Zoom has rolled out a new avatar feature that lets users switch their own face on a video call with a cartoonish animal of their own choosing.
The feature is a bit like Memoji on the iPhone but on Zoom video calls between users on almost all platforms, including Windows, macOS, iOS – but not Android.
"Available for Zoom Meetings and Zoom Webinar, Avatars replace your appearance with a virtual animal that mirrors your head movements and facial expressions," Zoom says in a blogpost.
The feature aims to alleviate the tedium of video meetings in a world where people come to work a few days a week but still rely on online video meetings for days they work from home. Microsoft is also shaping its popular Teams app for hybrid work, with a focus on enterprise scenarios, such as presenting a business idea with PowerPoint and Teams.
With this new feature, Zoom is appealing to consumers who work at home and the office, as well as students and educators.
"This fun new feature makes it easy to inject fun into your meetings and webinars and lighten the mood, whether you're at home, in the office, or in the classroom," it says.
Zoom is aware of privacy issues that users need to consider: its app is using the device's camera to capture and process live images of a person and then render the user's face on another person's device in the style of an animal.
According to Zoom, the image of the user's face that it's processing doesn't leave the device. Also, the user's image isn't stored or sent to Zoom's servers.
Zoom also claims the feature doesn't use facial recognition software and, therefore, it doesn't identify the person.
"So while the Avatars feature can tell what is or is not a face, it does not recognize or distinguish between individual faces," a Zoom marketing manager says. ZDNet has asked Zoom about if and when it will add support for Android.
Zoom in February reported a weak Q1 2023 outlook because it won't see the same growth it did during the outset of the pandemic. Still, Q4 2021 revenue reached $1.071.4 billion, up 21% year on year, and it counted 191,000 enterprise customers, up 35% for the year.
"To sustain and enhance our leadership position, in fiscal year 2023 we plan to build out our platform to further enrich the customer experience with new cloud-based technologies and expand our go-to-market motions, which we believe will enable us to drive future growth," said Zoom's chief, Eric Yuan.
To enable Avatars, you'll need to make sure you have a Zoom desktop client or mobile app running on version 5.10.0 or higher and have the feature enabled by an account owner or admin.
If that's all in place, here's how to enable and choose your avatar:
- Ensure that your web camera is on and your video is enabled
- In the meeting toolbar, open your video options by selecting the 'Stop Video' menu
- Select the Choose Virtual Background or Choose Video Filter option
- Navigate to the Avatars tab and choose your avatar