It’s a new week in our lovely metaverse, and that means lots of new sad and thought provoking (and also crap) news. I’m writing a book all about it at the moment so you can outsource all your thinking and opinion to me and Metacrun.ch. See? We’re here to help.
Diggin’ the Earth
I am a really big believer that metaverse, virtual platforms and worlds are predominantly opportunities to engage in social activities, but also can be used for a variety of different verticals. It wasn't until Sweden opened the first embassy in the whole world to place itself inside a digital space. Yes, Sweden. It was as far back in 2007 that I realised I wasn’t the only one who started to think that maybe we needed to explore the possibility of creating digital twins of this entire planet. Every time someone announces a digital twin of something environmental or sovereign I get a) excited and b) realise that everything is fragmented leaving traces around the world, in various universities or sitting in various city engine groups.
We can do quite a lot with the data, information and aesthetics that we have made in trying to preserve the planet with this incoming climate armageddon. However, no one feels this more than Tuvalu. It might be one of those far off distant places in our imagination filled with beautiful tropical atolls, and banana plantations, pineapple trees and general sunshine and blue skies from horizon to see yet, Tuvalu is preparing for total destruction. It has seen sea levels rising catastrophically over the last few years; and had announced in the recent COP27 event that it wants to create a digital twin of itself to preserve itself for the future. You know, in case something happens to the island. A lot of people saw this as being a PR stunt, gimmick or whatever. However, listening to Foreign Minister Simon Kofe it’s hard to deny that Tuvalu is going to be the first digital nation. The ocean is rising, swallowing their lands in its ebb and flow. Whilst I believe that this is a good idea, and way more successful other than adopting a process of faith to be able to save Tuvalu and its neighbouring islands; I do feel that the digital twin really has got to be that. The problem with creating these process twins (simulations) rather than product twins (NFTs etc) is that these aren’t for entertainment, which is why you are here. This isn't anything new. Al Gore started talking about Digital Earth in the 90s but from the perspective of knowledge and information, and smart cities exist from here to Singapore and beyond. Don’t you think this is a really great idea? A responsible government needs to ensure that they have a plan in place. Can we help them?
There’zelot to Unpack
I like to partay, everybody does. When the pandemic came we had to get creative, but it was still possible to partay and for me only two standout gigs happened (unless you count the online Hamlet at the RSC) Event A: I present the Hacienda all dayers. Sacha Lord kept the nightclub scene alive in Manchester by getting us to pay to listen to Mike Pickering, Peter Hook and Orbital. Take my money Sacha. I would do it all over again in different circumstances. It was well organised and just awesome. In my lovely adopted city of Zurich, there was something bubbling under the surface of lockdown too back then. Event B: Ozelot’s Community Stream with DJ Ozerotto. To me this felt like a once in a lifetime moment to go into this amazing hybrid rave type situation during lockdown, and I say hybrid because it was cross platform. The guys were located in a basement in Zurich, and we were watching the event live on Twitch, Youtube and the web. I think I watched it on Twitch and the web because I wanted to see closeups of the ugly/cute Ozerotto. This stream was made in Cinema 4D with the support of their collective and fans. It was 100% DIY and I’m sure they’ll agree that because everything happened so fast, with the exception of broadcast quality Ozerotto’s design was the result of moving fast rather than anything massively funded or thought through. We were in lockdown! So I was surprised to read that Fatboy Slim just did a rave. Not in 2020 during lockdown, he did it last week in not-lockdown. I'm so surprised that we haven't come any further or that nothing happened in between 2020 and now to be able to enhance both what Ozelot did first and what Fatboy Slim is doing now. So I think that it's great that we can look at the potential for business in VR. But I still believe that this approach is very limited, and it's limited by design, because nobody's really looking around and seeing good practice being done in this space (except for Ozerotto on literally NO budget). If this is the first time that anyone's noticed good practices in music events then they haven't been looking hard enough. And sorry to rant about this but that’s exactly what this metaverse crap is becoming. A lazy, poorly thought out ego wank resulting in a long expensive piss down a dark endless drain.
