Tech Updates

Zoom’s launch of animal avatars is a balm for video call fatigue

Last year, the story of a lawyer turning up to a hearing on a Zoom call with a cat filter went viral.

It was hilarious and absurd. But the folks at Zoom seem to have liked it so much, they’re introducing animated animal-based avatars to sit in on your video calls. Think of this as animoji, but for conferencing.

Let’s dig into this a bit more.

Animal avatars? How will they work?

When you turn on your avatar, your background will disappear, and your face will turn into an animal, like a cat or a dog.

By following your face using your webcam, the avatar will be able to mimic your expressions to some extent. Zoom says the function recognizes “the shape of your face and features like your eyes, nose, and mouth to create the desired effect.”

In the short time that I played with these avatars, I could only get limited expressions out of them, even though I was moving my face like it was improv class. So even if you wave your hands wildly, the avatar doesn’t react to it.

The company said the new feature is not using any facial recognition, and isn’t storing any data related to your face.

Currently, there are 11 animal avatars in shirts and hoodies, including a cow, cat, dog, raccoon, panda, and a polar bear. The company said it will introduce new avatars in the future.