The stories of human societies always revolve around social interactions. It seems that the metaverse is arousing another revolution in the social space, foreshadowing innovative modes of socializing and social relationships. Nevertheless, the future of the metaverse is still a mystery and calls for efforts from all industries. Zhang Lu founder and CEO of Soul App, is one of the pathfinders in the social metaverse. Under her leadership, SOUL, already a popular social networking platform among Gen Z, is illuminating a lamplight in the mist of the social metaverse.

Zhang Lu’s insight into the social metaverse

Although the public recognizes that technological innovations are the building blocks of the metaverse, not many are aware that it is the social attributes that constitute the framework around which the metaverse is established. A metaverse can be a virtual space for gaming, entertaining, or even learning. But most importantly, the metaverse should be a social venue in which individuals are able to interact with each other and cultivate the same affections they experience in real-life social interaction. The term social metaverse reveals one of the core values of the metaverse.

The metaverse is an epitome of the real world and relationships and modes of interactions are mapped into the virtual space. There comes the question. What are the underlying social needs that are desired by all? In Zhang Lu’s view, authenticity is valued in social connections, both in the real world and in virtual space. She wants to introduce a social networking product that provides a comfort zone for individuals to freely express their ideas, share their daily life and dive into new relationships with people who share the same value.

SOUL is designed based on this logic and SOUL’s unique features are its secret weapons to capture a young generation. For instance, newcomers to SOUL are invited to take a personality test and they will be subsequently transmitted to planets where they can find users with compatible values. They get the chance to know each other through video calls or voice calls. Every user is allowed to make 100 random voice calls to other users and 20 video calls each day. Video call is a recently launched feature and is widely welcomed among Soulers. When users make video calls, they wear an AR mask that displays their facial expressions, without worrying that they may be judged by their appearances. As a result, in the social metaverse brought by SOUL, users enjoy a more authentic and less stressful social experience.

SOUL, metaverse explorer empowered by high-technology

Apart from Zhang Lu’s vision into the trend of metaverse development and insights into the social needs of a whole generation, SOUL’s development is deeply rooted in its R&D innovations. Relevant data shows that SOUL invested 97.3 million CNY in R&D in 2019 and the number reached 4.149 million in 2021. Under the leadership of Zhang Lu, investments at the technical level lay the foundation for building a social metaverse.

So far, SOUL’s technological development has gone through four stages. In the early stage of development, SOUL built a stable system that mainly concentrated on the underlying features like instant matching and content recommendation. In the second stage, SOUL launched the recommendation system 1.0, IM technology, and improved its big data storage and calculating capacities. After these achievements, SOUL turned to the development of AI capabilities and introduced better group chats and voice call experiences. Currently, SOUL has put great investment in 3D-related graphics rendering and interactive technology, and vision-related AR perception algorithms. Simultaneously, the use of AI to connect individuals and a strong recommendation algorithm remain SOUL’s key driving force of development.

Recently, SOUL introduces its self-developed NAWA Engine to the market. NAWA engine is an integrated SDK that combines AI, rendering and image processing. It allows users to customize their virtual avatars based on their real persona. With the support from NAWA engine, users are able to experience a new life in the sphere of social metaverse with a rejuvenated virtual identity, which is considered the first step into the metaverse. According to the R&D team, NAWA engine is expected to further integrate users with social scenarios to cultivate a more immersive metaverse. NAWA engine, therefore, is a huge leap forward for SOUL and a benchmark in SOUL’s development. 

Social interaction is a constant theme in the stories of human societies. Whether in virtual reality or in real life, what people aspire for in social life remains the same. Though time will change, people from different ages value the same kind of authentic connections and long for support from kindred spirits. This is the belief that supports Zhang Lu. She managed to establish a virtual space where people share the freedom to cultivate intimate relationships with like-minded souls. As a pioneer in the social metaverse, Zhang Lu, along with her team, will introduce more technological innovations to construct a better social metaverse for all.

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