A v a t a r s 9 8
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Allan Lundell produced this great documentary piece which captured the Avvy Awards at the Digital Garden in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Allan inserted cubical views of the finalists. You must have Realplayer G2 installed to view this file. The official written report follows..

AVATARS 98 NOVEMBER 21st 1998

Avvys Report by judges Sue Ki Wilcox and Dave Marvit

[Sue Ki Wilcox is the author of The Web Developer's Guide to 3D Avatars, Dave Marvit is one of the founders of Worlds Inc. and headed up their virtual world and avatar design department. ]

This year's avatar awards received around fifty entries in a wide variety of styles. Although we tried to set guidelines for categories the sheer number of impressive 3D avatars made us add a couple of new categories (Most Fun and Scariest) and remove the sprite category which received no reasonable entries. The majority of the entries were animated which indicates how the technology has moved on from last year and caused us to only award prizes to animated avatars. As animation makes such a large contribution to the realism of an avatar we considered this as a factor as well as the modeling and design of the body.

The winning avatar, Summer, was created by Victoria D'Onofrio & Rody Galeano (also known as MyTwoKeys and Netropolis in ActiveWorlds rody@netropolis.com.ar)

We were impressed by the creative originality of this almost naked human figure symbolizing summer. Modeling bare flesh using polygons is difficult, and achieving beauty is the hardest thing of all. The joints of the figure had been carefully crafted to not only look good when the figure was still but also to move smoothly and gracefully. From the effective modeling of the hair to the range of animations provided for the figure this avatar stood out above all the rest. Every detail had been thought about: the animations running the tiny butterflies on the flowers of Summer's costume, the way she handled the rabbit she carried, the view from all angles, and even the animation of the rabbit so it responded to her movements. This really pushed the envelope of what is possible with an ActiveWorlds avatar. The figure used about 1600 polygons to model with another 400 for the rabbit but the file size when zipped was only 33KB including all the textures. As no other avatar came close to the realism of Summer we also gave Victoria and Rody the award for Most Realistic Humanoid avatar. Pictures of the avatar can be viewed at: http://millenium.simplenet.com/summer.htm

To see more of Victoria and Rody's work visit the "MYTH" world in ActiveWorlds: www.activeworlds.com .

The Dennis avatar was runner up in the Most Realistic Humanoid category. This entry came from Andy Best & Merja Puustinen aka MeetFactory (meat@meetfactory.com) We decided it was "Realistic" in the sense of modeling and animation but not in what is normally expected behavior for a sports star -- it wears a tutu and cavorts like a camp dancer. You can visit Dennis at: http://angels.kiasma.fng.fi/avatars/dennis.wrl

The award for Best Non-Humanoid went to Kiki and Valerie (mahe2@2nd-world.fr) for their Ant. This superbly detailed and animated model is shaded all in reds -- maybe it's a fire ant -- it looks menacing as it waves its antennae and clacks its mandibles. All the entries from Kiki and Valerie can be seen at: http://www.chez.com/kiki1 They won three of the awards and were runner up in three categories as well. The quality of their design work, ingenuity, animations, and ability to infuse avatars with character impressed us over and over again.

Runner up as Best Non-Humanoid went to Pam Miller (imagica@acronet.net )

Which can be seen at: http://www.acronet.net/~imagica/avatars/chameleon7.wrl

The chameleon is called "Shades of Me" and was created as a personal avatar for use in Blaxxun Worlds. Pam says: "I view myself as one with many moods and interests and thought this avatar would be appropriate." We liked its simplicity and the beautiful color changes which run through a full rainbow spectrum.

The award for the best VRML 2.0 avatar went to Kiki and Valerie for Chloe, a delightful girl character playing with a hula hoop. This avatar won for its skilful modeling, charm, and eloquent animation. Clicking on the hoop caused the girl to sway and the hoop to circle around her. Her eyes follow the movements of the hoop. A great animation to indicate impatience, boredom or even enthusiasm when chatting in a virtual world.

The runner up in the VRML category went to the same design team of Kiki and Valerie for their Cupid avatar. This enchanting little figure sports translucent animated wings, and a wobbly rotating halo.

Andrew Reitemeyer (kiwano@t-online.de) won the Best Bang for the Buck award for Thor, an animated warrior designed for blaxxun worlds, which performed excellently in Cosmo Player. The gestures were all expressive and worked well from all angles. Even the mouth was animated to speak words of greeting or denial.

