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元宇宙里的爱情故事:如何在虚拟世界中恋爱和结婚?

元宇宙里的爱情故事:如何在虚拟世界中恋爱和结婚?

MAHNOOR KHAN 2022-04-23
虚拟世界的出轨,算出轨吗?

在奈飞(Netflix)热门剧集《黑镜》(Black Mirror)的某一集中,一名已婚男子最终在虚拟现实游戏中与朋友做爱。两人讨论过这种行为是否是出轨,因为沉浸式技术让他们能够感觉彼此正在相互抚摸对方。

虽然这种情景纯属虚构,但元宇宙的诞生让它变得不再是科学幻想。元宇宙是一种由虚拟现实技术驱动的交互数字世界。

最近,元宇宙获得了微软、谷歌,尤其是Facebook母公司Meta的大力投资。顾名思义,Meta正在将重心向这个新兴领域转移。有专家预测,元宇宙将像出行、工作和娱乐一样成为日常生活的一部分。

因此,恋爱关系自然延伸至元宇宙中。有些公司已经开始提供使用虚拟现实技术的约会服务,用户可以使用虚拟形象在数字世界中相互了解。

虽然元宇宙为人们恋爱和约会创造了令人激动的新的可能性,但它也带来了不确定性,还有我们尚未理解的一系列全新规则。以下是我们已经知道的信息。

为什么要在元宇宙中约会?

元宇宙应该要模拟现实生活,因此与传统约会应用相比,虚拟现实约会感觉更贴近生活。在元宇宙中有更多方式与他人结识和互动,因此更容易判断自己与某个人是否合拍。传统约会应用和视频通话只能为图片点赞、发送信息和对话,而元宇宙更好地模拟现实生活,例如在虚拟地点约会、共同参与一项活动,以及形成更有机的联系等。

Women of Sextech总裁爱丽丝·海因斯对《财富》杂志表示:“我见过虚拟现实空间帮助人们在夏威夷或咖啡厅见面。元宇宙为人们提供了更多相互联系和进行日常互动的选择。”

海因斯认为,某些群体可能成为受益者,因为元宇宙让他们更方便相互联系,无论他们生活在哪个地方。例如,通过元宇宙,美国的一名男同性恋可以与地球另一端的人见面,这意味着他有更高几率找到与自己有类似性取向的伴侣。面向LGBTQ群体提供的服务包括虚拟现实平台AltSpace VR,该平台会举办直播活动,例如LGBTQ+ & Friends见面会等。

海因斯告诉《财富》杂志:“男同性恋群体可以找到有相同性取向的人,因此与现实生活相比,他们在虚拟平台上可以与更多人互动。

约会导师格蕾丝·李建议,在虚拟现实世界中建立联系之后,将恋爱关系带到现实生活,或至少进行语音或视频通话。

性治疗师和性科技顾问霍利·里士满博士表示:“缺少了面对面交流时的潜台词,很难衡量两人之间的化学反应。对于想要发展长期关系的大多数人来说,最终还是需要从屏幕里的世界回到现实。”

元宇宙作为平衡器

约会导师李认为,虚拟现实平台作为约会中的平衡器,能够为用户提供头发、服装和配件的标准配色。

李表示:“没有花里胡哨的社区,也没有人会支付账单。虚拟现实移除了所有社会标识,只剩下语音和我们在现实生活中可能没有意识到的一些微妙的沟通技巧。”

她将元宇宙比作奈飞的约会节目《爱情盲选》(Love is Blind)。该节目的参与者不会看到潜在伴侣,除非他们承诺与对方结婚,这迫使他们更关注人的个性而不是样貌。

李表示:“在现实约会中,如果你的身高是5英尺2英寸,你通常会处于劣势,但在元宇宙中身高并不重要。”

她记得曾安排一名24岁的男子与一名32岁的女子进行元宇宙约会,相互都不知道彼此的年龄。在年龄公布之后,这名女子承认,如果事先知道对方的年龄,她根本不会把对方当真。

李表示:“这件事让她对于年龄和成熟度的假设产生了怀疑。”

哪些应用提供元宇宙约会?

