If there is such a thing as being jaded in the metaverse, this might be my first experience of it. I’ve seen quite a lot of metaverses this week - and you can always check out my weekly chart here. My overall opinion of these platforms is that they are getting less and less populated with users and more and populated with brands. Why? Well, a lot of it has to do with function. Do I have to learn Unreal Engine before diving in? Hopefully not, but some user interfaces do not pass the Mom Test. This week’s dive into the news presents some optimism for the first time in ages that somehow tech and virtual platforms might finally win against the hum-drum of ego and brand-centric flagellation. By the way, this week’s sleaze is brought to you by actual things people have said to me since I started my metaverse life.
The Hunter from Thespiae
In the metaverse, we’re searching for the best version of ourselves aren’t we? Because we're all digital in the metaverse, that version of us is the avatar. In 2023, the avatar is becoming more and more complex in terms of delivering exactly what it is that we're looking for in ourselves, whether it is technology from the incredible Move Ai, and Kinetix or what we wear and how we look through companies like NARS in Decentraland, or my very own Nak3d. Fortunately, the BBC is on hand (rather than haptics) to tell us exactly what the metaverse is, and why we should care, especially when it comes to avatars. This story particularly, is about VR influencers. Yes. It’s a thing.
A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to contribute a sizable amount of information to the Business of Fashion’s article about virtual influences by the massively talented Gemma Williams. But this is a little bit different because this is us. We're creating digital versions of ourselves through our eyes (and headsets) and our voices, thoughts and chat. VR allows us to be able to do everything from get married to dance, but this is only news to the BBC. Fortunately, I'm here to tell you that VR is just okay. And despite activities to the contrary, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn't be using VR any more than 20 minutes in an hour to help your brain and eyes to rest away from the overwhelming experience of living in a virtual space.
“I’m just the face of the metaverse, I don’t have the data.” Leading metaverse mind.
Meanwhile, over at Epic, who, since their $500 million FTC fine over at Fortnite, have announced that they're partnering with Lego: and this is old news. This is news that was announced last year, and it's not a big secret, everybody knows about it. Legos revenues have increased by 17%, again, not news. Lego is cool. So why would they lean on Epic to explore the “opportunity to create safe virtual spaces for children” which means interact-with-the-brand; when they fluffed up their big chance to protect kids at Fortnite? It’s a dog’s dinner of a relationship. I am passionate about the protection of children and vulnerable adults online, and I will not let this go: it doesn’t matter who did it and who got fined, it is not ok for kids and vulnerable adults to be a second thought in anything, especially a metaverse. I am scared.
The Chief Executive Officer of Lego has credited its company success to investments in digital playing experiences, ecommerce and sustainable packaging. I like it. I get it. We all love Lego. But now Lego wants to do more things on the digital side, it's opening its investment in the space to develop more digital products. So, step forward Epic Games? Please don’t forget that Epic Games are the developers of Fortnite. However, not much Fortnite is mentioned in this article meaning that this is seemingly an Epic press release. Ok.
When I was working on my children's metaverse in 2021/22, I would have exploded at the thought of Lego giving me a second look, but they didn't, Microsoft did though, so that was nice. But this is about commoditising children’s brands just like the Hasbro, Mattel, and Disney do. Cynical? Of course. Sceptical? Absolutely not.
“We could check in as Mr & Mrs Smith and just be really incognito if you wanted? Our partners don’t need to know.” This guy is going to GDC. Girls look out for this creep.
Yuga A Go-Go
Did you miss the first elitist trip to a buggy clunky metaverse? Fear not! There’s a second coming (yeah you heard that right) on March 25. The Otherside is back though sadly, I’m not sure it ever went away. Yes, the least inclusive experience in the metaverse is returning for another trip promising hopefully more bug fixes and less flexing though I think the latter is not true. Look, The Otherside did well for its captive audience and sales of its associated NFTs. There’s a good reason why I don’t feature it in my weekly Metaverse chart and that’s because it’s a bit too cliché for me. It’s trying hard, very hard, to satisfy a niche market place where footballers and guys in tight trousers converge. To be honest at my age and experience in this space, it’s not my bag; but I’m not going to judge you if you dive in. Much.
Yuga, if you’re reading, you need to focus on creating an experience that everybody wants to be involved in, not just the latest metaverse twits.
