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No One At Work Likes Your Creepy Avatar

Do you use an online avatar at work? If you do, just make sure it's not too creepy or scary.

A new Microsoft study evaluated 31 employee avatars ranging from formal to creepy and discovered people like using avatars at work, but they don't like it when other people's avatars look too eerie, frightening or realistic.

The study also found we tend to be most concerned with our own avatar choices instead of other people's avatar choices. Unless, of course, our co-worker is using a very disturbing World Of Warcraft avatar image, in which case we're very put off. The problem is, one person's cute is another person's creepy. Where do we draw the line? The study found people tend not to like avatars that are a very realistic computerized rendering of the other person on a dark background, so maybe that's a starting point. Our brains don't like things that look incredibly human, but are not. It's a little bit too Bladerunner-replicant creepy.

I can see where computer programmers and hip, young people working for start-ups might aim for avatar creativity in-house (or on Twitter) without realizing the potential negative impact of their avatars on co-workers, customers and the people they follow online. Welcome to Web 2.0, where people get a new Twitter follower and think, "I can't look at the person's avatar because it's creeping me out."

You can read the full study, titled "Me and My Avatar: Exploring Users' Comfort With Avatars For Workplace Communication," by clicking on the above link.


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