Tinder和Bumble等应用将推出支持单身人士通过虚拟活动事件和在虚拟地点相互见面的服务。2021年,Match集团(Match Group)收购了社交媒体应用Hyperconnect,后者正在测试一种名为Single Town的元宇宙体验,支持用户在虚拟餐厅和酒吧中约会。Match集团CEO莎尔·迪贝认为,Single Town给人们带来的约会体验,“更类似于人们在现实世界中的互动。”

另外一款虚拟现实约会应用Nevermet可免费使用,需要用户上传虚拟形象资料与其他单身人士配对,然后进行虚拟现实约会。一名Nevermet用户在应用评价中分享了她如何通过该平台邂逅现任丈夫,这是一个很好的迹象。

这位用户写道:“我和丈夫在虚拟现实聊天中结识。我们都爱上了彼此的声音,我认为他的声音充满了朝气。然后我们开始虚拟现实约会,八个月后我们住在了一起。我们已经结婚九个月,我非常幸福。”

元宇宙中的安全性

考虑到大量网络猎食者的存在,还有许多网络交友欺骗、网络骚扰和网络欺诈的案例,因此元宇宙中的安全性是人们关心的一个重要问题。最近,一名女性的虚拟形象在Meta的虚拟现实平台Horizon Worlds上被轮奸,引发了人们对于数字世界缺少安全保障的担忧。

妮娜·帕特尔在Medium上发帖子讲述了自己的虚拟形象遭到攻击的过程:“我在加入平台60秒内,遭到了言语攻击和性骚扰。有3到4名使用男性语音的男子虚拟形象轮奸了我的虚拟形象,还拍摄了照片。我想逃离的时候,他们大喊‘别假装你不喜欢’、‘对着照片自慰去吧’。”

虽然许多人反驳帕特尔的招呼称“虚拟形象没有下体如何性侵”,但她表示,既然设计虚拟现实的目的是让人们从身心都感觉真实,因此她的“生理和心理反应如同这件事在现实世界中发生了一样。”

帕特尔是儿童教育元宇宙平台Kabuni的联合创始人。她说自己无法屏蔽骚扰者或者举报此事,因为她并不知道这些虚拟形象的真实身份。事件发生后不久,Meta增加了一项安全功能“个人边界”,防止用户侵入其他虚拟形象的个人空间。

Meta表示:“如果有人进入用户的个人边界,系统会在其触碰到边界时阻止其继续向前移动。”

Women of Sextech的海因斯与多家公司合作制定了一份行为规范,以保证边缘群体在性科技领域感觉更安全。她在接受《财富》杂志采访时表达了对元宇宙的担忧:

“我很担心元宇宙中可能发生的剥削行为。我们必须促使公司承担起责任,处理好这类事件。我们根本不清楚元宇宙的举报和监管制度。”

元宇宙中的恋爱关系指导

约会导师李利用元宇宙指导客户提高约会技巧。她的虚拟现实平台Datingverse提供私密空间,供客户一对一会面,她则会主持和观察两人的互动。

李表示,这个平台让她可以回放客户的约会,从而为客户提供反馈,与客户讨论如何改善约会时的聊天技巧。她认为,元宇宙比Zoom这类单纯的视频流媒体服务更适合约会,因为元宇宙提供了一种更类似于现实生活的体验,不会像现实世界一样因为周边环境受到干扰。

在李的元宇宙平台Datingverse上举行的约会辅导讨论会截图。图片来源:Foretell

李告诉《财富》杂志:“元宇宙真正颠覆了我们如何与其他人互动,我认为其他任何媒介都难以做到这一点。”

性治疗师兼性科技顾问里士满博士表示,元宇宙为自闭症患者或严重社交焦虑症患者提供了一个重要的约会平台。她曾帮助一位在现实生活约会中过于紧张的客户,与人工智能性爱机器人进行亲密聊天。

里士满博士对《财富》杂志表示:“元宇宙等技术是开启面对面人际互动的桥梁。它们是我们的第一个联系点。”

元宇宙婚礼

元宇宙不止可以用于约会。由于疫情的影响,一对印度夫妇在元宇宙中喜结连理,举办了一场霍格沃茨风格的婚宴,有来自世界各地的6,000名来宾出席了婚宴。婚礼中还展示了新娘已故父亲的虚拟形象。

美国亚利桑那州一对已婚夫妇在热门虚拟世界Decentraland中举行了一次虚拟婚礼,一名亚利桑那州最高法院的法官作为证婚人。当地一家律师事务所整理了结婚资料,包括这对夫妻的元宇宙结婚证书和婚前约定协议,这些资料作为非同质化代币(NFT)进行了“公证”,并存放在以太坊区块链中。

