The Brief: Zepeto is an avatar customization and social networking app similar to, but more immersive than Bitmoji.
What Is Zepeto?
Through Zepeto, users create virtual replicas of themselves, interact with other virtual people, and customize mini virtual worlds. It is currently the top application on Apple’s App Store. Zepeto has features for detailed customization of virtual personas and worlds, the creation of stickers and images of Zepetos in various situations, and social networking.
How Does It Work?
The app uses facial recognition technology to construct look-alike 3D animated avatars based on someone’s actual appearance. Users curate their makeup, style, and decoration of their virtual bedroom-like space.
Coins are required to buy virtual clothing, furniture, decorations, hairstyles, dance moves (including a Floss/Dab combo), and other features. The coins can be purchased with real money, or aquired through the completion of certain in-app activities. These include “daily quests,” which require users to use certain aspects of the app; earning points in a game similar to Flappy Bird; watching ads; and waiting for certain periods of time.
The social networking aspect of the app allows avatars to meet Zepetos from around the world on a “Zepeto town street.” They can then “follow” other Zepetos and interact with them. Zepeto interactions include messaging but not video or voice chat. Multiple Zepetos can pose for pictures with each other through the “Photobooth” feature.
People can interact with their IRL friends through Zepeto as well. Each profile has a unique code which users can send to their friends or post on their social media, which connects their Zepetos within the app.
Is It Safe?
According to the App Store, Zepeto is suitable for ages four and up. However, the ability to chat with strangers can lead to inapropriate conversations including hate speech and bullying.
Is Zepeto Tracking You?
Unsubstantiated rumors have spread online that Zepeto is tracking users without their consent. These rumors apparently started as a joke in a group chat before going viral on Twitter. Some people claimed that they heard mysterious sounds while using the app and suggested that it may be using their phone’s microphone function without their consent. Others seem to believe that Zepeto may be secretly using the camera or location services functions. Although the app does collect some user information, there is no concrete evidence of this supposed tracking. These rumors are mostly based on hypotheticals and have been largely disproven.
Overall, Zepeto is a fun app for making avatars and having basic interactions with other virtual people. Like with other social networking apps, there are risks in sharing private information online and in interacting anonymously with strangers. As it grows in popularity, it is unclear whether Zepeto will be a short-lived trend or a longer-lasting form of entertainment and social networking.