July 6, 2022

Metaverse Highlights: Week of July 6, 2022

This week, we highlight the acceleration of Metaverse adoption among both incumbents and new players. Siemens and NVIDIA announced a groundbreaking partnership; Vox published a long-from interview with Meta’s president of global affairs; and Mona, a platform for creators, raised $14.6M. On the academic side, the Pew Research Center published a report on the Metaverse, and a new study shows the limits of working in VR for extended periods. Among researchers and entrepreneurs, all seek to anticipate the future of the internet in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. 

The Pew Research Center published a report on “The Metaverse in 2040.”

  • Interest in the idea of the metaverse leaped in 2021-2022, prompted in part by Facebook’s decision to rebrand itself as “Meta.”
  • This heightened interest and investment in extended reality prompted Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center to ask hundreds of technology experts to share their insights on the topic.
  • 54% of these experts said that they expect by 2040 the metaverse WILL be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally. 46% said it WILL NOT.
  • A notable share of these experts argued that the embrace of extended reality in people’s daily lives by 2040 will be centered around augmented-reality and mixed-reality tools, not in the more-fully-immersive virtual reality worlds. Experts also warned that these new worlds could dramatically magnify every human trait and tendency – both the bad and the good.

In Cointelegraph, Andrew Singer asks: Does the Metaverse need blockchain to ensure widespread adoption?

  • Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson recently moderated a World Economic Forum panel with some of the world’s leading thinkers of the Metaverse and blockchain. “The first question posed to the panel was ‘Do we need the blockchain for the metaverse?’” Bailenson, founder of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, recounted to Cointelegraph. “The consensus was that the Metaverse could exist without blockchain.”
  • “Could the next iteration of the internet exist without blockchain technology?” asked Tonya Evans, professor at Penn State University’s Dickinson Law School. “Yes, it could.” After all, distributed decentralized ledgers and cryptographically-secured assets — including smart contracts — are only one part of Web3 technology, along with AI, 3D printing, VR, augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT) and others.
  • But omitting blockchain technology, while doable, could still be a mistake. “The Metaverse without blockchains would likely just advance the ball for Big Tech,” added Evans, and it would come at the expense of those same people left behind by Web2 — “the very people a truly decentralized web would empower.”

In Forbes, Bernard Marr argues that the Metaverse will reshape the future of fashion retail.

  • Thanks to the pandemic, online shopping has never been more popular. However, there are some ways in which it falls short. For example, when it comes to fashion, customers have always appreciated the opportunity to touch, feel and try on items of clothing – an experience that online shopping has so far not replicated well. All of that is likely to change with the arrival of the metaverse.
  • In the metaverse, people will generally be represented by avatars – 3D representations of themselves that could range from cartoonish approximations to photo-realistic models, identical in just about every aspect. This means we will be able to take our avatars into “virtual dressing rooms” and virtually try on as many different items of clothing from a retailer's inventory as we wish. 
  • Additionally, retailers will also get access to a huge amount of data that can be harvested from customers as they try on clothes, just as traditional online retailers collect data as we browse websites. 
  • Another new development that has come about due to the growing popularity of the metaverse and online worlds, in general, is entirely virtual clothing.

Mona raises $14.6M to build a Metaverse platform for creators.

  • Justin Melillo, CEO of Mona, sees it as a way to build an economy for artists and collectors to meaningfully participate in a shared digital universe. Mona opened up for creators in October and it has more than 3,000 users building virtual worlds in its metaverse. The artists can turn around and sell their worlds, which are all connected in the Monaverse.
  • “Mona is a Web3 metaverse, world-building platform and network built for creators by creators,” said Melillo. “We make it super easy, and also free, for any creator to build mint and sell a high-quality virtual world as an NFT,” or non-fungible token. 
  • The company doesn’t sell virtual land or tokens. It doesn’t charge creators for anything upfront, and it is building tools, systems and protocols for the open metaverse.
  • Creators have made more than $500,000 since October by minting and then selling their tokenized virtual worlds.

New study highlights limitations of current Metaverse technology. 

  • The concept of the metaverse has been hailed by evangelists as the future of work, meetings and even the way that companies recruit workers. Yet the results of a recent experiment suggest that could still be a long way from reality. 
  • For the experiment, outlined in a paper titled Quantifying The Effects of Working VR for One Week, researchers wanted to understand the effects of working in VR for extended periods, and how this compared to work in a physical environment. 
  • They asked volunteers, who were all either university staff or researchers to spend an entire five day working week in recreated virtual reality office. It amounted to 8 hours a day, with a 45 minute lunch break. Afterwards they spent the same time in a real-world work environment. 
  • 18 university staff logged into the metaverse for an entire working week. Two of them had to drop out due to nausea, while the rest reported feeling more frustrated, anxious and said their eyes hurt by the end, New Scientist reported.  
  • The researchers note that many of the problems could fade with improvements in technology and as people get used to using the tech – the severity of eye strains also appeared to diminish as the week progressed.

