Uniltìrantokx or “Dreamwalker” 
Striped blue with bioluminescent spots
3 meters (10 feet)
|Behind the Scenes|
Selected human candidates from the RDA-funded Avatar Program, known as drivers, can psionically connect with their avatar bodies, which use their human DNA as part of the genetic templates and greatly resemble the drivers' own facial features. The avatars are used to explore Pandora without needing exopacks to breathe air that would be poisonous to humans, and to more easily interact with the Na'vi natives.
When an avatar is born (the technical term is "decanted") as a post-adolescent, it looks like a Na'vi and can live comfortably on Pandora, but it has enough human neurophysiology to be used as an avatar, or surrogate body. The human volunteer then becomes the avatar's controller or "driver". Each avatar is genetically keyed to its respective human controller. Using psionic link technology, the human controller can remotely control the avatar body out in the wilds of Pandora, receiving all sensory input and providing all motor control to the body. Essentially, the controller lives through the avatar, and is completely unaware of his or her human body while linked.
Humans use this method because they cannot live on Pandora without breathing gear, as the atmosphere is toxic to humans, containing lethal levels of carbon dioxide (>18%) and hydrogen sulfide (>1%). The Avatar Program was originally intended to create mine workers who did not need environmental protection systems and could eat Pandoran foodstuffs, but the cost of the mental-link system remained too high for the numbers needed.
Avatars are now used mainly for scientific field work and, when the opportunity arises, to interact with the Na'vi and study them. By communicating with the locals through avatars, which appear less alien to them, the RDA has been trying to bridge the cultural gap and improve relations with the Na'vi. However, this task has been difficult due to communication and negotiation issues. It was hoped that the avatars could act as unofficial ambassadors, but the Na'vi have for the most part viewed these hybrid creatures with a mix of contempt and mistrust, referring to them as "dreamwalkers" or "demons in false bodies." Nonetheless, avatars serve important roles as mediators by relaying cultural information and demands to each party in a peaceful manner, and in some cases by teaching the Na'vi English and basic skills.
Creation and birth
The Avatar Program scientists take DNA from a Na'vi and from a selected human volunteer. On Earth, in genetics labs, they create an in-vitro embryo, which is a genetic composite of the alien and human donors. The cost of each avatar is roughly five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000). The recombinant embryo is grown in-vitro during the flight to Pandora, which takes 3 years ship-time (5 years Earth time due to relativistic effects from the light-speed). In that time it reaches near-adult size, since avatars mature much more rapidly than humans.
Avatars are normally grown 'en-route' to Pandora in an amnio tank, which serves as an artificial womb, while their operators sleep in cryo-hibernation for the journey. During the flight, the avatar progresses from coin-sized embryo to a near-adult size of nine to ten feet (2.75 to 3.0m). A gentle blue light, provided in the tank and falling within the natural Pandoran daylight spectrum, aids the avatar's skin formation and guarantees amniotic fluid sterility. The fluid itself is of similar chemical composition to Pandora's oceans. A nutrient-rich broth is circulated through an artificial placenta, a purpose-designed matrix of spongiform blood vessels and monitoring electrodes. Engineered hormones are used to stimulate rapid growth and ensure correct organ development and muscle tone during the interstellar journey.
While the avatars in-vitro wince like dreaming babies, when "born" they are not believed to be sentient, having no personalities of their own. Their sensorimotor and higher brain functions operate only through a psionic link with a human driver. The avatar body is intended simply as an empty vessel for use as a surrogate body by the human operator.
Decantation usually takes place in the Ambient Room at the Hell's Gate BioLab complex. (The avatars grown for Jake Sully, Norm Spellman and Able Ryder were decanted from their tanks shortly after their arrival.) After decantation, the artificial placental matrix and umbilical cord are removed. The wound heals naturally over the course of a few days. Once all tests confirm that maturation is complete and all wounds are healing, the avatar is ready for initial motor cortex testwork and neural interface linkup.
An avatar was created and a cryo berth reserved for scientist Tom Sully aboard the ISV Venture Star, scheduled to arrive at Pandora in mid-2154. However, Tom met an untimely death at the hands of thieves a week before embarking for Pandora. His twin brother Jake was quickly recruited by RDA agents into the Avatar Program. Since Jake's genetic makeup was identical to his brother's, he was able to use the avatar created for Tom, albeit with no training prior to his arrival on Pandora.
The fully grown avatar is much closer in appearance to the long-limbed Na'vi than to a human. Typical adult size ranges from nine to ten feet (2.75 to 3.0m) tall with blue skin, bioluminescent markings and large eyes with golden irises. Movable ears, a tail and the Na'vi queue, a unique set of nerve endings normally braided into a hair-like configuration protruding from the base of the skull, are faithfully reproduced to be nearly identical to those of the Na'vi. Respiration, musculo-skeletal structure, internal organ function and arrangement are comparable to those of the Na'vi, enabling sustained precision operation in the hostile Pandoran atmosphere and jungle environment. The avatar also possesses reproductive organs but further data has not been released.
