Shocking absolutely no one, it turns out that the UK hardly cares about the metaverse – especially when compared to the rest of the world. But for startups and companies, this apathy is actually an opportunity.
But first the data. According to a report from law firm Gowling WLG, 10% of UK consumers are not interested in the metaverse and 20% don’t expect it to go mainstream. In addition, many people are concerned about the disadvantages:
The report also highlights that twice as many consumers in China (83%) want to participate in the metaverse than those in the UK (37%). In addition, people in the UAE (43%) are more than five times as excited to spend time in the metaverse as those from the UK (8%).
Join TNW in Valencia!
The heart of technology comes to the heart of the Mediterranean
This is far from the first survey to look at the UK’s view of the metaverse. In September, YouGov released a report comparing UK and US consumers’ attitudes to the technology. In it, researchers found that nearly 40% of people are unsure or dismissive of the metaverse, the report points out that those most negative about the technology are “largely older generations.”
The reverse chance
While there’s no doubt a negative feeling towards the metaverse, it seems like this is hugely related to confusion.
In Gowling WLG’s report, 41% of people in the UK said they don’t really understand the metaverse. While in YouGov’s, 43% of those in the UK have no knowledge of the technology, and only 37% of respondents are confident in describing what it is.
In fact, about half the population still knows nothing about the metaverse.
This raises an interesting point. While there are some people who feel completely negative about the metaverse, it’s mostly older generations who most likely wouldn’t adopt the technology anyway.
For everyone else, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what might be feeding the bad blood. After all, it’s easier to not like something if you don’t understand it.
What this all points to is potential. There are plenty of people who, if properly involved, can get excited about the metaverse. The question then is how this happens.
Changing the public perception of the metaverse
“The metaverse is likely to become more of a thing in the UK if there’s a good app and technology that makes it feel accessible to everyone, not some elitist concept just for tech wizards,” said Max Kraynov, group CEO of entertainment app company FunCorp told me.
Currently, the “ridiculousness” of things like NFTs and huge VR headsets make people feel alienated from the metaverse. What the technology needs to attract the masses is “an easy-to-use app” that appeals to the general public.
This focus on content is echoed by Stefan Hauswiesner, the CEO and co-founder of Reactive reality, an AR company. He told me that “the biggest roadblock to metaverse acceptance is the lack of content,” which covers everything from games and social interactions to shopping and work environments.
It’s clear from this that if the metaverse is to thrive in the UK, it needs better software. But according to Mike Rhodes – the CEO and founder of Refer to MyApp – this revolution should extend to hardware as well.
He believes that humans “in their purest form” should be able to step in and out of the metaverse at will. That’s why the technology only “becomes really valuable with an always-on device, like contact lenses.”
Right now, this lack of accessibility and clunky headsets hinder the technology.
Another issue preventing people from adopting the metaverse is underlying infrastructure issues in the UK. Wim Van Thillo — CEO of Pharrowtech — pointed out that “truly immersive metaverse experiences depend on near-flawless network performance.” He went on to say that these virtual worlds need “broadband speeds in excess of 1 Gbps (with latency of less than 10 milliseconds)” or performance will suffer.
And the average network speed in the UK right now? 50.4Mbps.
Understanding the public’s metaverse apathy
Of course there are also cultural elements at play with regard to the public perception of the metaverse in Britain. The UK is known for its pessimism, with recent reports highlighting that only 38% of the country is positive about the future. In the U.S, this figure sits at 47%.
Then you have the different views on technology in general around the world. More people are excited about the metaverse in the East, in part because of the cultural status of technology in the region.
This part of the world has seen “explosive growth of certain new [tech] trends,” Mark Basa – general manager of XWECAN Crypto – told me, because of both the huge population and the “consolidated technology experiences.”
You compare that to the UK, where actors like to play Cambridge Analytica used social media to influence the Brexit vote and change the fate of the nation, and it is no surprise that there is less appetite for new technology in the country than in other places in the world.
Turning the tide for the metaverse
Whether you work in hardware, software, or infrastructure, there are so many puzzle pieces involved in making the metaverse successful that your company can no doubt help drive the technology into the hearts of the public.
With so much of the UK population uncertain about what the metaverse actually is, there is huge scope for experts and enthusiasts to shape public discourse. And that’s exciting.
Yes, it’s easy to take the UK’s negative view of the metaverse as a bad sign, but that approach is too one-dimensional. The technology is still in its infancy and will go through many iterations before reaching its final form. Therefore, it offers an opportunity for individuals, startups and companies to actively shape its future.
Would it be easier if everyone in Britain jumped for joy at the idea of the metaverse? Probably, but that’s not the reality. And if the technology is ever going to be really successful, it has to adapt to what people actually want.