In an interview with Vox, Meta top executive Nick Clegg explains Facebook’s futuristic plans for the metaverse.

  • Mark Zuckerberg is going all-in on the Metaverse, spending billions of dollars to develop futuristic technologies like neural interface wristbands and augmented reality smart glasses that will underpin this new virtual world. 
  • To better understand the promise of the metaverse and the challenges confronting it, Vox spoke with Nick Clegg, president of global affairs for Meta, who recently wrote an 8,000-word essay on the topic.
  • Clegg argues that we should be having philosophical debates about the metaverse today while much of the technology is still in its relative infancy rather than after it’s fully developed and potentially used by billions the way Facebook and Instagram are today. 
  • “One of the reasons why it is a good idea to talk about the future now rather than, in a sense, be surprised by it when it arrives is that it does allow us to have some of those early discussions about the ethical, societal, possibly even regulatory debates,” said Clegg. “And that arguably didn’t happen the last time around.”

Siemens and NVIDIA extend their partnership to bring digital twins within easy reach.

  • Silicon Valley magic met Wednesday with 175 years of industrial technology leadership as Siemens CEO Roland Busch and NVIDIA Founder and CEO Jensen Huang shared their vision for an “industrial metaverse” at the launch of the Siemens Xcelerator business platform in Munich.
  • “When we combine the real and digital worlds we can achieve new levels of flexibility and we can bring new products to market faster,” Busch said during an event at Siemens’ Munich headquarters.
  • Pairing physics-based digital models from Siemens with real-time AI from NVIDIA, the companies announced they will connect the Siemens Xcelerator and NVIDIA Omniverse platforms.
  • “With our two companies we can connect what Siemens makes with what NVIDIA makes, to AI and Omniverse,” Huang said. “We can now fuse data from the point of design, all the way through product life cycle management, all the way through the automation of plants to the optimization of the plant after deployment — that entire life cycle can now be in one world.”

Fashion’s Metaverse reality check: McKinsey’s call to caution.

  • Global spending on virtual goods reached an estimated $110 billion in 2021, more than doubling the total in 2015, with around 30 percent attributed to virtual fashion.
  • Fashion companies focused on metaverse innovation and commercialisation could generate more than 5 percent of revenues from virtual activities over the next two to five years.
  • NFTs used for authentication or loyalty tokens are likely to be most relevant for fashion players in the future.
  • Still, while the marketing value of digital fashion and NFTs may now be clear, fashion brands will need to separate hype from the concrete opportunities to generate sustainable revenue streams from the metaverse.

In The Washington Post, Theo Zenou reflects upon the legacy of Neal Stephenson’s novel “Snow Crash,” in which he coined the term “metaverse.”

  • It was the early ’90s, the internet had just been launched, and sci-fi author Neal Stephenson was already dreaming up what would replace it. He was writing “Snow Crash,” a novel about an immersive virtual realm that’s accessed by sporting VR goggles.
  • Three decades later, Stephenson’s metaverse is about to become (virtual) reality. 
  • “Snow Crash” hit bookstores 30 years ago this month and has sold a million copies in North America alone. (A special anniversary edition will be published by Del Rey in November.) The novel is like a bible to some people in Silicon Valley: Google co-founder Sergey Brin said it “anticipated what’s going to happen.”
  • Thirty years after anticipating the future, Stephenson now intends to shape it. Along with Bitcoin Foundation co-founder Peter Vessenes, he recently launched Lamina1, a start-up that will use blockchain technology to build an “open metaverse” — one that’s open-source and decentralized. The project has begun attracting investors, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

An Austin company is slowly shaping the Metaverse.

  • The metaverse is in its infancy stages, and some companies in Texas are setting the foundation for its future. Double A Labs is leading the way by helping businesses engage and train their workers through a virtual setting.
  • According to Double A, “the key differentiator is that we're a metaverse designed to help optimize businesses with their training & engagement, sales enablement, and brand experiences. Because of our B2B audience, we serve as a bridge product to help all users have an easy-to-use experience.”Double A Labs is partnered with brands such as Dell, Amazon, YouTube, Sony, IBM and more. 
  • In Double A’s metaverse you’ll see everything from augmented reality to office settings for remote workers. “We can be in a room and sit around a table with somebody and come right over and have discussions,” said Amber Allen, founder of Double A Labs. Allen says it’s not meant to take away in-person events. “We love real life events. We don’t want to replace real life events. What we want to do is bridge that gap between the time I get to see you and the next time,” said Allen.

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