SenseTime’s co-founder Xu Li shared his vision and insights on digital natives of the metaverse and how their habits can redefine business models in the immersive virtual world. This keynote speech took place on Sept. 21 at the Beyond Expo 2022 tech conference, held online at BEYOND Metaverse.

The text below has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Xu Li, co-founder of SenseTime.

Digital natives of the metaverse

In 2020, Travis Scott’s virtual concert on Fortnite attracted 100 million views from 23 million audiences, generating $20 million in revenue. The show is completely virtual. Why did it attract so many consumers?

We have to talk about it from the perspective of the metaverse natives. From their views, the barrier between the real world and the virtual one is thin. The difference between both worlds can be torn down fairly easily. 

In the traditional internet era, the distinction between the virtual online world and the offline world has always been clear. There is a very clear boundary when people surf online. I remember when we, the first generation [of netizens,] surfed online, we had to dial via modem to get connected, a ritualistic process. But today, in the mobile internet era, we are connected all the time, with all devices.

And that’s why we’re suddenly talking about the word – metaverse – today. The old internet world wasn’t that real. In many cases, it’s not exactly like the real world. So you won’t think of it as a universe. But now, the virtual world is reaching a new level in digitization, vividness, and interactivity, further blurring the boundary between the digital world and the physical world.

And that leads to a new generation of digital natives who do not experience difference [between the two worlds].

Willing to spend on virtual identity

Metaverse natives identify themselves with virtual goods. They are not just buying the things, but an icon, an identity for themselves. 

For example, when we play games in virtual scenes, we may need to enter with an avatar, creating our own digital image.

Since everyone would want a unique identity, even in the virtual world, we want to create our own characteristics. Many of the purchases in the metaverse are driven by people wanting to express their personalities to the outside world. 

Many people would ask whether the metaverse has big commercial potential. I foresee new disruptions to the core business models in the internet age as long as productivity tools and interactive experiences keep improving. 

We can think about what a platform company can do for today’s internet: social networking, searching, e-commerce, and traditional games. In the metaverse, all the current business models on the internet can be redefined. If we think about new business opportunities from the viewpoint of metaverse native, we will get to wilder imaginations.

Ward Zhou

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a]technode.com or Twitter @zhounanyu.