The Work Avatar Face-Off: Knowledge Worker Preferences for Realism in Meetings

Kristin Moore
22nd IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR)(2023) (to appear)


While avatars have grown in popularity in social settings, their use in the workplace is still debatable. We conducted a large-scale survey to evaluate knowledge worker sentiment towards avatars, particularly the effects of realism on their acceptability for work meetings. Our survey of 2509 knowledge workers from multiple countries rated five avatar styles for use by managers, known colleagues and unknown colleagues. In all scenarios, participants favored higher realism, but fully realistic avatars were sometimes perceived as uncanny. Less realistic avatars were rated worse when interacting with an unknown colleague or manager, as compared to a known colleague. Avatar acceptability varied by country, with participants from the United States and South Korea rating avatars more favorably. We supplemented our quantitative findings with a thematic analysis of open-ended responses to provide a comprehensive understanding of factors influencing work avatar choices. In conclusion, our results show that realism had a significant positive correlation with acceptability. Non-realistic avatars were seen as fun and playful, but only suitable for occasional use.