Gizmoz, of Israel, launches a service tonight that lets you create avatars that are more realistic and full-featured than those of competitors such as Voki or Meez.

You load your own photo, and Gizmoz morphs it into a three-dimensional image. You can dress it with a range of accessories — wigs, clothes, hair, makeup, skin color, and even make finer edits, such as facial changes. (See screen-shot at bottom of the Gizmoz creator page). You can then make recordings for your avatar, via a microphone, so that he or she speaks to visitors of your blog or profile page — such as in my example here. The avatar’s lips sync to my words. Or I could type in text, and it will be converted to speech (it just won’t sound like me).

If I want, I can insert the avatar within an “answering machine,” such as I have done above. Visitors respond with messages (go ahead, click on the widget, and leave a message for me!). I can be notified of your messages by SMS or by phone. I can choose a variety of backgrounds.

gizmoz-logo1.jpgIf you’re reading this RSS, which doesn’t allow Flash, you’ll have to go to our site to see an example)

I can also post these avatars within comments at MySpace. I can send them to friends in messages. Gizmoz will also offer a mobile service.

We’ve included a demo below to show more about how it works. Gizmoz does take a few minutes to get accustomed to. For example, there’s one tab for creating your gizmoz, and then another for creating the separate background and recording effects, and galleries for saving your creations.

The company raised $6 million from Columbia Capital and Benchmark Capital. The company, led by Eyal Gever, has worked for four years, and employs 20 people.

To achieve distribution, it has partnered with photo widget site Rockyou, and Freewebs, which will offer Gizmoz to its users. It is working with these and other companies to allow the avatars inserted within slide shows.

The service is free, but you’ll need points to buy extra gear for your avatar. It starts by giving you enough free points to play around for some time. However, then it will start charging. Will it make money? Tough to tell. This is another widget company, in an increasingly choppy sea full of widgets. However, at least Gizmoz is pushing technology forward on avatars (it takes 98 morph targets from your image to create facial movements). It all depends: Will it play in MySpace…or Facebook?

Gizmoz has more features set for summer/fall, which it isn’t revealing publicly yet, but based on our preview, promise to take avatars another level still.

http://download.gizmoz.com/home/site_intro.swf

gizmozmaker.jpg