美国婚姻事工(American Marriage Ministries)表示,在美国结婚需要证婚人看到夫妻双方的真实面容,因此元宇宙中的婚礼尚不具有法律约束力。目前,元宇宙中的婚礼只是一场虚拟仪式,旨在邀请无法亲自到场的人们参加虚拟婚礼。

一位美国元宇宙新娘对Euronews表示:“这项技术的优势在于,它致力于将人们聚在一起。现在我们需要做的一件事是感受到彼此之间的相互联系。”

重新定义规则

随着虚拟现实技术的持续发展,物理和数字世界之间的界限日益模糊,它带来了性体验的新机会,但也增加了出轨的可能性。随着虚拟现实色情片和触觉技术(让用户可以在元宇宙中感受到抚摸的触感)的发展,人们开始日益担忧虚拟世界的互动对现实关系的影响。

这位女士戴着一副触觉手套,正在与元宇宙中的虚拟物品和人互动。图片来源:Getty Images

事实上,许多年前,一对英国夫妇在现实生活中离婚,因为妻子发现丈夫的虚拟形象在虚拟现实游戏《第二人生》(Second Life)中与另外一名女性的虚拟形象有染。

这需要伴侣们重新定义关系规则,确定哪些行为构成出轨。

里士满博士表示:“每一对夫妇都是不同的。定义出轨的最简单方法是自问,你的伴侣是否接受你的所作所为。如果回答是否,那就是出轨。”

元宇宙中的未来约会

视频约会应用Filteroff的开发者扎克·施雷因认为,元宇宙给约会行业带来了巨大商机,它将有助于人与人之间建立更深刻的联系。他正在努力让Filteroff登陆虚拟现实平台,并预测未来元宇宙将模糊虚拟与现实的界限,人们能够感受到彼此的存在。

施雷因对于元宇宙的发展对约会过程甚至异地关系的影响感到非常激动。

他说道:“我认为随着元宇宙的继续发展,在某个时刻将模糊面对面约会和视频约会之间的界限,你可以利用社交过程中的线索评估自己与当前伴侣或潜在伴侣之间的关系。我认为这一点非常积极。”(财富中文网)

翻译:刘进龙

审校:汪皓

在奈飞(Netflix)热门剧集《黑镜》(Black Mirror)的某一集中,一名已婚男子最终在虚拟现实游戏中与朋友做爱。两人讨论过这种行为是否是出轨,因为沉浸式技术让他们能够感觉彼此正在相互抚摸对方。

虽然这种情景纯属虚构,但元宇宙的诞生让它变得不再是科学幻想。元宇宙是一种由虚拟现实技术驱动的交互数字世界。

最近,元宇宙获得了微软、谷歌,尤其是Facebook母公司Meta的大力投资。顾名思义,Meta正在将重心向这个新兴领域转移。有专家预测,元宇宙将像出行、工作和娱乐一样成为日常生活的一部分。

因此,恋爱关系自然延伸至元宇宙中。有些公司已经开始提供使用虚拟现实技术的约会服务,用户可以使用虚拟形象在数字世界中相互了解。

虽然元宇宙为人们恋爱和约会创造了令人激动的新的可能性,但它也带来了不确定性,还有我们尚未理解的一系列全新规则。以下是我们已经知道的信息。

为什么要在元宇宙中约会?

元宇宙应该要模拟现实生活,因此与传统约会应用相比,虚拟现实约会感觉更贴近生活。在元宇宙中有更多方式与他人结识和互动,因此更容易判断自己与某个人是否合拍。传统约会应用和视频通话只能为图片点赞、发送信息和对话,而元宇宙更好地模拟现实生活,例如在虚拟地点约会、共同参与一项活动,以及形成更有机的联系等。

Women of Sextech总裁爱丽丝·海因斯对《财富》杂志表示:“我见过虚拟现实空间帮助人们在夏威夷或咖啡厅见面。元宇宙为人们提供了更多相互联系和进行日常互动的选择。”

海因斯认为,某些群体可能成为受益者,因为元宇宙让他们更方便相互联系,无论他们生活在哪个地方。例如,通过元宇宙,美国的一名男同性恋可以与地球另一端的人见面,这意味着他有更高几率找到与自己有类似性取向的伴侣。面向LGBTQ群体提供的服务包括虚拟现实平台AltSpace VR,该平台会举办直播活动,例如LGBTQ+ & Friends见面会等。

