February 28, 2023

Metaverse Highlights: Week of February 28, 2023

This week, we begin with an extraordinary project: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has unveiled plans for a 400-meter tall and 400-meter wide cube city called The Mukaab, which will offer “ever-changing environments” using digital and virtual technology to create holographic images. If successful, the structure, featured in International Construction, could become the most ambitious metaverse-focused architecture project to date – and, as such, inspire other countries to invest in similar projects. 

This week also saw the appointment of a new web3-friendly Youtube CEO (Decrypt), new NFT experiments by Spotify (TechCrunch), a new NFT collection by Sportswear brand PUMA (The Crypto Times), and a new partnership between Google Cloud and the Tezos network (Coindesk). All these developments point to the sustained interest in the metaverse by top players across industries. 

As these developments occur, regulators continue to wrestle with the challenges and opportunities of new technologies. One official declared that the EU must consider non-discrimination, user safety, and data privacy when designing its metaverse policy (Coindesk). At the same time, as the US and Europe battle to attract talent and companies, regulators are trying to balance the need to regulate with the need to provide an attractive business environment for those building the internet of tomorrow (Politico).


International Construction, The Mukaab: Huge cube city planned in Saudi Arabia is part of a bigger vision

  • Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has unveiled plans for its latest mega-project – a 400-meter tall and 400-meter wide cube city called The Mukaab. The building, which the Public Investment Fund claims would be large enough to hold 20 Empire State Buildings, will be the centerpiece of a new downtown in Riyadh.
  • The Mukaab promises to be one of the largest built structures in the world. Inspired by the modern Nadji architectural style, its developers claim that it will be able to offer “ever-changing environments” using digital and virtual technology to create holographic images.

  • The cube will enclose a tower on top of a spiral base and a structure featuring 2 million square meters of floor space that will be a hospitality destination with retail, cultural, and tourist attractions. It will also feature residential and hotel units, commercial spaces, and recreational facilities.

  • Much like real-world real estate, where pricing fluctuates according to the principle of supply and demand, metaverse real estate also operates on a fixed scale. 

  • The internet itself may be boundless, but most virtual gaming universes have already been sliced and diced into a set number of parcels. As the number of buyers increases, prices also go up.

  • Financial transactions in the metaverse are handled in cryptocurrency and powered by the blockchain — a digitally distributed public ledger that eliminates the need for a third party like a bank. Despite the implosion of FTX and projections of a crypto winter, the metaverse real estate market is expected to grow by $5.37 billion by 2026.

  • Much of the virtual land rush has been at the hands of global corporations like Adidas, Atari, and Warner Music Group, who have bought spaces to create entertainment, sell goods, launch virtual headquarters, and host immersive gatherings for employees and fans.

  • After serving as YouTube’s Chief Product Officer for over seven years, Neal Mohan was appointed last week to lead the Google-owned streaming platform after former CEO Susan Wojcicki said she’d be stepping down. His ascendance bodes well for fans and advocates of web3 technologies.

  • Last year, Mohan disclosed in a blog post that YouTube was looking at ways it could integrate web3 technology, whether by “making YouTube more immersive” by leveraging the metaverse or tapping technology like NFTs, unique digital tokens that are often used to assert ownership of online content.

  • “We believe new technologies like blockchain and NFTs can allow creators to build deeper relationships with their fans,” Mohan wrote. “There’s a lot to consider in making sure we approach these new technologies responsibly, but we think there’s incredible potential as well.”

  • Fight Out is a new P2E and M2E concept protocol that assists users in reaching their fitness goals. With this protocol, users can train and complete workouts from the metaverse. 

  • The blockchain project features virtual gym chains powered by the need to offer a healthier lifestyle for everyone.

  • What separates Fight Out from other P2E and M2E concepts is that there is no need for upfront equipment purchases for users to tap into its huge earning opportunities. 

  • Users are given non-fungible token (NFT) avatars that track their real-world performance. For every exercise routine completed, users earn REPS, an in-game currency through which they can upgrade the stats of their soulbound NFT avatars and even their attire.

