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An avatar is a personalized graphical illustration that represents a computer user, or a character or alter ego that represents that user. An avatar can be represented either in three-dimensional form (for example, in games or virtual worlds) or in two-dimensional form as an icon in Internet forums and virtual worlds.
Avatars are used widely on websites and in online role-playing games. They are an integral part of Internet chat, Internet messaging systems, blogs and artificial intelligence, particularly virtual reality.
The term avatar as it relates to computer user identification was first coined by Chip Morningstar and Joseph Romero in 1985, when they were designing LucasFilm's online role-playing game "Habitat".
The simplest avatars are small graphic files used on websites. For instance, members using chat boards can upload an avatar to represent themselves. The images may be humorous or serious, and often show a beast or hero. They normally appear attached to user posts alongside the username.
Some websites provide users with a pool of avatars from which to choose. Avatars in a virtual reality are interactive characters in virtual worlds, which may be customized by the user. These avatars walk within the computerized landscape, manipulating the surrounding environment. Avatars can be moved and acted upon using the keyboard and mouse. Virtual world avatars also have an associated inventory of objects such as tools, weapons, clothing, vehicles, virtual currency, etc.