海因斯告诉《财富》杂志:“男同性恋群体可以找到有相同性取向的人,因此与现实生活相比,他们在虚拟平台上可以与更多人互动。

约会导师格蕾丝·李建议,在虚拟现实世界中建立联系之后,将恋爱关系带到现实生活,或至少进行语音或视频通话。

性治疗师和性科技顾问霍利·里士满博士表示:“缺少了面对面交流时的潜台词,很难衡量两人之间的化学反应。对于想要发展长期关系的大多数人来说,最终还是需要从屏幕里的世界回到现实。”

元宇宙作为平衡器

约会导师李认为,虚拟现实平台作为约会中的平衡器,能够为用户提供头发、服装和配件的标准配色。

李表示:“没有花里胡哨的社区,也没有人会支付账单。虚拟现实移除了所有社会标识,只剩下语音和我们在现实生活中可能没有意识到的一些微妙的沟通技巧。”

她将元宇宙比作奈飞的约会节目《爱情盲选》(Love is Blind)。该节目的参与者不会看到潜在伴侣,除非他们承诺与对方结婚,这迫使他们更关注人的个性而不是样貌。

李表示:“在现实约会中,如果你的身高是5英尺2英寸,你通常会处于劣势,但在元宇宙中身高并不重要。”

她记得曾安排一名24岁的男子与一名32岁的女子进行元宇宙约会,相互都不知道彼此的年龄。在年龄公布之后,这名女子承认,如果事先知道对方的年龄,她根本不会把对方当真。

李表示:“这件事让她对于年龄和成熟度的假设产生了怀疑。”

哪些应用提供元宇宙约会?

Tinder和Bumble等应用将推出支持单身人士通过虚拟活动事件和在虚拟地点相互见面的服务。2021年,Match集团(Match Group)收购了社交媒体应用Hyperconnect,后者正在测试一种名为Single Town的元宇宙体验,支持用户在虚拟餐厅和酒吧中约会。Match集团CEO莎尔·迪贝认为,Single Town给人们带来的约会体验,“更类似于人们在现实世界中的互动。”

另外一款虚拟现实约会应用Nevermet可免费使用,需要用户上传虚拟形象资料与其他单身人士配对,然后进行虚拟现实约会。一名Nevermet用户在应用评价中分享了她如何通过该平台邂逅现任丈夫,这是一个很好的迹象。

这位用户写道:“我和丈夫在虚拟现实聊天中结识。我们都爱上了彼此的声音,我认为他的声音充满了朝气。然后我们开始虚拟现实约会,八个月后我们住在了一起。我们已经结婚九个月,我非常幸福。”

元宇宙中的安全性

考虑到大量网络猎食者的存在,还有许多网络交友欺骗、网络骚扰和网络欺诈的案例,因此元宇宙中的安全性是人们关心的一个重要问题。最近,一名女性的虚拟形象在Meta的虚拟现实平台Horizon Worlds上被轮奸,引发了人们对于数字世界缺少安全保障的担忧。

妮娜·帕特尔在Medium上发帖子讲述了自己的虚拟形象遭到攻击的过程:“我在加入平台60秒内,遭到了言语攻击和性骚扰。有3到4名使用男性语音的男子虚拟形象轮奸了我的虚拟形象,还拍摄了照片。我想逃离的时候,他们大喊‘别假装你不喜欢’、‘对着照片自慰去吧’。”

虽然许多人反驳帕特尔的招呼称“虚拟形象没有下体如何性侵”,但她表示,既然设计虚拟现实的目的是让人们从身心都感觉真实,因此她的“生理和心理反应如同这件事在现实世界中发生了一样。”

帕特尔是儿童教育元宇宙平台Kabuni的联合创始人。她说自己无法屏蔽骚扰者或者举报此事,因为她并不知道这些虚拟形象的真实身份。事件发生后不久,Meta增加了一项安全功能“个人边界”,防止用户侵入其他虚拟形象的个人空间。

Meta表示:“如果有人进入用户的个人边界,系统会在其触碰到边界时阻止其继续向前移动。”

Women of Sextech的海因斯与多家公司合作制定了一份行为规范,以保证边缘群体在性科技领域感觉更安全。她在接受《财富》杂志采访时表达了对元宇宙的担忧:

