The number of people exploring the so-called metaverse with VR equipment is growing day by day. This trend has been accelerated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, as it has provided an opportunity for people to discover ways in which they can practice physical distancing while bridging social distance in the form of avatars.

But what does "being in VR" and "living in VR" actually look like? Little is known about people's virtual lives due to the anonymous nature of the medium.

A groundbreaking report jointly authored by the Swiss cultural anthropologist and Vtuber researcher Ludmila Bredikhina (@BredikhinaLand) and the self-professed "world's first" independent Vtuber and HTC VIVE brand ambassador Virtual Girl Nem (@nemchan_nel) from Japan provides much-needed insights.

Reproduced with permission from Virtual Girl Nem (@nemchan_nel)

Analyzing 1,197 answers to a large-scale worldwide study conducted between August 23rd and September 9th, 2021, the team created a report that visualizes the lifestyles of VR users, not only presenting trends in the ways people use VR but also shedding light on the different aspects of VR users’ unique lifestyles, such as romantic relationships and phantom sense.

Summary of Findings

The report is divided into three parts, a VR Lifestyle Report examining social VR utilization trends, avatar appearances, and vocal communication methods, a VR Love Report focusing on love and romantic relationships in VR environments, and a Phantom Sense Report on VR avatar communication and phantom senses (experiencing pseudo sensations during a VR experience that should only be audiovisual).

VR Lifestyles

Reproduced with permission from Virtual Girl Nem (@nemchan_nel)

  • Regardless of country, VRChat is the most popular social VR platform.
  • Social VR is primarily used to "socialize with friends." However, usage purpose varies by platform.
  • Almost half of the respondents accrued more than 500 hours of total usage time and spend over three hours a day in VR
  • Regardless of country or platform, most respondents use a pseudonym
  • Regardless of biological sex, approximately 70% of avatars have feminine appearances
  • Humanoid-type is the most common avatar type but percentages vary by platform and a wide variety of avatars exist
  • About 17% of respondents modify their voices using technologies such as voice changers. More than half of those users modify their voices to sound more feminine

VR Love

Reproduced with permission from Virtual Girl Nem (@nemchan_nel)

  • About 40% of respondents have fallen in love in VR. The ratio correlates with overall usage time and exceeds 76% with long-time users.
  • In order of preference, more than half of respondents are attracted to other users' personalities, followed by their visual characteristics and their voices
  • For about 75% of respondents, biological sex is not essential in VR love. However, this varies by platform and country of user
  • About 30% of respondents had a romantic partner in VR. The ratio correlates with overall usage time and exceeds 76% with long-time users
  • Among those who have VR lovers, about a third have the same partner in physical reality
  • Most respondents have only one partner in VR

Avatar Communication and Phantom Sense

Reproduced with permission from Virtual Girl Nem (@nemchan_nel)

  • About 75% of respondents keep less distance between themselves than in physical reality
  • While about 74% often engage in skinship, approximately 43% experience being uncomfortable in some situations
  • About a third of respondents have experienced intercourse in VR. The ratio correlates with overall usage time and exceeds 2/3 with long-time users
  • As for phantom sense, approximately 75% of respondents feel falling sensations and 45% feel tactile sensations. The sensation ratios generally correlate with overall usage time
  • The senses are correlated. Similar sensations, such as breath and tactile sensations are felt together
  • Tactile sensations are commonly experienced by visible limbs, such as hands and face

To see the complete report in all its details, visit the portal site here.

By - Ben K.