Newborn Town, a little-known mainland Chinese company focused on social apps for markets outside China, wants to help people hook up in the metaverse.
After launching beta testing last November, the Hong Kong-listed company released more details on Thursday about a feature called Meta Town, that will be incorporated into its dating app Yumy.
The app has had over 30 million worldwide downloads since launching in early 2021, with some of the best performing markets being Egypt, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Britain, according to the company, which was founded in 2009.
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Users taking part in the beta test have been able to create avatars based on their photo, find other virtual figures, and engage in audio conversations that are supported by artificial intelligence-powered translation. The latter function allows users who speak different languages to have “barrier-free, immersive social experiences”, the company said in a statement.
“The metaverse is the future of social networking,” Wei He, vice-president of Newborn Town, said in the statement. “We will keep exploring technological innovation and applications . and bring experiences that are authentic, efficient and immersive.”
The company said it will partner with Digital Dream Valley, the Chinese firm behind a virtual version of the late Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng for a new year gala presented by state-owned Jiangsu Broadcasting Corp, to develop virtual characters and 3D social scenarios.
Newborn Town also owns video networking app Yiyo, social live-streaming app MICO and audio networking app YoHo. The group’s products were downloaded 254 million times in the first half of 2021, according to the company’s financial report.
A fund created by Newborn Town has also stated its intention to take the Nasdaq-listed Chinese LGBT dating app Blued private.
In addition to gradually adding more metaverse features, Meta Town also aims to be compatible with virtual reality equipment in the future.
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A host of dating apps have tapped into the metaverse trend – whether for product design or marketing purposes – to make the online dating experience more immersive.
Match Group, which owns popular dating apps Tinder and Hinge, announced last November that it was working with South Korean-based Hyperconnect to create a virtual world named “Single Town”. Similar to Yumy’s Meta Town, singles can interact and engage in audio conversations in virtual locations, but it is unclear whether interpreting services are provided.
Soul, a Tencent Holdings-backed social networking app targeting millennials and Gen-Z users, called itself “the social metaverse” in its prospectus last May, when it was seeking an initial public offering in the US. Those plans were put on hold a month later after it said it found “alternative financing”.
As well as being able to chat with others via audio, Soul users can create themed chat rooms for activities like exam preparation and sandbox-style board games.
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.