“我很担心元宇宙中可能发生的剥削行为。我们必须促使公司承担起责任,处理好这类事件。我们根本不清楚元宇宙的举报和监管制度。”

元宇宙中的恋爱关系指导

约会导师李利用元宇宙指导客户提高约会技巧。她的虚拟现实平台Datingverse提供私密空间,供客户一对一会面,她则会主持和观察两人的互动。

李表示,这个平台让她可以回放客户的约会,从而为客户提供反馈,与客户讨论如何改善约会时的聊天技巧。她认为,元宇宙比Zoom这类单纯的视频流媒体服务更适合约会,因为元宇宙提供了一种更类似于现实生活的体验,不会像现实世界一样因为周边环境受到干扰。

李告诉《财富》杂志:“元宇宙真正颠覆了我们如何与其他人互动,我认为其他任何媒介都难以做到这一点。”

性治疗师兼性科技顾问里士满博士表示,元宇宙为自闭症患者或严重社交焦虑症患者提供了一个重要的约会平台。她曾帮助一位在现实生活约会中过于紧张的客户,与人工智能性爱机器人进行亲密聊天。

里士满博士对《财富》杂志表示:“元宇宙等技术是开启面对面人际互动的桥梁。它们是我们的第一个联系点。”

元宇宙婚礼

元宇宙不止可以用于约会。由于疫情的影响,一对印度夫妇在元宇宙中喜结连理,举办了一场霍格沃茨风格的婚宴,有来自世界各地的6,000名来宾出席了婚宴。婚礼中还展示了新娘已故父亲的虚拟形象。

美国亚利桑那州一对已婚夫妇在热门虚拟世界Decentraland中举行了一次虚拟婚礼,一名亚利桑那州最高法院的法官作为证婚人。当地一家律师事务所整理了结婚资料,包括这对夫妻的元宇宙结婚证书和婚前约定协议,这些资料作为非同质化代币(NFT)进行了“公证”,并存放在以太坊区块链中。

美国婚姻事工(American Marriage Ministries)表示,在美国结婚需要证婚人看到夫妻双方的真实面容,因此元宇宙中的婚礼尚不具有法律约束力。目前,元宇宙中的婚礼只是一场虚拟仪式,旨在邀请无法亲自到场的人们参加虚拟婚礼。

一位美国元宇宙新娘对Euronews表示:“这项技术的优势在于,它致力于将人们聚在一起。现在我们需要做的一件事是感受到彼此之间的相互联系。”

重新定义规则

随着虚拟现实技术的持续发展,物理和数字世界之间的界限日益模糊,它带来了性体验的新机会,但也增加了出轨的可能性。随着虚拟现实色情片和触觉技术(让用户可以在元宇宙中感受到抚摸的触感)的发展,人们开始日益担忧虚拟世界的互动对现实关系的影响。

事实上,许多年前,一对英国夫妇在现实生活中离婚,因为妻子发现丈夫的虚拟形象在虚拟现实游戏《第二人生》(Second Life)中与另外一名女性的虚拟形象有染。

这需要伴侣们重新定义关系规则,确定哪些行为构成出轨。

里士满博士表示:“每一对夫妇都是不同的。定义出轨的最简单方法是自问,你的伴侣是否接受你的所作所为。如果回答是否,那就是出轨。”

元宇宙中的未来约会

视频约会应用Filteroff的开发者扎克·施雷因认为,元宇宙给约会行业带来了巨大商机,它将有助于人与人之间建立更深刻的联系。他正在努力让Filteroff登陆虚拟现实平台,并预测未来元宇宙将模糊虚拟与现实的界限,人们能够感受到彼此的存在。

施雷因对于元宇宙的发展对约会过程甚至异地关系的影响感到非常激动。

他说道:“我认为随着元宇宙的继续发展,在某个时刻将模糊面对面约会和视频约会之间的界限,你可以利用社交过程中的线索评估自己与当前伴侣或潜在伴侣之间的关系。我认为这一点非常积极。”(财富中文网)

翻译:刘进龙

审校:汪皓

In an episode of the popular Netflix show, Black Mirror, a married man ends up having sex with his friend in a virtual reality game. The two debate whether the encounter was cheating because the immersive technology had allowed them to feel like they were touching each other.

Although the above scenario is purely fictional, it is no longer science fiction thanks to the metaverse, an alternate digital world that is powered by virtual reality (VR) technology.

