Loomie Puts an Animated 3D Avatar Into Your Zoom Calls

Forget virtual backgrounds, this is the whole scene

Loomie avatars could help combat "Zoom fatigue" with an audio-powered virtual avatar and office space, letting us stay connected without having to be "on" all the time.

The author's Loomie avatar on a Macbook Pro
A live avatar and virtual office can make your Zoom calls much more pleasant.

Update: It looks like the latest version of Zoom is now able to use LoomieLive video streams without a downgrade.

If you're like many of us, you're attending Zoom (or other video conference) meetings. A lot of them. That's leading many of us to experience "Zoom fatigue." We end up having to be "on" for our co-workers and bosses to view us. We also end up dealing with a ton of faces during a grid meeting with many other people. Watching them all and managing our own face can be exhausting.

The idea behind Loom AI, then, is to replace your face with a virtual, 3D avatar of you, kind of like a modern, video-friendly Bitmoji. The benefits are many, including keeping your own grooming (or lack thereof) and personal space out of work calls.

Who? Loom AI is the brainchild of some former Hollywood technical visual artists. Co-founder Kiran Bhat won an Oscar in 2017 for Industrial Light and Magic's facial capture & animation technology, used famously to "bring back" Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One. Co-founder and CEO Mahesh Ramasubramanian is a long-time veteran of DreamWorks Animation.

"It's the flexibility of not showing yourself or your background; no makeup or lighting needed."

How this works: There are two parts to the magic here. First, you need to create a Loomie, which is what they call the virtual avatar. That Loomie then gets turned into a lip-synching talking head inside a 3D virtual space that you can use with a variety of video conferencing apps. The best part? The animation is based on your audio feed, so you can get up, stretch, look at that important email, or deal with your child without interrupting the visual image you're presenting to your colleagues.

Loom AI employees having a zoom meeting in both Loomie and regular form
Loom AI

"It's the flexibility of not showing yourself or your background," Bhat told me during a (of course) Zoom meeting. "There's no makeup or lighting needed."

Avatar for everyone: Once you make your Loomie on the mobile app (available for iOS and Android), you launch LoomieLive on your computer (macOS-only right now, but a Windows version is coming soon). You then choose the LoomieLive camera in Zoom or other video conferencing app you use. You can turn off your actual camera at this point, and just rely on Loom AI to run your virtual "you," which includes some idle animations like resting its head on a hand. There are emotes, too, like hand waving and laughing (which will eventually get triggered when you LOL in real life).

A simulation of our Zoom chat, using the author's newly created Loomie (upper right).
A simulation of our Zoom chat, using the author's newly created Loomie (upper right).

Future plans: For now, the AI happens on your computer, but the future may put the processing elsewhere, which might lead to slick tech like this on your smartphone, said Bhat. The tech is fully 3D, too, which could lead to some cool stuff in VR or gaming spaces, Ramasubramanian hinted.

Caveats: You can grab both the Mac app and the mobile apps right now to give them a try. In our testing, creating an avatar was simple (and fun), but getting it to show up in Zoom wasn't possible. It's a known problem, and according to Loom AI, Zoom is working on a fix soon (Update: this has been fixed). The team recommends you downgrade your Zoom app to an earlier version, though that's a security risk. Skype and Google Hangouts, however, worked fine in our testing.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a way to be visually present without having to figure out lighting and grooming all the time for your work at home status, LoomieLive might be the answer.

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