Speaking of dark drains, when I see a headline which says “NHL launches dynamic Metaverse experience on Roblox”, I just want to die. I’m writing this because I want the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup this year please. I don’t ask for much and certainly have not asked for an NHL brand activation in Roblox. There are probably 20 different Korean why memes in my head right now and I’m going nowhere near NHL Blast. Like ever. I am not 10 years old. Roblox, why do you keep doing this? Why do you keep skewing your aesthetics down to Ben10? This virtual hockey themed community space NHL Blast will connect fans around the world, but not this one. I really like high sticking and sin bins so it’s simply not going to feature in my playoffs strategy. Will anybody want to do this apart from a bunch of kids? TV, Beer and a foam finger or two, read into it how you will.
Walls and windmills
No sooner than I wrote an article about the role of AI in China's industry 4.0, did a new article appear. This one is about turning our attention towards the Chinese government who are being strategic and setting rules to govern what can go on in cyberspace. Listen, the point about the metaverse is that it should be open and decentralised; what it does not need is another set of goddamn rules that creates, effectively, a walled garden. But China's version of the metaverse is aimed at putting tech to work in supporting the economy. It’s no bad thing. So therefore, it's understandable that they will want to put some kind of rules and specific business cases in as to how their Metaverse is going to be built, but it's also obvious that it's going to be very much a government led concept. It's not going to be something that can be ambiguous, and it was never going to be something that's socially ubiquitous either, because in December 2021 China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, defined the metaverse as consisting of three elements: digital twins, mixed reality and the blockchain. However, the authorities effectively banned crypto currencies in September 2021 and really just helped to decouple virtual spaces from digital assets.
Gaming plays a really important part of what happens next in the metaverse as a whole (not just for the socialites) and I think China is going to find a great deal of pressure moving forward in terms of how they are going to be able to operate gaming tools, processes and experiences inside virtual platforms; and inside virtual worlds and universes. But the 14th 5-year plan, which is Beijing's economic strategy document from 2021 to 2025, includes digital twins as a priority. So perhaps I see this as being a rule driven Nvidia Omniverse style set up with Blockchain being the powerful force of tech behind the more creative digital twins and mixed reality.
The Wafer Thin Mint Effect
Last week saw the UK Competition and Markets Authority the CMA block Microsoft's Metaverse related purchase of Activision Blizzard. I’m happy about this. It’s ok that Microsoft had started to build a metaverse before the pandemic, because that much is very true. But any acquisitions that they make inside this market space is very, very important to them going forward. Cloud gaming for them is huge and the acquisition would have made it even bigger. I, for one, am sick of it. In terms of their front facing, consumer focus of what they will build on the tech side, they pretty much have this wrapped up. They're engaged heavily in building digital twin platforms and mixed reality platforms using voxel. However, Microsoft cannot change the decision of the UK CMA. In my opinion, the games industry including Activision Blizzard (a video game holding company), has got to be monopoly free.
It's hard enough trying to make a game without trying to find a destination or distribution platform for it. Thank the gods for people like Gabe Newell, who gave us Steam, because it was so difficult to apply to distribute anything through Nintendo, Sony and yes, Microsoft back in those days. See, these consoles have been incredibly elitist, look around you at GDC or Gamescom and it’s guys backslapping guys and signing contracts. The games industry is one of the hardest markets to crack on both sides. But Steam was the first platform that allowed us to be truly creative in what we could make and if you cast your mind back that included middleware. Something that Epic’s Marketplace does now. Steam would greenlight games, and because of that, there is much more autonomy in the spaces, allowing people to be able to create indie versions or wish lists of their games. It’s my fear that the spirit of creativity will be completely destroyed if Microsoft swallows up yet another game studio and controls the gaming market by percentage points.
I just think these huge console and publishing related companies are just becoming jealous gods. How on Earth we're going to be creative in a future where the push back on even decentralisation is evident because it doesn’t serve the shareholders is a massive backward step.
