate digital versions of themselves, which can be anyone they want them to be—and do whatever they want them to do. 

The global pandemic forced us to realize how important digital cultures and digital communities are in our lives, and how the digital elements of our lives are only going to continue growing. Even now, we’re seeing more digital brand sponsorships than ever before, with digital ad spend amounting for over 50% of total global spend as of 2020 and, as of 2021, brands are taking an increased interest in what the metaverse has to offer. Multiple brands are even partnering with virtual influencers to promote products, star in shows, walk in runways, and more. 

Online culture is the most significant driving force for innovation, and Snapchat knows that. With the introduction of 3D Bitmojis, Snapchat users will be able to craft themselves in new, digitized ways that best reflect their personalities—and prime them for the metaverse economy. The world will merge with the metaverse, and our avatars will take grander importance than ourselves. 

What would your virtual human wear?

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