June 20, 2022

Metaverse Highlights: Week of June 20, 2022

This week, we highlight articles presenting the Metaverse as an extension of the real world – for good and bad. Nasdaq’s opening bell rang in the Metaverse for the first time, showing us that the bridges between the physical and the virtual are being built as we speak. For companies like luxury fashion brands, virtual avatars represent a complementary market to be harnessed. But critics worry that web3 will accelerate the problems plaguing web2 – lack of inclusivity and privacy concerns, in particular – just as it amplifies web2’s most desirable features. 

It was bound to happen: Nasdaq opening bell rings in the metaverse for the first time

Nasdaq opening bell rings in the Metaverse for the first time

  • Journey, a design consultancy that works in both the physical and virtual world, partnered with Nasdaq and Core for a dual bell-ringing ceremony in celebration of the launch of its Metaverse Studio.
  • Journey also announced the opening of “virtual offices” on several metaverse platforms, including the aforementioned Core Metaverse, Decentraland, The Sandbox, Roblox, and Fortnite Creative.
  • Virtual currencies may be taking a beating as of late, but virtual worlds are alive and well—and even the stock markets are starting to take part.
  • Bringing Nasdaq’s opening bell ceremony into a virtual world is the surest sign yet that investors will soon need to start paying serious attention to all things metaverse.

Metaverse Real Estate: Is the Virtual Reality Property Worth the Cost?

Realtor Magazine asks: Is the Virtual Reality Property Worth the Cost?

  • Metaverse real estate can be purchased similarly to how you would purchase an NFT. Just as NFTs are, real estate in the metaverse is bought with cryptocurrency. After the transaction is complete, you receive a unique piece of blockchain code, which serves as a deed of ownership.
  • Virtual real estate values fluctuate depending on demand, but they have been showing an upward trajectory so far. When Decentraland, one of the “big four” of metaverse real estate owners, held its first auction in 2017, a parcel of land cost just $20. By 2021 they were selling for $6,000, and at the start of 2022, they rose in price to about $15,000.
  • Right now, metaverse real estate looks like a terrific investment. As prices rose by as much as 300% in just four years, it seems like a great way to get rich quick.
  • However, there are risks involved. It’s a relatively new entity and it’s hard to say how successful some platforms may be over the long term. Privacy and security can also play roles in yielding losses.

Balenciaga, Prada, and Thom Browne Will Dress Your Meta Avatar

Balenciaga, Prada, and Thom Browne enter the Metaverse fashion space.

  • So far, much of metaverse fashion has been grounded in the experimental and exceptional—clothing unbound by the laws of conventional physics. But avatars are about to get a big—and quite realistic—style upgrade courtesy of Meta and Balenciaga, Prada, and Thom Browne. The three brands will launch garments for Meta Avatars for purchase in the Meta shop soon.
  • “It's been a long year working on something that’s really, truly been a passion project,” said Eva Chen, the head of fashion partnerships at Meta.
  • Joined on Instagram live by Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, Chen unveiled each potential new look on a print-out for Zuckerberg to respond to, showcasing how seamlessly runway fashion could translate to Meta avatars. “This is probably the only fashion show that I will ever be near,” said the founder with a laugh. 

Sports Fans Twice as Likely to Buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, NFTs

Sports fans are twice as likely to buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, NFTs.

  • A Seton Hall University survey of 1,500 U.S. adults showed 57% of households with an avid sports fan have owned digital assets, compared with 24% without one.
  • The world of sports is becoming more saturated with cryptocurrency advertisements, sponsorships, and collaborations every day, and those appear to be pushing more people into the Web3 space.
  • Celebrities such as Matt Damon who’ve appeared in commercials promoting cryptocurrency likely have had something to do with that. The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched television events of the year, and this year's game included spots from eToro, Crypto.com, and FTX seen at home by more than 100 million U.S. viewers, according to Nielsen.
  • Non-fungible tokens—blockchain-verified proof of ownership of digital or actual items—have created a fresh avenue for companies and sports leagues to connect with fans and turn everything from ticket sales to pictures of sneakers to video clips into collectibles.

Racism Could Ruin the Metaverse if Tech Doesn’t Improve Diversity Now, CTO Warns: ‘It Absolutely is a Problem’

“Racism could ruin the metaverse if tech doesn’t improve diversity now,” CTO warns.

