How the Soul Metaverse Aims to Change the Way We Interact Online

Soul metaverse has taken the Chinese market by storm. With over 100 million users in China, the app’s innovative combination of avatar-based chat and Al-powered matchmaking helps them find their “soulmates” quickly and develop lasting online friendships. Virtual meeting spaces, customizable avatars, and a variety of content creation tools give Soulers(Soul users) plenty of options as they build relationships with like-minded users. 

In November 2021, 36Kr held a symposium on metaverse trends in Shenzhen. Huang Ziyang, the special assistant to Soul’s CEO, was one of the invited dignitaries. Huang’s presentation gave tremendous insights into Soul’s plans to dominate the market for metaverse apps and create a virtual world for its users.

Hitting All Five Facets 

The ideas behind the Soul app are deeply rooted in the critical analysis of Gen Z. Born in a time when the internet is booming, members of Gen Z spend as much as 6 hours a day online. Unlike previous generations, Gen Zers connect online as often as they socialize in person. One of the big goals of Soul is to form a safe, semi-anonymous meeting space where members of both Gen Z and other generations can experience rich and fulfilling online relationships without having to deal with the burdens of offline reality. 

The “metaverse” is a vague buzzword to many companies, but Huang stresses that Soul seeks to have five specific categories of online interaction. These are virtual avatars, immersion, social assets, inclusiveness, and an economic system. Huang does not think these five facets will just be a part of the Soul app; but rather they’ll drive the development of other metaverse projects around the world.

The Soul app has been engineered around these five basic principles. Avatars are core to Soul, which isn’t exactly new (given the existence for decades of avatar-centric online communities), but the way that users can trade avatars with each other on Soul is unusual, if not unique. The Chinese community calls users who create avatars to sell “face-pinchers”, and they’re quite popular. The best face-pinchers occupy the highest online status on the Soul app, SSR, which stands for Soul Super Real. It’s a rich, complex market that’s made possible by the combination of two of the five facets: avatar-centric socialization and an economic system. 

The other facets combine similarly. Inclusiveness is embodied by the personality and interest-based matchmaking, which brings users together based on classic personality tests, self-selected topics, and Al-driven algorithms. Users can use items called “gravity slips” to attract other Soulers who share common interests. The app does some behind-the-scenes magic to try to bring people together who will mesh well, ensuring that each conversation is deep, joyous, and enlightening to all participants. No matter who you are or what you like, Soul will try to find you friends. Combining that with the “immersion” facet and offering a rich array of in-app attractions, events, and games, the app gives you plenty of things to do with your new friends. The online marketplace allows you to buy and sell items with each other safely and anonymously, while the social asset-based features help you keep track of users you like and form larger communities.

Destroying Loneliness Forever 

Soul was founded with a lofty goal: to destroy loneliness. The founder noticed that it was difficult to freely express certain personal concepts over instant messaging apps available at the time. On programs like Skype, Discord, or IRC, users generally exchange messages with real-life friends or acquaintances, making it awkward or impossible to open up about personal issues. Soul was designed to help assuage that concern. Not only does Soul’s avatar-first approach ensure that users can freely discuss awkward topics under the shroud of anonymity, it helps users feel safe and comfortable socializing.

Soul’s matchmaking features were designed to help blow loneliness to kingdom come. The app’s carefully tuned behind-the-scenes algorithms help to bring together users who enjoy talking with each other. It’s like an online friend-finder, except there’s a pool of 100 million users. Soul won’t necessarily make everyone popular, but it should give everyone a conversation partner.

An Immersive Experience 

Soul is MORE than a chat app. In addition to both 2D and 3D avatar chats, users can experience mini-games like Pet Planet, Soul Werewolf, and more. Modes like Group Chat Party help round out the app’s social features, ensuring that Soulers have the tools to hold immersive, interactive conversations of any size. Additional to built-in activities, the app allows users to share videos, voices, messages, and more, ensuring that virtually anything that could be shared on Twitter or Facebook can be shared on Soul, too. Over 67 million posts were made on Soul in March 2021, with over 570 million replies to those posts. That’s a pretty impressive engagement ratio. The economic aspects of the Soul app help users seamlessly exchange virtual goods. Gifting being easy enables conversation partners to purchase digital goods for each other in a seamless, hassle-free manner. The possibility of selling items and work, including avatars, gives users the ability to earn something through their creativity and contributions to the community. Just like with avatars, this online marketplace isn’t revolutionary, but its seamless integration into a social media platform is certainly new. You can’t purchase things for Twitter users quickly without asking them to share their real names with you. The Soul app has gone to great lengths to preserve the partial anonymity of the avatar-based system throughout the process of exchanging items with other users. Users can even purchase “giftmojis” that can be given to other users, resulting in real-world deliveries of physical goods without needing to exchange real-life details. It’s a perfect, immersive system that can help users forget about their non-avatar identities for a few hours.

Identity As a Market 

Soul treats content creators differently from other platforms. Unlike social media hubs like YouTube and Twitter, Soul’s SSRs (the elite content­ creator class) are treated as equals to other users. This helps drive engagement, resulting in the near 10-to-one reply to post ratio mentioned earlier. Huang mentions that this helps build trust between SSRs and content consumers. 

Huang concluded the talk with an analysis of what the Soul team thinks the future holds. Identity, they think, is the underlying factor of virtually everything. The goal of Soul app, therefore, is to give users a playground through which they can adjust and play with their identity. By building an avatar-centric online social experience, the team hopes to stimulate creativity and create a colorful world of self-expression. 

All of the small decisions behind the Soul app help polish this idea. SSRs are treated equally to other users because the app is fundamentally a virtual identity builder; being on a level playing field helps bring new users in and keep interactions on an even keel. Avatars can be bought and sold to help both drive the meta of self-expression in the metaverse forwards with economic competition, and also to give users the chance to select incredible-looking virtual personas to represent themselves. A virtual store and real-world tie-ins like Giftmojis help sell the idea that interacting on the Soul app matters, reinforcing the value of the identity created by the user, while a plethora of in-app activities and modes offer users options to play with their identity.

A Recipe for Success? 

Soul app has recently started the process of branching out to worldwide markets. Its innovative takes on the metaverse concept are sure to make waves, even if it doesn’t reach the same levels of viral success it has in China. Other apps and platforms will undoubtedly respond to its core ideas, including avatar-centric chats, Al-powered matchmaking, and integrated virtual marketplaces. As the metaverse develops, we’ll be feeling the effects of the Soul app for years to come.