Dating in the metaverse is even worse than dating in New York

I had a first date, but I was wearing a sweatshirt, no makeup, my hair was wet, and I was sitting on my couch at home.

My partner, Steve, has no body. He just had a floating face and pale hands.

“Strange to be a white man,” he joked. It crossed my mind that I didn’t know what he really looked like, his age, or even his real name. We were on a blind date in the metaverse, and my avatar interacted with Steve’s avatar at a virtual rooftop bar, while I was sitting in my Manhattan apartment.

Steve and I were paired with Foretell Reality, an app that creates a VR world for a wide variety of interactions, including therapy, business meetings and, now, dating coaching.

Reporter Adriana Diaz had a mock first date on Metaverse with New York-based dating coach Grace Lee and a guy named Steve.
Stephane Yang |

I was preparing for my big metaverse date just as I would prepare for any date: FaceTiming, my best friend, who also lives in New York, was in anticipation. I really had no idea or expectation to share, which made me nervous. I had no idea what guy I was pairing with, although before the date I sent my “datingverse” coach, Grace Lee, a brief summary of what I was looking for, especially an outgoing, career- oriented male. .

Diaz creates an avatar just like him, but users can be creative in the metaverse with options with snake eyes or dress like a vampire.

A few minutes before the set start time for the date, I put on my Oculus headset and took out my controllers. In the Foretell Reality app, I created an avatar that vaguely resembled me, then entered a private virtual room.

There I entered a code that Lee gave me. This quickly took me to an outdoor rooftop bar with views of the sea and the city skyline. It was viewed from a mid-century video game. It’s not clear I can hear people chatting around me – a looping track playing through the Oculus headset – and as I turn around I see a virtual bar where a bartender’s avatar is making drinks.

Lee greeted me on the rooftop, the long black ponytail on his avatar clearly reminiscent of photos of him I saw on Instagram. Soon, a blond -headed man appeared in the seat next to me. A tag floating over his head reads Steve.

We say hello, and then Lee explains how to date in the VR world. He turned us to look “in the eye”. VR headsets don’t have the technology to read and display facial expressions, so I looked at Steve’s slightly curved, blank animated brown eyes trying to make some kind of connection. But I didn’t feel it; just awkward.

Adriana, Steve, and Grace Lee of Metaverse
Former coach Grace Lee conducts fake dating and criticizes conversations to help Adriana and Steve learn to communicate better without relying on facial expressions or body language.

Lee explains that the lack of facial expressions and full body language in VR means we have to rely on our verbal communication. But we can also use hand gestures by placing our controllers and moving our hands in front of the headset.

Lee then presented the plan. He would ask us two questions and then disappear from our sight as Steve and I talked for a few minutes. And – no pressure! – everything will be recorded so Lee can come back and criticize us.

Lee’s first questions were “What’s your favorite TV movie?” and “How are you?”

I mentioned my excitement for the final season of “Grace and Frankie”. Steve, who speaks in a deep voice that may or may not be digitally modified, was talking about his favorite anime movie, which I wasn’t really interested in.

Then we got personal and I found myself a bit hesitant. Steve opens up about how COVID, acting and his work have ruined his love life.

“I wish I had some great stories for you,” he said. I tried to make him feel good, agreeing that it was hard. Actually, I have a lot of funny dating stories about the pandemic, but I’m tired of sharing them. I was afraid Steve would be scared of stories about how hard my love life was. I quickly changed the subject.

Adriana and Steve chat on Metaverse
Metaverse dating coaching is a great option for those who want to improve their dating and communication skills, but are afraid to meet in person.

We then talked about Mike Tyson beating a fan, Steve growing up in Michigan, and my family’s love of the game. At one point, we were stuck on a strange tangent while talking about ball debutants, and Lee whispered into my headset that I needed to change the subject.

Lee then went back to the screen and replayed part of our date, scolding us and watching when the conversation stopped and if things felt natural and quick.

Steve admits that some of his jokes (like testing me about going to my friend’s debutante ball) don’t fail and he relies on comedy to avoid personal.

Lee noticed that I was constantly echoing Steve’s loudness and speech in an unconscious attempt to comfort him – a good thing. But, sometimes, I let him linger on a unique topic (once again, ball debutants).

Then it was time to say goodbye. I picked up my headset, abruptly ending the date. It’s not a romantic interlude, but it’s a learning experience.

And that’s exactly Lee’s goal. He doesn’t expect people to fall in love-and won’t connect with users afterwards unless they specifically ask-but wants to help them learn how to communicate better.

I didn’t ask to see Steve again-if that was his real name-or sleep dreaming to feel his floating avatar head. But I can’t wait to apply some of what I’ve learned in the metaverse to real life.

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