An Avatar Only a Mother Could Love!


14.00 – 15.30,  4 September 


Who do Avatars represent? What makes an avatar good or bad? During this workshop you will design avatars representing older adults and those with physical disabilities.


As much of the research surrounding avatar design is preoccupied with younger users, older adults can often be left underrepresented and disadvantaged (Carrasco et al., 2017).
This research also demonstrates the types of avatars older adults will create for themselves including actual, healthier, younger and companion representations. In a recent study, (Pandita, 2020), it was demonstrated that the greater the physical resemblance to a user, the more likely it will be that a user will accept/relate to the avatar in a virtual environment. This is important as research from Ugail et al., (2019) suggests that an individualized avatar can motivate someone to self-reflect which may result or facilitate behaviour change. As research and interventions with at-risk populations are moving into more virtual realms it is important to consider the how and why avatars should be designed a certain way for each population. This workshop will consider the challenges of avatar design and discuss the benefits/drawbacks to hyper-realistic vs. cartoon avatars, along with human vs. non-human representation. These areas will be examined for older adults and people with disabilities.


The main objective of this workshop is to determine the best way to represent specific populations using avatars within a research setting. Each population will be focused on individually thus allowing for an in depth analysis of older and vulnerable populations. Thus the workshop while providing an overview of avatar design in general for research purposes, will also provide a specified look at what gives an avatar distinct advantages in terms of representing a population in the digital world.

The workshop will also focus on the objective of disseminating insights from research on the area of avatar design. Looking into and discussing important discoveries such as; the proteus effect (Yee and Bailenson, 2007), Illusion of Virtual Body Ownership (IVBO) (Lugrin et al, 2016), Avatar Realism and Perception (Ogawa, Narumi, & Hirose, 2018) and Self-Expansion Theory (SET) (Schöbel, Janson, 2008) to name a few. The dissemination and discussion of such insights as these will provide the attendees of this workshop with more general knowledge of the field of avatar design, which can in turn aid them in further understanding previously mentioned population specific objectives.



Participants will receive a copy of the slides used in this workshop and will also be provided with a recommended reading list detailing current research in the area of Avatar design.

In addition, participants will be emailed a synopsis of the discussions from each group regarding the issues requirements for the avatar for each population, along with the key debates that arose when discussing likes and dislikes.


You will become familiar with avatar research applied to a specific population. Engage with others in the group to debate the design requirements and discuss/resolve differences in opinion that are likely to arise as there is no one type of avatar that works for everyone. You will experience the fundamental challenges involved in designing appropriate avatars and possess the practical knowledge to design these avatars effectively for each population. Finally, you will also have gained an appreciation for the theoretical underpinnings necessary to support effective avatar design.


Introductions: 10 min
A chance for everyone to introduce themselves and say what they would like to get out of the workshop

Overview/Lecture: 15 min
This will include slides and group discussions on what avatars are, what is a good/bad avatar, how to design an avatar/who are you designing for etc.

Group Discussion 1: 20 min

10 min: Groups will discuss what was covered over the last 20 min and identify problems/solutions regarding avatar design for children, older adults and, people with disabilities.

10 min: Groups will come back to the main group and report their findings

Overview/Lecture: 15 min
This will include slides and group discussion about the effects/impact of avatar design can have on research etc.

Group Discussion 2: 20 min

10 min: Groups will ‘design’ identify how to create an avatar for their target population based on the day’s discussions.

10 min: Groups will come back to the main group and report their findings

Workshop end and Q&A: 10 min
Time to sum up the day’s activities and allow for questions etc.


This workshop is for anyone with a broad interest in technology or a specific interest in representing people within digital worlds, working with avatars or alternative ways to represent participants in applied research. While this workshop caters to an audience with specific proclivities, it is also a great introduction to the area for any attendee who may be interested in learning more about the area of avatars and representation in digital worlds. With a balanced mix of knowledge dissemination and discussion opportunities this workshop is perfect for any interested parties.


15 – 20 Participants Max