This week in the metaverse: Roblox sex parties, virtual yoga and Metamates
Things are moving fast in the metaverse. Depending on who you speak to, this futuristic virtual world is either the next big thing in marketing or an overhyped fad. Here’s what you need to know from this past week:
Yoga in the metaverse is now a thing
Some may venture into the metaverse for thrills, but many others just want to relax – to escape the noise and rigors of the real world. Recognizing this, fashion and lifestyle brand Alo has launched the ‘Alo Sanctuary,’ a VR-based world via Roblox where guests can indulge in a little virtual self-care. The sanctuary, which the company describes as “an immersive wellness space for yoga and meditation,” is set on a virtual island – “a landscape that encompasses three earthly elements of the brand name ‘Alo,’ an acronym for ‘air, land and ocean.’” The project, created in partnership with creative studio Sawhorse Productions, launched on February 10 – just before the beginning of New York Fashion Week, where Alo operated a physical ‘Wellness Sanctuary.’
Key takeaway: The metaverse is often marketed as a tool for social (albeit virtual) connection, but the enormous popularity and profitability of the health and wellness space has also led to a sector of the metaverse that will be carved out for more private and contemplative practices, such as meditation and yoga.
Get your virtual Lotus Pose ready
Crypto was impossible to miss during Super Bowl LVI
If you needed hard evidence that web3 has officially become part of the zeitgeist, then look no further than the ads from Super Bowl LVI. Cryptocurrency made a couple of high-profile appearances: in an ad featuring Larry David, FTX told the story of a curmudgeon with a recurring knack for dismissing world-changing innovations as temporary fads; and Coinbase’s floating QR code, of course, was so engaging that it actually caused the company’s website to crash. NFTs also made a cameo in an ad for Bud Light NEXT.
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Key takeaway: Just a couple of months ago, very few people knew what terms such as ‘web3’ and ‘the metaverse’ referred to. These terms are still widely misunderstood, but the technologies that they represent have been inculcated by popular culture to the point that big-name brands can comfortably mention them to a general audience during advertising’s biggest day of the year.
Mark Zuckerberg has officially branded Meta Platform Inc employees as ‘Metamates.’ He even coined a new catchphrase for the brand: “Meta, Metamates, Me.” After rebranding from Facebook to Meta last year, Zuckerberg has been adamant about his company’s singular new purpose: to become the leading builder of the metaverse, the brand that the average person will immediately associate with this burgeoning virtual space. The company-wide memo in which he broke the news to employees about their new status as ‘Metamates’ appears to be an effort to drill down even harder on this mission statement – and perhaps to create a sense of common identity and purpose as competition with companies such as Microsoft continues to heat up.
Key takeaway: It’s hard not to get the feeling that Zuckerberg is sprinkling Meta branding and buzzwords as much as possible over his company in an effort to help people forget about the very real controversies that Facebook has been recently mired in. That being said, it’s always hard to bet against Zuckerberg.
Sex parties pop up in Roblox
Roblox, an immensely popular children’s game that has become one of the primary builders of the metaverse, has also become a playground for explicit and illegal sexual activity. The admin at Roblox has had an ongoing problem with ‘condos,’ which are basically virtual sex parties that are set up and swiftly shut down, only to reappear again not long after in a different location. It’s like an ongoing game of whack-a-mole. In some cases, these are all-adult parties. But according to Bloomberg, something on the order of two-thirds of kids between the ages of nine and 12 in the US use Roblox – and that poses some very real and alarming dangers. Roblox recently told the BBC that it conducts “a safety review of every single image, video and audio file uploaded to Roblox, using a combination of human and machine detection.”
Key takeaway: The metaverse is being built faster than regulators can really keep up with. As they build the metaverse, companies such as Meta and Roblox are going to have to grapple with how they can effectively monitor and protect users in a virtual world where laws are still fuzzy and possibilities for criminal activity are vast.
China broadens its push into the metaverse
China has been making a real effort to become a global leader in the metaverse. Not only major Chinese tech companies – such as Tencent and Baidu – but also the governing bodies of Chinese cities and provinces have recently announced concrete measures to begin investing more heavily in the metaverse. Earlier this week, CNBC reported that the China Mobile Communications Association added 17 companies to its metaverse committee, bringing the total number of members up to 112. The metaverse committee “is tasked with developing standards and technology around the metaverse.”
Key takeaway: Though China has been making a large-scale push to become a leading developer of the metaverse, it will still be faced with the challenge of controlling the flow of information in the new virtual space. The country famously ended up banning cryptocurrency after it became clear that the technology was uncontrollable – it will be interesting to see what types of restrictions will be placed upon the metaverse.