TechCrunch, Spotify is testing playlists that NFT holders could unlock

  • Unlocking exclusive access has been a long-held promise of a lot of NFT-based communities. And now, Spotify is helping some realize that claim with token-gated playlists.
  • According to a series of tweets by Kingship, a metaverse band signed to Universal Music Group (UMG), the streaming company is piloting playlists that could be unlocked through NFTs in certain geographies. Under the pilot, Kingship has released a special playlist that could be accessed only by Kingship key card NFT holders.

  • Kingship said that currently, this experience is only available to Android users in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand. The fact that iPhone users can’t access the feature is not surprising, given that Apple released a bunch of rules restricting the functionalities of NFTs last October.

  • Google's cloud computing operator is to become a validator on the Tezos network. Google Cloud's corporate customers will be able to deploy Tezos nodes – a type of computer that runs a blockchain’s software to validate and store the history of transactions – in order to build web3 applications on the network.

  • The integration with Tezos marks Google Cloud's latest integration with a blockchain network, the platform began running a node-hosting service for Ethereum projects in October, then shortly after that, became a validator on Solana.

  • Such integrations demonstrate tech giants' interest in blockchain and web3 projects. They may also inspire confidence in other firms interested in moving into the industry, knowing they can use infrastructure with the scale and resilience of firms like Google.

  • Sportswear brand PUMA will unveil the “Super Puma” profile picture (PFP) NFT project this month to celebrate its 75 years of existence.
  • The NFT collection from Puma is influenced by the Super PUMA comics, first published in the 1970s and followed the antics of a green cat named “Super PUMA.” 

  • The Super PUMA PFP offers a variety of interesting benefits and experiences, tokenized access to premium goods, and a direct link to PUMA’s legendary designs. PUMA will use Super PUMA across various products and initiatives, including apparel, plush toys, and comic books, all of which will be accessible to NFT holders and non-NFT holders.

  • PUMA Chief Brand Officer Adam Petrick stated, “Puma’s growing Web3 community played an important role in the launch of this new project. We listened to what our community wanted, and the Super PUMA PFP NFT is the result of that.”

  • Polygon co-founder Sandeep Nailwal said Ethereum would emerge as the dominant smart contract protocol — with all other competing layer 1s falling by the wayside.
  • Speaking to Ran Neuner on the Crypto Banter YouTube channel, Nailwal described his future vision of the crypto landscape: “I don’t think there’s going to be a multi-layer 2 environment. There’ll be a layer 1 environment; there will be one single layer 1, which is Ethereum in my mind.”

  • User activity will happen on layer 2s that interact with the Ethereum base layer, said Nailwal.

  • Neuner said, “that’s a big statement,” and asked Nailwal to clarify whether he thinks the likes of Solana, Aptos, Avalanche, and Cardano will eventually disappear.

  • Nailwal said that none of the previously mentioned protocols had demonstrated significant traction, nor have their respective layer 2s. With that, he declared that no other chain could compete with Ethereum.

  • The European Union needs to consider issues such as nondiscrimination, user safety and data privacy when considering how to regulate the metaverse, a senior European Commission official said Friday.

  • The bloc wants to avoid mistakes it says were made with internet policy in the past, as the EU’s executive arm prepares to set out its strategy on virtual worlds in a policy document due in May.

  • “We want to make sure that the developments that we see in virtual worlds are fully in line with our European values from the outset,” Yvo Volman, director of data at the European Commission's digital department, said at an event hosted by the Commission in Brussels.

  • The EU has lately set out sweeping regulations to control the ability of big companies like Google and Amazon to dominate the online space. Officials from the commission’s powerful antitrust department have already expressed concerns that similar things could occur in Web3.

  • Crypto lobbyists have a new cudgel in their intensifying battle with U.S. regulators: Europe wants their business.
  • Industry leaders are increasingly making the trans-Atlantic juxtaposition to argue for clearer regulations as U.S. agencies begin to enforce decades-old rules for trading and banking in the crypto world. Congress is nowhere near the point where it might craft a federal standard for digital currency, so regulators appointed by President Joe Biden are filling the void.

  • That’s in contrast with the European Union, which is preparing to activate new laws tailor-made for digital asset companies. Many European officials are beginning to pitch the EU as a welcoming place for crypto businesses to set up shop.

  • “We will have the best framework in the world in which companies can develop,” said Stefan Berger, the conservative German lawmaker who shepherded the EU crypto rulebook that will come into force in the second half of 2024. “We will have everything that you need for a workable market.”

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