What Might a Social Metaverse Look Like in China? Soul App, Mentioned by Tsinghua University in Its Metaverse Report, Could Be the Answer
Recently, the Center for New Media Communication Studies at Tsinghua University has published a research note on the metaverse. It defines Soul App as a “metaverse social platform”, noting that it is phenomenally popular among China’s Generation Z.
According to the Research Report on Metaverse Development 2020-2021, the concept of metaverse was coined by Neal Stephenson in his sci-fi novel Snow Crash, and is defined as “a virtual reality in parallel with, but independent of, the real world. The digital space mirrors reality and is becoming ever more real.”
On top of the macrotrends taking shape in the Internet world, the 126-page report also takes a careful look at the Chinese metaverse landscape, comparing the strengths and differences of various firms in pursuit of their own metaverse. In particular, the report highlights the unique market position of SOUL, as the app has gained traction with young people in China.
How has SOUL brought the idea of the metaverse into our lives and become a synonym for a metaverse social platform?
Avatar-based Immersive Social Experience
When users dive into the SOUL realm, they can craft their own avatar to shape a new Internet persona and keep a comfortable degree of separation from their real-world appearances and identities. Next, the users must complete a “Soul Test” (a personality quiz). The Soul Test, rather like the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts, assigns users to different “Planets” – planets where like-minded people cross paths. Newcomers are then ready to embark on their metaverse journey, with the ability to strike up a conversation using text messages or voice and video calls. To truly highlight who they believe they are in a more personalized fashion, SOUL has innovative features including Gravity interest tags and a voice recording self-introduction.
The app also plays the role of a judgment-free social playground, sheltering its users from the mounting pressure that often comes from an intricate maze of social relationships in the real world. When they are anonymous, some users see SOUL as an online “tree hollow” to which they are free to express themselves authentically and safely.
Group Chat Party with Gamification
To strengthen interaction and bonding among users as well as enhancing a gamified experience, SOUL has launched features such as the group chat party. Helped by its powerful algorithm, the social platform accurately recommends chat rooms that might appeal to users based on their profiles. Unlike Clubhouse, SOUL enables its users to visit the home pages of other users at the same party any time they want: leave comments; start a private conversion; the list goes on. In this way, friendships develop and blossom.
The platform also offers a wide range of value-added services, another key element in a social metaverse.
Not surprisingly, the instant, immersive and alternative universe-like social experience has been well received by Gen-Z. Data shows that Soul App raked in tens of thousands of downloads, landing itself in the top 10 free apps on the App Store in China in September 2021. Monthly active users nearly doubled on a monthly basis; 35% of them fell into the category of daily active users. On average, Soul users checked the app 21 times with a usage time of 49 minutes per day. The platform recorded an average of 66 peer-to-peer messages per person daily, even higher than some of the instant messaging products.
By driving connections built around interests and hobbies, SOUL has transformed into a social app greatly favored by Gen-Z. “Our long-term commitment is to reduce loneliness in society”, says SOUL APP founder Zhang Lu. “That aim remains close to our heart, and loneliness is the core challenge we strive to tackle.” Those words are a vivid reflection of SOUL’s ambition: to build a ‘soul’cial metaverse for young generations.
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