The metaverse has garnered big investment recently from tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and most notably, Facebook-parent Meta, which, like its new name suggests, is refocusing on the emerging space. Some experts foresee the metaverse becoming a regular part of life, including travel, work, and play.

Romantic relationships are a natural extension. Companies are already starting to offer dating services that involve virtual reality, with avatars of the daters getting to know each other inside digital worlds.

While the metaverse brings with it exciting new possibilities for love and dating, it also brings uncertainties and a new set of rules that we have yet to navigate. Here’s what we know so far.

Why date in the metaverse?

Because the metaverse is supposed to be a simulation of real life, VR dating is more life-like than traditional apps. It’s easier to gauge your compatibility with someone in the metaverse because you have more ways to meet and interact with them. Traditional dating apps and video calls limit you to liking pictures, texting, and talking whereas the metaverse better simulates real-life such as meeting in a virtual location, engaging in a shared activity, and forming a more organic connection.

Elyse Hines, who is the president of Women of Sextech, told Fortune, “I've seen VR spaces that help people meet in Hawaii or at a cafe. The metaverse gives people more chances to relate to each other and have day-to-day interactions.”

Hines thinks certain communities could benefit from the metaverse by making it easier for them to connect, no matter where they live. For example, through the metaverse, a queer individual in the U.S. can now meet another halfway across the world, which means a higher chance of finding a partner with similar sexual preferences. Services for the LGBTQ community include AltSpace VR, a virtual reality platform that hosts live events like the LGBTQ+ & Friends meetup.

“The queer community was able to connect with people on a scale much larger than in real life because they were able to find people in the same niche as them,” Hines told Fortune.

Grace Lee, a dating coach, suggested using the metaverse like “how you would use a first date Zoom call in a screening type of way.” But she acknowledges that it has limits and suggests that after developing a connection in VR, daters should take the relationship into real life—or at least a phone or video call.

“It’s so hard to gauge chemistry without the subtext of being in person. For most people who want a long-term relationship, it’s eventually going to have to move out of the screen,” said Dr. Holly Richmond, a sex therapist and sex tech consultant.

The metaverse as an equalizer

Dating coach Lee thinks VR spaces act as an equalizer in dating because they can give users a standard palette of hair, clothes, and accessories.

“There are no fancy neighborhoods and no one is paying the bill. So, all the social markers are removed and what you’re left with is the voice and the subtle things about communication that we may not realize in real life,” Lee said.

She compared the metaverse to the Netflix dating show, Love is Blind, in which participants don’t see potential partners until after they’ve committed to marrying them, forcing them to focus on the person’s personality instead of their physical appearance.

“If you're a 5’2” guy in the world of dating –typically you’re at a disadvantage –but in the metaverse, height doesn't matter,” Lee said.

She recalled matching a 24-year-old man with a 32-year-old woman for a metaverse date without them knowing each other’s ages. After the ages were revealed, the woman admitted that she would have never taken him seriously if she’d known how old he was beforehand.

“It made her question her own assumptions about age and maturity,” Lee shared.

Which apps offer metaverse dating?

Services like Tinder and Bumble are debuting services that let singles meet each other through virtual activities, events, and locations. In 2021, Match Group acquired Hyperconnect, a social media app that is testing a metaverse experience called Single Town, where users can meet at virtual restaurants and bars. Shar Dubey, CEO of Match Group, thinks Single Town gives people a dating experience that’s “more akin to how people interact in the real world.”

Another VR dating app called Nevermet, which is free to use, requires users to upload a profile of their avatar to match with other singles and go on VR dates. In a promising sign, a user of Nevermet wrote a review of the app, sharing how she met her now-husband through the platform.

“My husband and I met in VR Chat. We fell in love with each other’s voices which I think was very wholesome,” the user wrote. “We went on VR dates until I moved to be with him eight months later. We’ve been married for nine months, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Safety in the metaverse

Considering the huge number of online predators, and cases of catfishing, cyberstalking, and crypto-scams online, safety in the metaverse is a major concern. Recently, a woman’s avatar was gang-raped in Meta’s VR platform, Horizon Worlds, raising fears about the lack of security in digital worlds.

