Dating in the metaverse? What could go wrong?
In general, the metaverse is years away from being a (virtual) reality.
Right now, it's more of a concept built upon a variety of scattered virtual, augmented, and mixed-reality technologies, digital currencies, and separate online worlds where individuals and communities can meet and host events.
But is dating a promising venture in this disconnected, experimental, and largely untapped space?
Already, there have been official weddings in the metaverse, apps that pay users in crypto to date in the metaverse –– even Match.com is preparing to expand into virtual worlds.
However, safety poses another, more important issue. Just recently, a female Horizon Worlds user reported being raped in the metaverse.
We asked Zach Schleien, founder of the emerging video speed-dating app, Filteroff, what he thinks about dating in the metaverse, how his company is approaching the space, and how brands should react to its foggy potential.
MediaPost: What is your vision for the metaverse and metaverse dating?
Zach Schleien: The perspective I take is to continue to provide a really authentic experience to online daters. That's still years away. There's now the possibility of dating in the metaverse, however your avatar does not necessarily look like you, so it's quite easy to catfish, quite difficult to verify if someone is who they actually say they are.
Right now we're not playing in the metaverse, not until the technology improves to the point where audio can be spatial and video can be immersive –– that's one layer of it –– but besides that, where your avatar is your actual face, and there's that verification of who you are so you can't catfish people.
So, that's what's to come. But video has now become the de facto to online dating.
Typically now, more than half of online daters, post-pandemic, see video as the medium to connect with prior to meeting up in person; that will be the same as the metaverse. So in the future, prior to meeting up in person, meeting in the metaverse will be the norm.
MP: Where would your app start and end in the metaverse? Why leave the metaverse to go on a "real date" if it's a fully immersive experience?
ZS: You see video games like World of Warcraft and people get addicted and they don't leave their rooms––you always hear those stories––and there will be those stories about the metaverse as well. But through Filteroff's lens, we want you to meet and find your person or have some sort of human connection. Video is just a medium to see if they are someone who you're interested in meeting.
The metaverse, we believe, is just another medium –– a more authentic medium when the technology advances –– to see if you have chemistry, if you're attracted, if you vibe with this person before meeting up in person.
So, could you theoretically never leave? Of course. Is that healthy? I would say no.
MP: How soon do you see your company approaching a mixed-reality model?
ZS: All I care about is providing an authentic experience: date people, not profiles, right?
Video is the one that makes the most sense. Video has just exploded from people being super disconnected from friends and loved ones and now turning to video for work with a more nomadic workforce.
So we're in the right place at the right time...In the future when the technology is there, we'll play there -- but there's still a lot to go with video and infrastructure around that.
MP: Do you know if any brands are approaching dating apps in virtual worlds right now?
ZS: I've never heard of any video-dating company that's been successful in the metaverse. I just think again that it's quite premature and doesn't lead to an authentic experience. Maybe you just want to socialize with people but is it a pure dating app?
I just know for a fact based on the data that people want authentic experiences, and even the apps that are audio-first aren’t doing well either. It's still profile-dominated with Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Match.com. And now we're doing quite well because people are sick and tired of profiles.
MP: Do you think metaverse dating would attract a specific type of audience?
ZS: "I would imagine someone who isn't looking for anything serious. They're more just looking to connect with someone. The audience we cater to is a more intentional dater. They don't want to waste their time, they don't want to go on bad first dates, they don't want to be catfished.
Online dating is almost a second job for people, so when they go on our platform they can go on 10 video speed-dates, 3 minutes each, theoretically every night––that's a no-brainer for them because one of those 10 may be a really good match, and they've already got to know them on video briefly.
MP: What type of old online platforms best compare to what you see the metaverse being like at this point in time?
ZS: Like a Chatroulette or a Mingle. Those were not dating apps, but a way to socialize through a video experience. So you could argue they used video as a platform, but not for an intentional dater. It was a totally different audience. It was just a fun way to kill time because you're bored. You're not going in there thinking 'I'm gonna meet someone on Chatroulette and build a relationship.' That's definitely not an audience we go after.
MP: What are the brand implications for dating in the metaverse?
You have to be really careful in terms of security and privacy. Our app is 18-plus. You don't want a minor going in there with an avatar that looks like a 30 year old. Like those AOL chat rooms back in the day where people could be all ages and you don't know who you're talking to. There are major implications.
We take privacy and security really seriously. We encrypt in storage and transit. We do face-certification. It's video-first so there is no catfishing. We have proprietary algorithms to detect scammers and any sort of bots.
So we do a lot on video experience to take out any bad actors or people who don't want to show their face. With the metaverse, it's a step higher to make sure that users are who they say they are.
MP: What role does advertising play for you now?
ZS: We don't have any in-app advertising but different companies can run their own virtual speed-dating events for free. For example, if you are a religious community, a nonprofit, a for profit -- you could create an event for your audience.
It's a way to bring your community together with a way to provide experience, grow your community, because you can collect the data if you're running an event on our platform, and you can also monetize –– you can sell tickets on our platform as well.
MP: Can you see a brand running a metaverse dating event with you?
ZS: We're already doing virtual speed-dating; we've done that with a number of companies and nonprofits. Video is just a medium.
The metaverse, once it's more advanced, will just be a medium for connection.
What you're seeing with us can be seen on the metaverse at some point as well.