March 7, 2023

Metaverse Highlights: Week of March 07, 2023

Popular publications, such as Politico, forecast that we are entering a “Metaverse Winter.” Because of the challenging macro environment, the argument goes that companies can no longer afford to experiment with the virtual world. Meta, the company that has attached its name and identity to the metaverse, is shifting to focus on AI projects. While true, this diagnosis misses the mark. For most large brands, the metaverse is a long-term investment. Yearly budgets may fluctuate, but the reality of these new technologies – and the need to be at the forefront of their development – remains non-negotiable. 

Decoupling the metaverse from Meta is good for both parties: for Meta, whose experiments have not been particularly successful, and for the metaverse, which is being adopted by players far beyond Meta and the tech sector as a whole. With backing from major firms, enthusiasm from major celebrities, and interest from top regulators, the metaverse continues its rise, slowly but surely, amid a difficult macro environment.


The bottom line: Developing the metaverse is a capital-intensive project, covering everything from the devilishly tricky hardware development business to beefing up the computing and networking infrastructure that would support it. That means even some of the tech’s most fervent evangelists and architects are adjusting their expectations amid the tough economic headwinds facing the tech industry.

The bottom line: Rhode Island’s Department of Commerce is looking for vendors to help integrate records from agencies across state government into a single blockchain-based system. The hope is that it will make it drastically easier to register a business — a task that currently requires dealing with many different agencies running their own siloed systems.

The bottom line: Smart accounts, enabled by the launch of the new ERC-4337 standard, are now available on Ethereum and are expected to help mainstream adoption by finally making crypto user-friendly. New users will no longer need to learn about complicated seed phrases or the technical process of setting up a wallet to onboard into the decentralized crypto world.

The bottom line: Neal Stephenson coined the word "metaverse" in his seminal 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. Thirty years later, the author is helping creators build the "open metaverse," a model that allows everyone to access 3D worlds through two-dimensional flat rectangles on flat screens, not goggles.

The bottom line: Today, Los Angeles-based lifestyle and activewear brand Alo Yoga is launching a collection of digital wearables. Launching initially in The Sandbox, the unisex line will then roll out for use by avatars in over a thousand metaverses and social media networks in 3D, AR, and VR, including partnerships with Zepeto, Roblox, Decentraland, ReadyPlayerMe, RecRoom, VRChat, TikTok and Snapchat.

The bottom line: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in prepared remarks before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday that Inflationary pressures are running higher than expected. Bitcoin fell about 1.6% to below $22,000 in the immediate aftermath of the release of the remarks.

The bottom line: Two Democratic senators urged Meta this week to suspend a reported plan to offer Horizon Worlds, the company’s flagship virtual reality app, to teens between the ages of 13 and 17, arguing the technology could harm young users’ physical and mental health. The lawmakers, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, called Meta’s plan “unacceptable” in light of the company’s “record of failure to protect children and teens.”

The bottom line: Mark Zuckerberg is quietly turning away from the Metaverse towards artificial intelligence. "We're creating a new top-level product group at Meta focused on generative AI to turbocharge our work in this area," Zuckerberg said. Meta will continue to develop Metaverse-related products, such as headsets, but it will be more for a target audience, such as gamers.

The bottom line: Meta is cutting prices for two virtual reality headsets as it continues trying to boost adoption for the nascent technology on which it has bet its future. The company announced Friday that it is slashing the price of its higher-end Meta Quest Pro headset by some $500, bringing its cost to $999, roughly six months after it was released. Meta is also lowering the price of its Quest 2 headset from $499.99 to $429.99.

The bottom line: Every other day, news emerges that a celebrity has dropped a new NFT collection or a commercial chain has launched a metaverse space. While much of this has been written off as a fad, the truth is that engaging fans and customers in the Web3 space comes with multiple practical benefits – and popular figures are starting to take note. This may be just the beginning of a broader change in how people use the world wide web.

The bottom line: In Japan, a country often associated with its legacy technology sector, a group of well-known tech companies agreed on Feb. 27 to forward the creation of the “Japan Metaverse Economic Zone.“ The agreement focuses on building an open metaverse infrastructure called “Ryugukoku,” which will help create interoperable tools for users and developers across various platforms. It will also serve as a new social infrastructure for enterprise digital transformation.

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