We spend a lot of time on Zoom calls at my school and it gets pretty boring. As a result, we all compete to do something fun and interesting on the calls, whether it’s our outfits, backgrounds, or even pets that interrupt. It’s also funny to see if the teacher can stay focused! Now I hear that Zoom has animal avatars? How do I get that feature and use it??
A few years ago, students who were having class through webcams and computer screens seemed like something fun, different, and entertaining. You could stay in your pajamas, have a cup of hot chocolate and even have your cat curled up, sleeping on your lap. After a few dozen meetings, though, it undoubtedly got a bit dull, and after a hundred Zoom classes? That desk and chair suddenly do not look so comfortable and relaxing after all. As a result, it’s no wonder that teachers and students both have sought a way to liven things up. Zoom’s done its bit too, with its dozens of video filters and support for static and video virtual backgrounds.
The latest addition is basically a straight clone of what Apple calls “memoji” but everyone else calls “animoji” on its iOS platform; animated cartoon animal heads that track your facial expressions, mouth motion, turns of the head, and more. Used sparing, it can be quite entertaining, even in an otherwise dull text message, but for a Zoom lecture? I surmise it’s going to wear thin pretty quickly. Still, the idea of a class of nodding cats, dogs, horses, and cows does sound pretty hilarious! So let’s have a look…
GET THE RIGHT VERSION OF ZOOM
Zoom updates its client application every few weeks, and you’ll need the latest – at least version: 5.10.x – to be able to access the Avatar feature. I make it a habit to use the built-in check for updates feature after every call:
As you can see, just choose “Check for Updates…” off the “zoom.us” menu. You can also use “About Zoom” off this same menu to check your version number. If it’s 5.9.x or earlier, the Avatar feature hasn’t been added. If it’s 5.10 or higher, you should be good to proceed!
ZOOM BACKGROUNDS AND VIDEO FILTERS
Click on “New Meeting” on the Zoom main window and you’ll have a meeting with just you attending. The perfect meeting, right? 🤪
Now, however, click on the tiny “^” adjacent to the words “Stop Video” and the camera icon on the lower toolbar:
You can choose any of the middle options, but I’ll select “Choose Virtual Background…“. This brings me to the increasingly complex Zoom settings and preferences window.
As you can see, my default virtual background image is a photo of cherry blossoms:
Can you see the new “Avatars BETA” on yours? That’s what you want! If you aren’t seeing that, check again that you have the very latest version of the Zoom client for your computer.
Before we look at the Avatars, have you played with Video Filters yet? A tap or click and you can check them out, including the fun retro-TV frame:
There are also lots of floating graphics that can give you a hat, sunglasses, a mustache, etc etc. They’re kind of cheesy – think Snapchat from five years ago – but they can be fun for a few minutes.
FIND AND CHOOSE A ZOOM AVATAR
I know, you want to click on that “Avatars BETA” and see what the options are! So let’s do it…
I’m puppy-with-hoodie. Look closely at the animal options – from cat and cow to fox, bunny, raccoon and mouse – and you’ll see each has the option of wearing a hoodie or t-shirt. Not sure why, and I won’t be surprised if the next iteration of this feature will have the outfit separate from the face, but for now, puppy-with-hoodie works.
Notice that the virtual background remains in this image. It’s also tracking my face, mouth, and position on screen. Turn your head, raise your eyebrows, and open your mouth really wide. See what I mean? Now, raise your hands up. They don’t show up. Very weird. So virtual Zoom avatars are really fun but not so good if you want to use them during show-and-tell!
And that’s it. Get the right version of Zoom and you can have all sorts of fun with these new animal avatars. As a suggestion, coordinate with your fellow students and at a specific moment, have everyone switch to an avatar at the same time. It’s sure to surprise your teacher!
Helpful Tip: I’ve been writing about how to get things done online forever. Please check out my extensive Zoom help area while you’re here! I promise it’ll help make you more productive with this useful tool.