Italians and the metaverse, ‘this unknown’: research

Do Italians know the metaverse? Sensemakers, a consultancy firm specializing in the analysis of digital media and behaviors, carried out a research on a representative sample of the Italian population to assess the level of knowledge, perceptions and expectations on the metaverse.

Despite the widespread public debate and the interest of investing companies, the research highlights a light and dark picture in which the many potentials are associated with large areas of distrust as well as a strong degree of polarization of positions with respect to gender, age and at the level of education.

25% of Italians say they know what the metaverse is, a percentage that reaches 30% among men and drops to 21% among women; it rises up to 37% for young people in the 18-24 age group and to 33% for the 25-34 year-olds and then gradually decreases up to 17% for the 55-64 year-olds to 13% for the over 65s.

The level of schooling also significantly affects the level of knowledge: 30% of those with a high degree are compared with 19% of those with basic schooling.

It is interesting to note that 51% of respondents believe that the metaverse is not just a completely virtual and digitized environment but a parallel reality capable of affecting real life and in which they can potentially carry out the same activities of everyday life.

62% of Italians declare their interest in the metaverse, a percentage that rises to 70% for men, to 80% for young people in the 18-24 age group, but falls to 55% for women and identifies the greatest opportunities in the possibility of creating experiences by overcoming the physical space-time limits of real life (remote socialization, Always on).

However, the overwhelming majority of interviewees, equal to 80%, believe that even the main risks are to be identified precisely in the possible “escape from reality”, imagining the metaverse as a “virtual refuge” and a possible “subtractor” of time and attention from the everyday life.

For 56% of Italians, companies will do well to invest in the metaverse (22% because in the metaverse you can do things that are impossible in real life and 34% because the metaverse will simplify our work and relationships).

44% of respondents believe that companies would be better off investing in real things to solve real problems and this position is expressed by the majority (51%) of women.

According to the Italians, with a percentage of 49%, Social Networks will be the most successful in the metaverse, followed by the producers of technological devices (42%) and by online gaming companies (41%) while the companies that offer audiovisual content and those that offer e-commerce services.

It is interesting to note that, while young people believe that social networks will benefit the most, for the older age groups the most significant successes in the metaverse will be collected by the producers of technological devices.

On the other hand, the assessments of the social impacts of the metaverse are rather critical: as many as 43% believe that the metaverse will further increase the power of technological companies compared to real-life institutions (with this perception particularly pronounced on young people and on those with high levels of education ) while according to 30% of the interviewees the metaverse will amplify economic and social inequalities.

Even by virtue of these dangers only 14% imagine that the metaverse could be a completely free world without rules or codes of conduct with the only limits represented by technology. 35% believe instead that rules and codes of conduct will have to be established by the public institutions of real life themselves, 28% by the user communities and 23% by the technological platforms that will create the virtual environments.

“The metaverse is certainly one of the emerging phenomena of the digital ecosystem and, given the great interest shown by companies, we wanted to deepen the level of knowledge and expectations of consumers – comments Fabrizio Angelini, CEO of Sensemakers – It did not surprise us nor knowledge of the topic still in the consolidation phase, nor the strong polarization in terms of interest and appreciation by young people, males and highly educated. However, some signs of distrust highlighted by the female and more mature segments should not be underestimated, especially in a country like ours where the digital divide is still strong. Also because the common perception is that the metaverse could amplify imbalances and inequalities in the digital world precisely in a phase in which companies’ attention to purpose and to real-life problems is particularly high. “