“Within 60 seconds of joining—I was verbally and sexually harassed. Three to four male avatars, with male voices, virtually gang-raped my avatar and took photos. As I tried to get away, they yelled—‘don’t pretend you didn’t love it’ and ‘go rub yourself off to the photo,’” Nina Patel, whose avatar was attacked, writes in a Medium post.

While many people dismissed Patel’s experience, arguing “avatars don’t have lower bodies to assault”, she says that since VR is designed to feel real to the mind and body, her “physiological and psychological response was as though it happened in reality.”

Patel, who also co-founded kids’ educational metaverse platform Kabuni, shared that she was unable to block the harassers or report the incident because she didn’t know the identities of the avatars. Soon after this incident, Meta added a safety feature called “Personal Boundary,” to prevent users from invading another avatar’s personal space.

“If someone tries to enter your Personal Boundary, the system will halt their forward movement as they reach the boundary,” Meta said.

Hines, from Women of Sextech, works with companies to create a code of conduct so that marginalized communities feel safer in the sex tech world. In an interview with Fortune, she voiced her concerns about the metaverse:

“I am terrified of the exploitation that could happen in these spaces. We have to hold companies responsible for how they handle these things,” she said. “As far as reporting and regulating it, we don't even know how that's going to happen..”

Relationship coaching in the metaverse

Lee, the dating coach, uses the metaverse to teach her clients to be better daters. Her VR platform, Datingverse, has private spaces where clients meet one-on-one while she moderates and observes their interaction.

Lee says the platform lets her replay dates for clients so she can provide feedback and discuss ways they can improve their dating chit-chat. The metaverse is better than purely video-streaming services like Zoom, she said, because it offers a more life-like experience free of distractions that are otherwise present in natural surroundings.

“It’s really transformational in being able to understand the way you interact with people and I don’t think we can do that in any other medium,” Lee told Fortune.

Dr. Richmond, the sex therapist and sex tech consultant, added that the metaverse would be a great stepping stone for people on the autism spectrum or those with extreme social anxiety. She recalled helping a client who was too nervous to date in real life to have an intimate chat with an A.I. sexbot.

“Technologies like the metaverse are all bridges to an in-person human connection. They are our first point of contact,” Dr. Richmond told Fortune.

Marriage in the metaverse

The metaverse is not just for dating. Because of the pandemic, an Indian couple tied the knot in the metaverse in a Hogwarts-themed wedding reception with 6,000 guests from all over the world. The bride’s late father was also present as an avatar.

In the U.S., an already-married Arizonian couple held a virtual wedding in the popular virtual world Decentraland, officiated by an Arizona Supreme Court justice. A local law firm organized the wedding documentation that included the couple’s metaverse marriage license and prenuptial agreement that were ‘notarized’ as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and stored on the Ethereum blockchain.

In the U.S., a marriage requires the officiant to see the couple’s real faces, according to American Marriage Ministries, so a metaverse wedding is not yet legally binding. For now, a metaverse marriage is merely a virtual ceremony to include people who can’t attend the event in real life.

“The advantage with this technology is that it is focused on bringing people together. And if there's one thing that we need right now, it's to feel connected to each other,” an American metaverse bride told Euronews.

Redefining the rules of relationships

As VR technology continues to progress and blur the lines between the physical and digital worlds, it presents new opportunities for sexual experiences and infidelity. With the development of VR porn and haptic technology that lets users experience touch in the metaverse, people are increasingly concerned about how virtual interactions could impact real-life relationships.

In fact, many years ago, a British couple divorced in real life after the wife found her husband’s avatar having an affair with another woman’s avatar in the VR game Second Life.

This calls for couples to redefine the rules of their relationships and what constitutes cheating.

“Because every couple is different,” Dr. Richmond says “the easy way to define cheating is by asking yourself if your partner would be okay with whatever you’re doing. If the answer is no, then it’s cheating.”

The future of dating in the metaverse

Zach Schleien, the creator of video-based dating app, Filteroff, thinks the metaverse is a huge opportunity for the dating industry and that it will facilitate deeper connections between people. He’s working to make Filteroff accessible in VR and predicts a future in which ‘the metaverse will blur into reality and people will be able to feel each other’s presence.

Schleien is excited about how these developments will affect the dating process and even long-distance relationships.

“I think as the metaverse continues to advance, at some point, there will be a blurry line between an in-person date and being on a video date and you’ll be able to pick on the social cues to gauge chemistry with your current or potential partner. And I only see that as a positive thing,” he said.

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