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This article was published on December 13, 2022

Brits don’t give a damn about the metaverse

But that's actually a huge opportunity for startups and businesses


Brits don’t give a damn about the metaverse
Callum Booth
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Callum Booth

Managing Editor

Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional odd video.

Shocking absolutely no one, it turns out the UK barely gives a diddly about the metaverse — especially when compared to the rest of the world. But, for startups and businesses, this apathy is actually an opportunity.

First off though, the data. According to a report from law firm Gowling WLG, 10% of UK consumers aren’t interested in the metaverse, and 20% don’t expect it to become mainstream. On top of that, many people are concerned about its downsides:

metaverse concerns
Credit: Gowling WLG

The report also highlights that twice as many consumers in China (83%) want to take part in the metaverse than those in the UK (37%). Alongside this, people in the UAE (43%) are over five times more excited to spend time in the metaverse as those from the UK (8%) are.

This is far from the first survey that looks at the UK’s opinion of the metaverse. In September, YouGov released a report comparing the attitudes of UK and US consumers to the technology. In it, researchers found that close to 40% of people are uncertain about or adverse to the metaverse, the report pointing out that those most negative about the technology are “largely older generations.”

The metaverse opportunity

While there’s undoubtedly a negative feeling towards the metaverse, it appears this is massively tied up with 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 awareness of the technology, and only 37% of respondents are confident in describing what it is.

Effectively, around half of the population still don’t know a damn thing about the metaverse.

This raises an interesting point. While there are some people who feel completely negative about the metaverse, they tend to be older generations who most likely wouldn’t adopt the technology anyway.

For everyone else, there’s a big degree of uncertainty about it, which could be feeding into the bad blood. It’s easier to dislike something if you don’t understand it, after all.

interest in the metaverse graph, comparing the UK and the US.
This is from YouGov’s report on the public opinion towards the metaverse. As you can see, the UK is far less enthusiastic than the US.

What this all points to is potential. There are enough people that, if they’re engaged with correctly, could become enthusiasts for 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 when there’s a good app and tech that makes it feel accessible for all, and not some elitist, tech-wizards only concept,” 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 “a user-friendly app” that’s appealing to the populace at large.

This focus on content is echoed by Stefan Hauswiesner, the CEO and co-founder of Reactive Reality, an AR company. He told me “the biggest roadblock to metaverse adoption is the lack of content,” covering everything from games and social interactions, to shopping and work environments.

From this, it’s clear that if the metaverse is to thrive in the UK, it needs to have better software. But, according to Mike Rhodes — the CEO and Founder of ConsultMyApp — this revolution needs to expand to hardware too.

He believes that, “in its purest form,” people should be able to step in and out of the metaverse at will. This is why the technology will only become “truly valuable with an always-on device, such as contact lenses.”

At the moment, this lack of accessibility and clumsy headsets is hamstringing the technology.

zuckerberg walking through room of VR headsets
Images like this go some way to explaining why people are often deeply uncomfortable with the idea of VR headsets.

Another issue that is hampering people from adopting the metaverse is underlying issues with infrastructure in the UK. Wim Van Thillo — CEO of Pharrowtech — pointed out that “truly immersive metaverse experiences depend on near-flawless network performance.” He continued, saying that these virtual worlds need “broadband speeds well over 1Gbps (with latency less than 10 milliseconds),” or performance will suffer.

And the median network speed in the UK currently? 50.4Mbps.

Understanding the public’s metaverse apathy

Of course, there are also cultural elements at play regarding the public perception of the metaverse in Britain. The UK is well known for its pessimism, with recent reports highlighting that only 38% of the country feel positive about the future. In the US, this figure sits at 47%.

Then you have the different views of technology generally across the globe. More people are excited about the metaverse in the East partially because of tech’s cultural status in the region.

This part of the world has seen “explosive growth on certain new [tech] trends,” Mark Basa — managing director of XWECAN Crypto — told me, because of both its enormous population and “consolidated technology experiences.”

You compare that to the UK, where actors like Cambridge Analytica used social media to swing the Brexit vote and change the fate of the nation, and it’s no surprise there’s less hunger for new tech in the country than other places across the world.

Turning the tide for the metaverse

Whether you’re working in hardware, software, or infrastructure, there are so many puzzle pieces required to make the metaverse successful, that your business can undoubtedly help usher the tech towards the public’s heart.

With so much of the UK populace uncertain about what the metaverse actually is, there’s huge scope for experts and enthusiasts to help mould the public discourse. And that’s exciting.

Yes, it’s easy to look at 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 it will go through a huge number of iterations before it reaches its final form. Because of that, it offers an opportunity for individuals, startups, and businesses to actively shape its future.

Would it be easier if everyone in Britain jumped in joy at the idea of the metaverse? Probably, but that’s not reality. And if the technology is ever going to be truly successful, it has to adapt to what people actually want.

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