Statistics, Statistics and Headlines
Recently I found out that I'm 47% Irish. I was really surprised to discover that I was 47% Irish because it was a very clear 47% Irish on one side of my family that I didn't even know had Irish roots. The other 53% is metaverse, so that’s good.
But it is quite interesting to read that half of Irish adults don't even know what the metaverse is. However this factoid was obscured by a strange pivot to the Zucc and Meta. Here’s the news; half of Irish adults are oblivious to what the metaverse is according to a survey and the abstract or sub-header reads: Meta founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg insists project not shelved in favour of artificial intelligence. Dear Irish Times, the metaverse is not Facebook and Meta is not the metaverse. Kthxbye.
We Need to Talk about Mark (Again)
I am not here to defend the Emperor of Analytics. I will defend the Zucc over shit headlines though, every time. Let’s get this straight. Meta Inc., is a multinational technology conglomerate. It is not your whipping boy for whether or not the company spends on the metaverse or on XR. This project is not shelved in favour of artificial intelligence. These are two cheeks of the same arse. It’s true, he publicly went off the metaverse a bit because he gambled on it at the wrong time and shot his business load way too early (that’s gross) but as a CEO, he has to answer to his board and all his shareholders. So he’s half in the metaverse and all in AI, this financial year. But every financial year for Meta Inc,. will be the same—it is a service to be able to engage in online advertising. Nothing more. How it does that is through the various platforms and devices it has acquired but there is nothing more to read here.
Meta’s Reality Labs “news” reports a $3.99bn operating loss in the first quarter of 2023 after losing $13.72bn last calendar year, the future of Meta Inc,. looks alright.
You know, not that many startups do great in their first few years, and Facebook has changed its name to Meta Inc. That's true. Meta Reality Labs are not as mature as Facebook itself, and if they are a bi-product of Facebook buying Oculus, so we've got to give them a bit more of a chance to be able to develop what they believe to be the future of VR adoption. The one thing that will never change about Meta Inc., is that it's never going to stop being a service to generate revenue for their business and shareholders. And that does to some extent, make business sense.
Dark Crystal is Better than Willow
“The middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.” This is the metaverse! Not really, this is the Twilight Zone, but if you read it again you might be mistaken for reading something deeper. That’s exactly what two dudes have done with sewing up how we’re all going to hell in a handcart because we’re foolish meatsacks (or should that be metasacks?)
The emergence of this new darkverse (oh please) is surely what we all expected. This is not some kind of Twilight Zone story where we should all be running for the hills. Merely this is the shadow to our wonderful metaverse being the light. For many years since the advent of the Internet and probably before, there have been lots of opportunities for people to do nefarious things, and security and privacy threats might likely emerge and evolve in the metaverse and more people begin to use it. But this darkverse scaremongering, where apparently criminals will be able to operate with greater impunity and more dangerously than they are able to do now on the darkweb is a bit laughable. It's really just the product of a couple of researchers from Trend Micro, and they delivered their paper at a conference in San Francisco. Very cool guys. Very nice. The darkverse is impenetrable! And that makes headlines.
When something is impenetrable, like any good vault or safe it gives us a golden opportunity to be able to test and iterate upon our existing cybersecurity tools and our processes to penetrate that with which is impenetrable. I would go as far as to say that if we're not going to police ourselves when we're in online social spaces, then we're leaving ourselves completely wide open to these types of attacks and threats. The risks that are related to NFTs, cyber threats, etc. are of our creation. So I'm not going to worry about it too much. Instead what I'm going to do is look to the experts, like my good friends Jackie McGuire, and John Wallace, who know what they speak and implement processes inside cybersecurity every single goddamn day. Follow them. This really is not the end of the metaverse as far as I see it. This is more the beginning.
That’s enough metaverse for this week, with a king about to be coronated (can someone please say crowned) we’ve got a swamp of royal treacle to wade through, so I will ease my suffering by playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, for research purposes, of course! In the meantime why don’t you listen to our Spotify playlist or catch up with my amazing interviews with Ciara Sheahan, Matthew Buxton and Vince Fraser? Go on, treat yourself.