The metaverse is as exciting as it is ill-defined. The term is so overused that it’s lost all meaning. Meanwhile, we see two metaverse tracks. One involves virtual synchronous worlds, while the other adds digital dimension to the physical world. Both will take years to materialize.

Meanwhile, the M-word continues to be a runaway train in XR sectors and beyond. Though it carries legitimate principles – notably presented in Matthew Ball’s Metaverse Primer – it’s been obscured as applied to every unfitting (sometimes-comical) product launch imaginable.

Speaking of Ball, he writes that it’s challenging to even define the metaverse because it will be a moving target. Broadly speaking, we think of it as virtual domains that host placeshifted participants for time-synchronous interaction – at least the first metaverse track above.

Mark Zuckerberg calls it an “embodied internet,” while Tim Sweeney calls it a “real-time 3D social medium where people create and engage in shared experiences.” But beyond tech execs, how do regular folks feel? We continue the sentiment analysis for this week’s Data Dive.

How Do Consumers Feel About the Metaverse?

Data Dive

So what are the latest metaverse consumer sentiments? Following part I of this series, here are the latest data points we’ve tracked.

– Wunderman Thompson Intelligence reports that 38 percent of global consumers are familiar with the metaverse, defined as the blurring line between digital and physical spaces.

– Forrester reports that 29 percent of U.S. consumers and 33 percent of Brits (n=1,263) don’t understand the metaverse, despite being provided with a description.

–  23 percent of Americans and 17 percent of Brits would “like to spend some time exploring the metaverse.”

27 percent and 36 percent, respectively, said that they don’t need the metaverse in their lives.

– A survey conducted by YouGov and the Drum reveals that 31 percent of Americans polled (n=876) claim to have a good understanding of the metaverse.

 36 percent are interested “participating in the metaverse,” led by ages 18-29 (51 percent), 30-44 (43 percent) and 45-64 (32 percent) and 65+ (19 percent).

33 percent have never heard of the metaverse, with respondents aged 45-64 as the largest group (41 percent) that lack awareness.

– As for multiplayer gaming (a metaverse precursor) 66 percent have never played games like Roblox or Animal Crossing that involve shared virtual environments.

– And for VR (another metaverse precursor), nearly 72 percent say they aren’t likely to use a VR headset in next 12 months. Only 8 percent are very likely.

– Shifting gears to advertising, Forrester reports that 22 percent of U.S. consumers and 15 percent of Brits believe that brands should advertise in the metaverse.

– YouGov similarly reports that 43 percent of Americans believe ads in the metaverse are somewhat acceptable, followed by 31 percent that were unsure and 29 percent who say ads are not welcome.

– Respondents 18-29 are most receptive to advertising (56 percent), followed by 30-44 (48 percent).

– As for other metaverse components, Forrester reports that 45 pecent of U.S. adults have never heard of NTFs, while 28 percent have heard of them but don’t understand what they are.

XR Talks: Metaverse 101

Translation Bias

Though the data above are directionally relevant in getting a temperature on consumer metaverse sentiments, there are some caveats. In any survey research, there’s what we call translation bias. This is when answers are swayed by a respondent’s inferences of meaning.

This is why it’s always critical to be painfully descriptive in survey questions, which the above survey research likely did (providing the benefit of the doubt). But even with the most descriptive terms, the m-word is mired in ambiguity. Detailed language is still inherently flawed.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing….or at least it’s a necessary evil. The metaverse – or whatever we end up calling it – will be a moving target that takes decades to fully actualize. Similarly, its use cases and points of value could be things that we haven’t even imagined yet.

It’s like trying to conceptualize the iPhone in 1985. Even later, no one conceptualized Uber when the iPhone first launched. It took a few years living with that new form factor for native thinking – utilizing the unique capabilities of the form factor – to seep into the developer mindset.

That’s all to say that the what and when of the metaverse will hinge on how it organically takes shape. Back to Ball’s assertion, much still needs to materialize so we shouldn’t necessarily have a concrete definition yet, just like the early web (or “cyberspace” at the time) didn’t.

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