“I know you said what the metaverse was in your talk, but between us both, it’s a load of crap isn’t it?” Games CEO at Pocket Gamer.
You know I’m a huge fan of use cases in health tech/femtech and medtech in the metaverse and I love following the latest activations in these verticals to power the future of health. Mental health is a huge part of our beloved metaverse and how we interact is indicative of a variety of things from coping to creating. Innerworld supported by grammy-nommed singer/songwriter Jewel wants to use the power of the people in the metaverse for good and backed by 3 years of clinical research and 20,000 beta usage, they’re launching Innerworld to allow us to access not just warm fuzziness but also cognitive behavioural therapies and much more. But here’s the problem for me. I'd like a pair of legs, I'd like some arms, I want to be able to see myself. I don't want to undertake virtual therapy sessions as an avatar with only my hands and my torso in view. I'm interested in who I am, that will help me with my growth. Why can’t I have that? With 20,000 hours in beta, has Innerworld really spent enough time looking at the outer world instead of focusing just on their particular offering? Because a few platforms are already doing this fairly well. VRChat is a great example, say what you like about drinking games, and sex applications, it’s a social place where communities have taken it upon themselves to support each other. Roblox? Yes, they have their own yoga retreat, and they also have mental health retreats inside there. They have a natural propensity towards mental health and safeguarding largely due to the top heavy demographic of kids.
Why must we always create our own Metaverse instead of using the technology that's already tried and tested? “Start your journey today with a free trial on all your favorite platforms.” They tell me. But Yahaha, Byte City and Breakroom aren't listed here. This is an app-focused experience. Ugh. Oh well. I'm interested in getting to the crux of how people are healing using the metaverse so I’ll be watching and reporting on this one particularly.
“Your avatar is much better looking than you IRL.” Senior VC partner, USA.
Metaverse: The New Age
Yeah that’s a pun on a famous k-drama. You know me. I can’t resist. But seriously, if you know anything about me as a metaverse voyeur you will know that my favourite (metaverse and) country of all time is South Korea. And South Korea has committed $51 million (not Won) to support metaverse development. Again, this is really old news because they’re already $185 mil in the hole. But they are continually investing in the technologies that support the metaverse and if you’re gonna be in Busan later this year, I will be extolling the virtues of this spiritual home for future tech IRL. You see, my Korean friends believe this is a good, no, great opportunity to solve a multitude of tasks in service to the future. From the density of Seoul in population growth and automating systems relating to the movement of swathes of people around a city, to education.
Yes the lack of interest in the metaverse is real… in the west. But worlds away from Silicon Valley (how’s that going by the way?) public and private sectors are launching metaverse projects in South Korea all the time, including the sprawling simulation of their beloved first city. My friend is just about to move there to work for a company in Dubai. Yes you read that right. Because South Korea does digital nomad visas too—come and get it you thirsties.
“Look at this: KttyCollnz231, Shameygirl, and January28_TH, that’s how I know I’m not being catfished. These names are real.” Tech veteran, aged 56.
Africarare, which is Africa's first metaverse, has joined forces with nonprofit organisation Innovation Africa to bring clean drinking water to people across the continent. Interesting how this one seems like a no-brainer and yet no one has cracked it yet. 480 million people in Africa still lack basic access to drinking water. These dudes want to change this. Innovation Africa have delivered over 800 successful projects across 10 African countries since 2008. Ubuntuland is a digital village which will showcase the organisation's life changing work. Through this particular village, viewers can learn more about technology in use in Africa, they will also experience success stories and witness the impact that this has had on Africa. That’s not all. A series of unique NFTs called Drops of Life will literally drop to support and enhance the utility of donation. My thumbs are up, can’t you see them? And the proceeds from the sales will be donated to support Innovation Africa's ongoing projects: that's all of the proceeds. In a world where we may not, for too much longer, have access to clean water or water generally across the world, not just in Africa the metaverse is a good thing. Admit it. If this is a really good opportunity to help, why does the metaverse feel like such a massive exercise in narcissism for the rest of the world? Messages in a bottle, please.
“Are you busy because your avatar works for you, or, how does this work? Because I want that.” A video caller.
That’s enough metaverse for this week, I’m off to get help for my bomber jacket addiction. First world problems indeed. See you at my Twitterspace event this Wednesday at 6pm GMT.