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Alibaba Launches ‘Metaverse’ For China’s Black Friday

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Alibaba has released what it purports to be a metaverse, just in time for China’s biggest shopping event, Singles’ Day.

It’s called “Metaverse Art Exhibition,” and you can find it by searching the characters ‘元宇宙艺术展’ on Alibaba’s shopping app Taobao.

The term metaverse has gathered an enormous amount of steam this year. The technology ideally creates a virtual space where people can interact as if in the physical world, by meeting, working, playing, and building communities.

It’s one of 2021’s hottest buzzwords, and some of China’s biggest companies, like Alibaba, Tencent, and Bytedance, have been investing in spades to tap the potential of this new technology.

taobao art exhibition-metaverse

Taobao’s metaverse exhibition is in VR mode. By scrolling around, you’ll see different NFT artworks

One of the major benefits of many metaverse applications is that assets owned in the digital world are encrypted. When you own an art piece in the metaverse, blockchain technology can secure it, which helps protect your copyright as purchasing data is tracked and immutable.

The launch of Alibaba’s “Metaverse Art Exhibition” is the latest in a series of moves by the company as it aims to stay up-to-date with technological developments that are gaining speed in China.

Earlier this year, the company released images of its new digital employee AYAYI, spurring curiosity about how she would be used. Now, it seems that AYAYI may have been developed to help Alibaba’s soft launch of its metaverse.

When you enter Alibaba’s metaverse, you’ll be welcomed by AYAYI, who will be your guide in the virtual world.

In Alibaba’s metaverse, you can explore NFT artworks sponsored by particular brands, such as Burberry, Alienware, and others.

While some artworks have more than one ‘print,’ each has its own identification number, meaning it is fully protected and unique to the buyer. The earliest buyers to purchase projects from participating brands will be given an NFT art piece.

Some Chinese netizens have expressed skepticism about the importance of this new trend, just as Facebook ramped up conversations around the metaverse by changing its name to Meta.

In a thread on Zhihu, the Chinese equivalent of Quora, the top opinions are split. While the most up-voted answer states that the metaverse will create a wonderful new world where people live in peace with fewer resources consumed, others are expressing concern that it will just become another space for privileged people to become more elite.

Similarly, many believe that the technology surrounding VR and AR is still far from satisfactory, and the idea of an entire virtual world is still in its infancy.

All images via Weibo

Tian Tian
    Tian Tian is a RADII staff writer based in Shanghai. She has been writing out of love for her whole life and has previously worked for GQ and Dazed. She tries her best to understand different perspectives and absolutely loves music. In fact, she is practicing to perform a piece by John Cage (not 4’33’’) while writing this bio.
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