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What happens in metaverse stays in metaverse – or does it?

Facebook VR

Network connectivity provider Zen Internet felt compelled to ask the UK what it thought about metaverse dating ethics, with nearly half equating virtual flings to real life cheating.

According to the research, 42% of UK adults consider that dating someone else in the metaverse is the equivalent to cheating on a real-life partner. Which would seem to imply that over half think a VR headset dalliance is fair game.

Meanwhile, 37% of respondents said that dating in the metaverse will become more mainstream by 2030 (presumably it could hardly get less mainstream), and 15% would consider dating someone in the metaverse.

22% were apparently intrigued by the metaverse and intended to learn more about it this year, rising to 30% for those surveyed aged 35-44, with 37% believing the metaverse will become mainstream by 2030. 25% think dating in the metaverse could cross realms into physical dating – setting the stage for disappointment as that person you’ve been sharing candlelit virtual dinners with turns out to be a boring old human, instead of the battle droid avatar of your dreams.

“The metaverse will provide an entirely new way to interact with virtual environments and others, in a more immersive and interactive way than previously possible,” said Jawad Ashraf, CEO of Terra Virtua, who for some reason was drafted in for a quote. “Zen Internet’s research highlights how important our virtual interactions will be to our identity and our relationships. It may be too early to predict exactly what the metaverse will become, but we do know it will open up completely new shopping, work, social, entertainment and dating experiences.”

It’s easy to mock, and of course corporate surveys like these are fairly tongue in cheek themselves – but while there is no shortage of vague lofty corporate announcements about ‘new frontiers’ and ‘immersive virtual landscapes’, stuff like this is at least getting down to the nitty gritty of what it actually might mean to get in amongst a metaverse.

It’s been a busy week for metaverse news. Yesterday it was reported that McDonalds filed several trademarks around the metaverse, including one that described as “a virtual restaurant featuring actual and virtual goods.” It’s not the only mega-brand to get involved – Disney, Coca-Cola, Nike, Warner Brothers, and Microsoft have all made some sort of metaverse moves to varying degrees.

Meanwhile earlier this week South Korean operator SK Telecom says that its Ifland metaverse now has 1.1 million monthly active users. It said in it’s FY2021 results: “Surpassing 1.1 million monthly active users (MAU), Ifland is drawing great attention from diverse businesses and organizations, receiving over 1,500 requests for partnerships. Going forward, Ifland plans to continue its growth by opening up the platform to partners, introducing its own economic system, and expanding into overseas markets.”

Launched in July last year, Ifland is described by SK Telecom as a “metaverse platform designed to maximize user experience through diverse virtual spaces and avatars.” Which is nice and vague.

Metaverse themed hardware plays have the benefit that they can be part of the trend without having to get involved in the sticky business of what metaverse content actually is. Yesterday Qualcomm announced it would open up six new metaverse focussed labs. GM of XR at Qualcomm said: “These labs will be the key to building out our XR portfolio which encompasses best-in-class platforms, software and innovative technology features and to make it available to all developers helping to build out the metaverse through Snapdragon Spaces. We cannot wait for everyone to see what is next.”

Whether it’s through loosely related PR, eyebrow raising corporate signalling, or niche areas of practical success, the metaverse is going to be on the lips of the tech industry by hook or by crook for the foreseeable future. And it will often be tied up with stories about NFT and blockchain elements, resulting in stories like this from today in which OnlyFans seems to have adopted Ethereum NFT profile pictures – a story which creates a new high water mark in the category of ‘imagine trying to explain this to your grandparents.’

It all feels like a bit of a gold rush at times – but getting any actual gold from it is far from guaranteed. Facebook’s investors recently did not seem quite so confident with its all-in move to the metaverse, having made a big stick of its pivot and having changed its name to Meta, its share price dropped 20% this month.

Perhaps the tendency for big brands to hurl themselves at these emerging technologies has something to do with the emergence of the early internet. With half an eye on how quickly the rug was pulled out from the status quo in the nineties, how it redefined business models, created entirely new ones and made others irrelevant, reflexively going all in on any new tech trend to avoid being left behind can perhaps be understood. And if you’ve got the cash, why not.

Metaverses, NFTs, and crypto will either play a big part in society in the coming years or they won’t – but while companies are clearly happy to throw cash at any of these new trends being catapulted out of the tech world, the perennial problem remains that right now no one other than tech enthusiasts or the very online would have a clue what you’re talking about if you told them McDonald’s is going to start selling burgers in the metaverse.


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