You can try Thorís range of gestures out at: http://home.t-online.de/home/kiwano/thor.wrl

We were impressed with the way Thor came with a removable control panel built in to demonstrate the 10 gestures he performs. He has 971 polygons, a small number for the amount of detail achieved by modeling not texture mapping, and his file is only 7k when zipped.

Runner up in the Best Bang for the Buck category was Gnome from Kiki and Valerie. This fun model of a troll-like character with two giant hammers but not much sense is animated to whack himself over the head by accident. The file is 10K in size.

Winner of the Most Fun avatar was Kiki and Valerie with their animated skeleton. When you click on the skeleton it jumps up in the air then falls apart, dropping to the ground in a shower of pieces the last of which is the head which slowly rolls to a standstill.

Runner up as Most Fun avatar came from Mr. Phillip (mr_phillip@msn.com )

And can be seen at: http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/1855/mr_phillip3.wrl

This is Juggler with a variety of animations selectable via buttons on the entry we saw but set up to be triggered by chat macros at Colony City. We were impressed by the range of physical maneuvers this avatar performed.

Marg was far and away the strangest avatar and won the Weirdest avatar award. Marg is a chair that is also a housewife. She is plump and comfortable looking with a little dog sitting on her lap and a cigarette in one hand. Designed by Andy Best & Merja Puustinen of MeetFactory (meat@meetfactory.com) Marg can be seen at: http://angels.kiasma.fng.fi/avatars/marg.wrl If you click on parts of the chair or the dog you get a range of bizarre animated behaviors.

It was hard to select the second weirdest avatar, in some respects the Bride avatar from John Phipps (zap@olypen.com ) was weird with its static pose, translucent veiling, and lovely face but a more conventional weird was represented by the diatom called Niark from Kiki and Valerie. You can see these avatars at: http://www.olypen.com/zap/bridezz98.wrl and http://www.chez.com/kiki1

Tanya Vanthournout and Bill Davidson (scylla2@yahoo.com) won the award for the Scariest avatar with their creation called Stella, a Mary Poppins style witch brandishing an umbrella. We liked both the modeling and the animation although at 60k it was quite a large avatar. The avatar can be seen at: http://www.credo-interactive.com/avatars/Stella.wrl

The runner up in the Scariest category was Demon from Kiki and Valerie. This classic red devil has a decidedly nasty expression on his pumpkin-like face. His translucent wings flap menacingly and his tail wags to show how much he enjoys being evil.

The winner of the Episodic Performer category was Genius from Planet 9. This Einstein look-alike used animation, audio, and interactivity to communicate with the viewer. We particularly liked the way he started out asleep and snoring and a click woke him up and set him to talking. Whether the giant moustache was a cheat to save lip synch animation or not we were impressed with the personality of this character. The modeling used polygons effectively to create the characteristic wild hair and overgrown eyebrows of an Einstein. The eyes and eyebrows moved and the facial communication was amplified by the use of hand gestures as well as by the audio track.

The runner up in the Episodic Performer category came from Ryoichiro Debuchi (debuchi@atom.co.jp) with his skillfully animated pet cat called ChaCha. You can see the kitten perform as you play the virtual piano for it at:http://www.sme.co.jp/Music/Info/maison_aoyama/eng/1f/yura/vrmlcat/

We gave an honorable mention to Pam Miller in the first round of awards for her chameleon which was runner up in the Non-Humanoid category.

Another honorable mention goes to Robert Wisti (lightwav@twisti.org) for his Biker Girl called Rose which you can see at: http://objects.activeworlds.com/cgi-bin/teleport.cgi?Afantasy

We liked the details of the costume and the tattoo on the avatar's leg.

We were impressed by the quality and variety of avatars entered this year. As an avatar is intended to be expressive and be used in a multi-user world we looked particularly for character, animations, and small file size in the winning avatars. Larger scale efforts were classed under episodic performers in order to include the now widespread use of high resolution figures for real time communication inside and outside virtual worlds and in serialized performances. The small number of entries in this category reflected that these figures are mainly drawn from the television industry which is not accustomed to watching the avatar/virtual worlds biz.

See the Avvys Winners Pages.

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