Virtual Reality (VR) provides a captivating and immersive experience, allowing people to escape into another world. The pandemic has accelerated the growth of “Social VR”, with brands taking advantage of the opportunity to create virtual meeting spaces and multiplayer worlds to engage customers in meaningful and authentic ways. Using Sphere, we analyze how people interact in virtual spaces, providing valuable insights to brands so they can better understand their customers and create strategies to connect with them in a more effective manner.
Virtual Reality(VR) allows you to step into another world by yourself — and perhaps more significantly, with others. Accelerated by COVID, “Social VR” is all about immersive virtual meeting spaces and multiplayer worlds.
Today, we analyze VR's lively — and sometimes lonely — world to understand better these emotions and how human desire for connection is unfolding in virtual spaces.
Here’s what we found:
Spheres Analysis of 2,000+ Tiktoks revealed top image emotions: fear, affiliation & creativity.
Fear was a top detected image emotion, with 31% of posts mentioning social anxiety. For introverts, VR helps them to control the duration (and form) in which they socialize. One user admits, “I’m ex-military, so being around a whole lot of people makes me nervous…but [on VR Chat] I can just click a button and I’m gone, you know?”
VR not only provides a way for introverts to control their social interaction at their own pace but also increases accessibility for those with impaired mobility (#vrASL boasts a lively sign language community).
While social VR serves as a safe space for those who fear real in-person socialization, for others, that same social anxiety is merely replicated on VR (ie: nerves before entering a VR party). The translation of in-person to virtual social anxiety shows how “real” social VR can feel. Perhaps those exact moments of “realness” are what makes VR not just a relatable, but powerful, fantasy.
Affiliation is another top AI detected image emotion. Perhaps that comes as no surprise — over time, VR worlds have become virtual spaces where people create community. VR chat boasts lively communities and social events, from #VRraves to #VRconcerts. It’s also a place where people feel identity affinity group, from #VRchatLGBTQ to #VRchurch.
Notably, #vrcfurries has over 3 million views on TikTok (their most popular world on VRChat, Furhub, is a fur-friendly world with over 2 million visits). Community hubs like this show how VR has facilitated a unique sense of camaraderie — significant in the backdrop of modern-age loneliness. Users with niche interests who would not have otherwise found one another are coming together on VR and forming cross-border virtual friendships.
Creativity is the final top image emotion detected. People are finding innovative ways to connect with others, from watching VR Movies on platforms like Bigscreen to jointly with strangers to finding love on VR dating app Flirtual. Imagination is also baked into VR Chat’s user-generated worlds, where people unleash their imagination (and romantic fantasies). There is a virtual world for everyone, from bunnycore dance bars to nature-themed cafes. Just look at the different subcultures AI detected.
From this deep dive into AI detected emotions in the world of social VR,, it’s clear that VR has opened up a world of possibilities for people to express themselves and connect with others in a brand new way.
For brands, this highlights a couple of key insights.
THE POWER OF OFFERING (PLAYFUL) COMMUNITY
Desiring community is central to the growth of Social VR. Virtual spaces are a refuge from a lonely world. Offline socializing can be overwhelming — and serious. Brands should get playful when creating virtual worlds. Consider interactive hang-out spots (like Givenchy). From a dance floor to a cafe, weave community into virtual brand experiences. Cultivate brand loyalty by allowing users to casually hang out in your virtual world. They will feel connected with each other — and your brand.
USE VR TO EXPAND CUSTOMER REACH
From creating a VR Chat Discord community to getting involved in online discussions, embed your brand into the VR and wider Web3 ecosystem. This can mean launching new products and trials on VR, as Nissan did. The brand unveiled its new model via a VR Chat virtual brand experience. Users sat at the driver’s wheel and tested features, and were later greeted with a virtual latte (Nissan themed, of course).
VR AS AN EXTENSION OF THE OFFLINE
Brands must understand that while Social VR is not just a refuge, but another world on its own. Brands should get creative when building novel virtual experiences. Think virtual pets (as Claire’s did) to brand ambassadors personified as mythical fairies. For Gen Z, expressing themselves as, and starting relationships with, nonhuman avatars is novel, fun — and perhaps liberating.
Download the full report to find out more.