The avatar body possesses greater strength and resilience than the body of its human driver, owing this to the carbon fibers reinforcing its bones. This quality greatly improves resistance to accidental damage, such as impacts from falls and other mishaps, especially as a new operator is getting used to driving his or her avatar.
An avatar cannot function independently of its operator - if the operator is not actively linked, an avatar remains inactive in a state of restful sleep. Its autonomic body functions (breathing, digestion, metabolism and other stem-brain processes) operate normally.
Some known differences between the avatars and Na'vi are due to the influence of human DNA.
- Critically, the avatar brain and nervous system are modeled to precisely match those of its human operator while still maintaining appropriate Na'vi cellular biology. The avatar also possesses the necessary nervous system pathways required for the control interface.
- Avatars retain the human configuration of five digits on each hand and foot, as opposed to the native Na'vi who possess four digits on each limb.
- Avatars possess eyebrows, while the Na'vi are hairless apart from their scalp and a small tuft of hair on the tips of their tails.
- Avatars display somewhat more human-like body musculature and structure than the Na'vi. (This is especially apparent when comparing the build of Jake Sully to that of the male Na'vi of the Omaticaya clan; Jake's body structure is sturdier than those of the more willowy Na'vi).
- The Na'vi have large lemur-like eyes, while an avatar's eyes are usually smaller and more human-like.
- The Na'vi nose is flat and cat-like, while the nose of an avatar has a more human-like central ridge, in some cases quite pronounced.
- The queue of an avatar starts at the base of the skull, whereas a Na'vi queue starts at the top of the skull. The reason for this is not clear.
- The Na'vi have opposable big toes, while avatars do not.
Transfer of consciousness
It is possible, using the unique biology of Pandora and the assistance of the Na'vi, for a human to transfer his or her conscious mind permanently into an avatar body.
The first known attempt was in 2148, after a Dragon Assault Ship crashed into the link chamber of René Harper and Able Ryder, during the Battle of Vayaha Village. Sänume was able to save Ryder, but not Harper.
The process was also used by the Omaticaya in 2154, in an attempt to save the life of the Avatar Program's lead scientist, Grace Augustine. However, the transfer failed due to her earlier injuries. A second attempt was made on Jake Sully after he led the Na'vi to victory against the RDA. The movie concluded with his human body being exposed to the moon's atmosphere and his avatar body opening its eyes.
Death of an Avatar
The original 1995 script, while no longer canon, did deal with the death of a linked Avatar. The script featured a character named Hegner who lost his Avatar to a Slinth. "Hegner felt himself die, and he hasn't been right since. Added to the trauma is the loss... the loss of his other life, the one lived in his avatar body." Hegner is reduced to working in the mess hall, no longer capable of taking on larger duties.
Able Ryder loses his Avatar to an arrow to the chest in the RDA storyline of Avatar: The Game. No real consequences are shown of this loss, although there did appear to be some doubt over whether his human body would survive.
During the events of the film, Norm's Avatar is seemingly injured in combat, causing Norm to jerk awake in his link chamber. While not explicitly shown how his Avatar is treated for its wounds, we know it survived as he is seen later in his Avatar form as they and chosen Na'vi escort the now exiled RDA onto their shuttle to be sent back to Earth.
Avatars are partially based on the genetic makeup of their human "driver", so one human cannot use another's avatar. The Avatar Program had produced 20 bodies as of 2154. The following lists all known Avatars, with their active period denoted. Grace Augustine had the longest lived Avatar of any currently known, at 15 years.
- Able Ryder (2152-?)
- Anson Langley (2146-?)
- Conrad Olson (pre 2152)
- Grace Augustine (2139-2154)
- Gregorius (pre 2152)
- Jaclyn Ogden (post 2154-)
- Jake Sully (2154-)
- Jerome Epstein (2146-?)
- Molly Ossman (pre 2152)
- Moran (pre 2152)
- Norm Spellman (2154-?)
- René Harper (2142-2152)
- Ryan Lorenz (pre 2152)
- Ryder Masterson (?)
- Zane Madaki (?)
- James Cameron's Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide - page 148
- (possible game plot spoiler) Dr. René Harper mentions the five billion dollar price tag near his death in James Cameron's Avatar: The Game.
- Duncan, Jody, and Lisa Fitzpatrick. The Making of Avatar (NY: Abrams, 2010), p189 (photo caption): "The practical Amnio Tanks...had a docking ring and hatch on one end, which allowed mounting to complementary ports on the Ambient Room window wall. This also allowed the "decanting" of avatars directly into a Pandoran atmosphere (the technological equivalent of birth for an avatar)."