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Designing inclusive virtual avatars: Why diversities matter.

According to a new global study of 6,000 people by the Institute of Digital Fashion (IoDF), people want to see more options for body types, gender identities, disabilities, and clothing when appearing online.

In the study, almost 60% believe there is a lack of inclusiveness in virtual worlds and more than 40% describe their online clothing style as 'surreal', i.e. not matching their personal identities.

The IoDF was launched in 2020 in response to the accelerated digitization of fashion during the pandemic. IoDF is keen to harvest the potential for digital spaces to be even more inclusive than the already existing ones IRL.

Co-founded by Leanne Elliott Young and digital designer Cattytay, over the past year IoDF has continued to harness the power of fashion technology to create a more open industry, they've announced an exclusive partnership with the Circular Fashion Summit (CFS) to explore representation in the metaverse.

"Users shouldn't have to demand to be included; the industry should already be there for them, ready and waiting". Leanne Elliott Young and Cattytay, IoDF

When it comes to fashion, IoDF research found that 92% of people report that personalization is important when creating virtual avatars. The range of clothing types desired reflects the range of styles people want in virtual spaces: surreal (24%), casual (20%), and couture (15%). Religious clothing was also a particularly critical option that must be offered to dress virtual avatars, according to Leanne Elliott Young, co-founder of IoDF.

Concerning the skin tones, the interviewees suggested a complete color wheel allowing people to select any tone matching their own to have the chance to represent themselves in the most accurate way.

Even Bitmoji, owned by Snap Inc., understood the importance of designing inclusive avatars, by introducing a selection of its most popular stickers in a wheelchair and allowing the users to design elements such as the armrest, footrest, seat fabric, and how the spokes are positioned.

We need technology leadership that reflects people of all types of gender identities, sexual orientations, racial and ethnic origins, and religious identities. It is extremely important to start creating diverse and inclusive digital identities and contribute to the creation of a digital world where there are no excuses to exclude anyone.

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