Microsoft Rocketbox: A Library of Rigged Avatars for Virtual Reality
Microsoft Rocketbox is a collection of 115 rigged avatars that represent humans of different genders, races, and occupations. The library was developed over a 10-year span by Rocketbox Studios GmbH and later supported by Havok, which Microsoft acquired in 2015. The avatars are designed to be used in virtual reality applications and research, as they offer flexibility, diversity, and high quality.
The library is now available for free research and academic use on GitHub[^1^]. Microsoft has also released additional tools and resources to animate and customize the avatars, such as the Movebox[^2^] and the Headbox[^3^]. The library has been used extensively by researchers and academics around the world to study topics such as embodiment, social interaction, and presence in virtual reality.
If you are interested in learning more about Microsoft Rocketbox and the research done with rigged avatars, you can read the paper by Mar Gonzalez-Franco et al. published in Frontiers in Virtual Reality. The paper provides an overview of the creation of the library and reviews the literature on avatar research. It also explains the importance of having rigged avatars for virtual reality and how they can enhance the believability and immersion of VR experiences.One of the main advantages of using rigged avatars in VR is that they can enable embodiment, the illusion of owning and controlling a virtual body that is different from one's own. Embodiment can have profound effects on one's perception, cognition, and behavior, such as changing one's self-identity, enhancing empathy, or reducing pain. Embodiment can also increase the sense of presence, the feeling of being in the virtual environment, and the sense of agency, the feeling of being in control of one's actions and their outcomes.
Another benefit of using rigged avatars in VR is that they can facilitate social interaction and communication with other users or computer-controlled agents. One of the key factors for creating an effective social VR simulation is social presence, which can be described as the \"sense of being with another\" (Biocca et al., 2001). Social presence depends on the ability of the VR system to create the illusion that the user is inhabiting the virtual environment with someone else, and that this someone else is responsive and attentive to the user. Rigged avatars can enhance social presence by providing realistic and expressive cues such as facial expressions, gestures, eye gaze, and lip synchronization.
Some examples of VR applications that use rigged avatars are:
Virtual Bodyworks: a company that develops immersive VR solutions for health and social impact, such as reducing violence, improving mental health, and enhancing teamwork. Virtual Bodyworks uses Microsoft Rocketbox avatars to create realistic scenarios where users can embody different perspectives and experience different outcomes.
VRChat: a social VR platform that allows users to create and explore virtual worlds with other users from around the world. VRChat supports custom avatars that can be imported from various sources, such as Microsoft Rocketbox, Blender, or Unity. Users can customize their avatars with accessories, animations, and sounds.
Rec Room: a social VR platform that offers a variety of games and activities for users to enjoy with their friends or strangers. Rec Room has a simple avatar creation system that lets users choose their appearance, clothing, and accessories. Users can also create their own rooms and games using Rec Room's tools. ec8f644aee