  • The tech industry’s disappointing track record on issues of diversity could have serious consequences when the metaverse comes along. For years, tens of millions of people of color have endured unwelcome experiences on social media platforms built by mostly white and male tech CEOS, including harassment and hate speech. Many users have also had their contributions regularly ignored or copied without attribution.
  • If those issues follow users into the metaverse, a concept championed largely by those same tech CEOs, today’s online abuse could become significantly more visceral and damaging.
  • “When you don’t have people at the table who have historically suffered harms or abuses, or who have to live with certain things in the back of their mind, then you don’t build platforms in a way that protects those people,” says Jeff Nelson, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Blavity, an online media company geared toward Black millennial creators. “You build platforms that can be used by people who want to extend harm to others, [and can] do so at scale.”

If the Metaverse is Left Unregulated, Companies May Track Your Gaze and Emotions

  • The companies that once harnessed psychological research to design products that would hold the user’s attention are now probing how to build a new business—the metaverse—around neurological science.
  • One way of thinking about the move from the internet we know today to the metaverse is as a move from observation to participation. Another way to think of the metaverse is as an entire world of surveillance. Meta has already patented technology to build eye tracking and facial expression tracking into the optical equipment worn to access the metaverse. These and other tracking capabilities mean that hooking oneself up to a metaverse device could be more revealing than hooking up to a lie detector.
  • All this raises serious new questions about what the standards for metaverse company behavior should be and whether governments on either side of the Atlantic are prepared or capable of dealing with that question. Now is the moment to consider what we want our digital world to look like going forward. 

A Picture-perfect Metaverse is Years Away. Meta’s Prototypes Prove it.

In the Washington Post, Chris Velazco argues that Meta’s prototypes prove that picture-perfect metaverse is years away.

  • By Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s admission, Starburst (the prototype) is “wildly impractical” in its current form. To truly blur the line between the physical and the virtual — or passing the “visual Turing test,” as some researchers say — Meta has to clear some serious hurdles. Future headsets need to be sleeker than the ones we have now, and yet more capable. And the screens inside them need to be sharper, smarter, and brighter than anything out there right now.
  • Think of your TV, or your computer monitor: the higher the resolution, the crisper and more realistic things displayed on them look. But the tiny screens inside current VR headsets can’t get close to that crispness — they have too few pixels, stretched across too wide a space.
  • “There are currently no display panels that support anything close to retinal resolution for the full field of view of VR headsets today,” said Michael Abrash, chief scientist at Meta’s Reality Labs division.

The Metaverse Lures Brands Like Nike and Gap With New Ways to Market and Make Money

The Metaverse lures brands like Nike and Gap with new ways to market and make money. 

  • Though companies are making forays into transacting business in the metaverse, for now much of the activity there is focused on marketing to generate sales in the real world. For example, musicians are performing concerts on virtual stages to promote their albums, much like clothing brands are participating in virtual fashion shows to drive interest in their latest duds. 
  • American clothing retailer Gap Inc. in January started selling digital hoodies, in the form of NFTs—an early test of what doing business in the metaverse could look like for the company. The first batch of NFT hoodies quickly sold out when they were released, the company says. Gap released more in April and a set of other NFTs in June.
  • The company says it plans to continue releasing virtual-clothing NFTs in the near future and potentially work with more digital platforms. “As more people spend time in virtual spaces, we believe it’s important for us to go along this journey with our customers,” says Avery Worthing-Jones, Gap’s head of product management. “We are going through the discovery process of understanding what is meaningful to our customers and what experiences we can drive through the metaverse that will enhance and augment these experiences.”

Tim Sweeney, the Fortnite game creator, says that his company Epic will fight Apple and Google to keep the metaverse open.

  • Online game Fortnite is arguably the closest thing to the metaverse that exists today. Some 70mn gamers immerse themselves in its digital world each month to engage in ‘Battle Royale’ fights. But virtual concerts, talk shows, and the ability simply to hang out with friends have transformed Fortnite into something beyond a game: a preview of what digital platforms could look like beyond the smartphone, as virtual world and real life merge. 
  • Fortnite’s parent company, Epic, increasingly sees the game as an open ecosystem where other developers can distribute their content. But in a candid interview with the FT’s San Francisco correspondent Patrick McGee, Epic chief executive Tim Sweeney expressed his concerns that tech giants Apple and Google could “unfairly” extend their “stranglehold” on smartphone platforms to “dominate all physical commerce taking place in virtual and augmented reality.”
  • For Sweeney, tech giants must not be allowed to use monopoly power to dominate new platforms, as they do with smartphone apps


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