The problem with the default SL avatar’s ankles

OK, I’ll admit it; the default SL avatar has a lot of problems, many of which have been pointed out in the past. For instance, see STORM-1800 in Second Life’s JIRA, or this post by Firestorm developer Tonya Souther. We’re all painfully familiar with several of these problems. The deformation in the shoulder-blade area is horrendous, the elbows and shoulders bend really badly, your legs look like they were nearly severed from the waist when your avatar kneels or is put in the lotus position, and, when your avatar spreads its legs, it looks like you’ve lost control of your bladder and / or large intestine. You can thank me later for the mental images.

With 10-cm heels on.

My avatar, wearing 10-cm (4″) heels. I typically wear Slink’s AvEnhance Mid Female Feet. As you can see, the foot appears as it should in RL. But there’s more at work right here… Please click on the picture for the full-size version.

But let’s get back to the matter at hand, shall we? Besides the fact that, even in 2003, the SL avatar was already horrendously sub-par, it has a glaring anatomical error, which affects the way animations make the avatar look. The error is, as you’ll have guessed from the article’s title, the ankles and the way the foot shaper for high-heeled shoes is created by the system.

foot-shaper

I took off the mesh feet, the shoes, and the alpha layer to show you the “foot shaper” for the shoes I wore for this example. You’d think the avatar’s ankle articulation rotated for this look to be achieved, but that’s not the case. Please click on the picture for the full-size version.

We all know that, in real life, when we want to wear a shoe that isn’t flat, our ankle flexes downwards and is at an angle compared to its flat position. This is, of course, more obvious when we want to wear a shoe with a 10-cm (4″) heel, or a 12-cm (approx. 5″) heel, and don’t even get me started on the extremely challenging ballet heels.

foot-shaper-ankle-downwards

As I said earlier, the ankle was not rotated to create the foot shaper. Instead, the foot was simply stretched downwards, while the articulation remained flat. Please click on the image for the full-size version.

Now, the ankle can only bend downwards so much. Already when wearing a 10-cm (4″) heel (in in-world terms, this corresponds immediately with Slink’s AvEnhance Mid rigged mesh female feet). And when we wear a 12-cm (5″) heel (an in-world example of this is Slink’s AvEnhance High rigged mesh female feet), it maxes out. It’s gone as far as it can, and there’s no way it’ll bend downwards (or backwards – perhaps this would be a more appropriate term) any further. Period.

foot-bent-badly-backwards

And here, you see how bad certain poses and animations look when you’re wearing high heels, because of the anatomical error I described. It looks as if someone’s broken your ankles (perhaps using “enhanced interrogation techniques”). Please click the picture for the full-size version.

Yet, several animations have the avatar bend its ankles much further, making it look like the articulation has been broken. This looks really bad, and it’s terribly unrealistic. As I wrote earlier, I believe this has to do with the way the “foot shaper” is created by the system. When the “foot shaper” is created, what’s performed is not a downwards (i.e. around the transverse axis of the avatar) rotation of  the ankle, but a stretch of the foot. So, to the system, your avatar still has its feet lying flat, which in turn allows it to take these unrealistic angles.

Also, a degree of freedom is missing: In RL, we can flex our ankles on the longitudinal axis (how many times have you twisted your ankles because you misstepped?). In SL, we can’t. So, when we spread our avatar’s legs apart, our ankles don’t twist inwards to maintain proper contact with the ground.

I really hope LL will address this issue (and all the other issues with the default human avatar) in its next-generation virtual world platform. For SL, I think it’s just too late, because there’s too much content for the default avatar, so making significant changes now, after 11 years is pointless. To help you see what I’m talking about, I took a few snapshots using my trusty AnyPose BVH Pose Stand, and you can see them accompanying the text.

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See also:

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-FK

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7 thoughts on “The problem with the default SL avatar’s ankles

  1. This is not only a problem for female avatars wearing high heels, my male ankles are horrendous whether I am going around with bare feet or wearing shoes.

    As you say, I don’t believe Linden Lab should waste time on this issue now, but they should keep it in mind and solve it for the upcoming SecondLife 2.0.

  2. Something I’ll have to point out here is that animation creators so far haven’t done much to help the situation. For instance, all pole dance animations I’ve ever seen so far make the ankles bend backwards – it’s as if the creators of the animations are blissfully unaware of the fact that all dancers wear high heels. And in sitting animations, would it have killed the animations creators to offer a version of the animation for bare-footed avatars (or avatars wearing flat shoes) and one for avatars wearing high heels?

    Sadly, no one seems to have bothered to address this problem. Neither the Lab nor the animations creators.

  3. One thing I’ve never understood is, why people don’t make “tiptoe” animations in order to correctly emulate walking in high heels.

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