With all the buzz over video recently, we felt the need to stand up for our virtual selves.  Too often, we hear, "Why not use video?" This is really one of our favorite questions to answer, as it sheds light on the power of avatars. 

In case you’re reading this by RSS, you might want to click through to this post, and to most of our posts in general.  We do a lot of neat things with Javascript and our avatars in our posts, so you’ll be missing out in an RSS reader.

  1. Avatars are interactive. Video is a one way street–a broadcast medium. You can program an avatar to respond to different mouse clicks, for example, or control it in real time, like in Second Life. Try doing that with video.
  2. Avatars are mashable. What does that mean? With avatar APIs, you can bring dynamic data to life.  They can say the local time in your time zone or the weather in Central Park.
  3. Conversations–we all learned how important conversations are.  Avatars can understand what a user types to them and respond.  Take a look at this Asian site, teaching Chinese people English through a natural language avatar.  Video?  Again, broadcast.
  4. They’re easy!  Avatars allow for quick and affordable content creation. No need to connect your video camera, light, digitize, edit, compress or worry about formats. Any consumer can easily pick up the phone and become a producer in minutes.  And updating the content?  No need to shoot video again.  Changing your shirt, hat, voice, or your glass sword, gets done with a few clicks.
  5. Avatars can be anonymous. You can be anyone you want to be, and not everyone wants to be identified with a real photo or a video. Dating sites are a great example, not that I would know! 
  6. Avatars are low bandwidth and high quality video is heavy. While most are on fat pipes, some are not.  Mobile phones have a hard time downloading large media files. Our avatars, for example, at 50K a pop, are optimal for delivering over a carrier network.
  7. Can you imagine shooting a talking condom or a talking monkey on video?  Please say you haven’t tried this at home.
  8. Video. Video. Video.  Nowadays, it’s all you see.  Almost every site has a video component, and, in an attempt to differentiate, many sites are looking the same.  Virtual characters can be stylized and distinctive, providing an escape from visual reality.  Avatars are noticeable and eye-catching.  Reality bites.
  9. Avatars are fun, friendly, and even playful.  Creating a video message for another person might make you seem like you are trying too hard, but an avatar message makes it seem like you have a good sense of humor and don’t have to make everything into a big production.
  10. You can put words in the mouth of an avatar… 

Of course, there are certainly times when video makes more sense to use. However, as people become more sophisticated about online media and demand more interactivity, we see more and more creative use of the avatar technology.

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