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Internet 2021: A Metaverse Project on Kickstarter

In the moderation queue for the Metaverse subreddit, I came across a submission that had been withheld by the AutoModerator.

I visited the link and found something very interesting. It was a Metaverse project on Kickstarter. Their apparent crime appeared only to have been in putting too many dashes in the title, so I approved the link submission to /r/metaverse.

I am not involved in this project and I can’t provide a personal endorsement for their effort. Still, I thought it was interesting, and because this is the type of project that readers of Metaversing would tend to be interested in, I wanted to share this with you.

Technically, this isn’t the first Metaverse project to hit Kickstarter. That title probably belongs to either Surreal Adventures, or the VR Sandbox MMO called Voxelnauts. But this appears to be the first one that puts the Metaverse aspect of the project as something that is front and center, and not as an additional consideration to the side.

The traditional sales approach for a Metaverse project would show us a unique virtual world and sell backers on the sizzle of unique avatars, interesting environments, and a massively shared virtual environment. That isn’t what is happening here. They’re attempting to engage us… intellectually. Strange, isn’t it?

They start with their definition of a Metaverse, based upon the pillars of realism, ubiquity, interoperability, and scalability. They identify four major obstacles to include monetization, proprietary elements, lack of critical mass, and a premature focus on realism.

Their primary aim is to overcome the first two obstacles, which again are monetization and a proprietary platform. They propose a three year project for a core development team to work with backers to create a final project that would be released to the subject as open source.

Various levels of participation by the backers would result in increasing levels of influence in the project as well as rewards, such as a five year contract for land in the residential and commercial areas.

I’ve embedded their Kickstarter video below.


The part of their presentation that has generated the most interest begins at the 8:11 mark. They illustrate a live portal inside the world of Minecraft which would allow one to peer live into the world of Doom (and presumably, one in the world of Doom could peer in the reverse direction into the world of Minecraft). One might join their counterpart on the other side as simply as crossing the threshold. That appears to be the level of interoperability that this project hopes to enable.

The project itself is light on details, and it is something that I would like to have seen more of. Part of this may be because the goal of the project is to actually flesh out those details and implement them. Another reason may be the real threat of Brain Rape, a process where a venture capitalist or other developer seeks more disclosure, but only for the purpose of using that knowledge for themselves.

You can find out more about the project by visiting it on Kickstarter, and if you have specific questions for the project’s creator, you can always use the Contact Me link on the project’s main page.

I’m happy to see someone going in a different direction and breaking away the convention of a typical Metaverse project.

Metaverse Observations and Beliefs

This article contains a listing of some metaverse observations and beliefs.

There do not appear to be any similar lists to compare this to, so your feedback on this list (and what is missing) is appreciated. I know that many of you can be tough critics, but constructive criticism is welcome. On the other hand, if this list strikes you as boring and unchallenging, that’s welcome news for me.

Observations

VR hardware and software is evolving rapidly.

  • Hardware and software solutions are not stable
  • Large investments can quickly become irrelevant
  • Poor solutions are quickly replaced by better ones
  • Continued investment is needed to stay current

There are limited rules for deciding what a metaverse is or how it should behave.

  • Many definitions exist
  • Fundamental definition is the ability to experience and perform actions with others in shared virtual spaces
  • Guided by previous attempts at metaverse implementation
  • Guided by current metaverse implementations
  • Guided by existing virtual worlds
  • Guided by science fiction

It is difficult to create a metaverse.

  • Barrier to entry is high
  • Expectations are high
  • Investment period is long
  • Significant investment required in money, people, and resources
  • VR ecosystem is rapidly evolving, adding to risk
  • Return on investment is unproven and uncertain

Competition already exists. There will more than one metaverse.

  • Stranded content
  • Fragmented userbase
  • Increased innovation
  • Increases risk for metaverse providers, developers, investors
  • Increased choice for users, developers, advertisers, investors

There will be many different possible sources of revenue for a metaverse provider to choose from.

  • Transactional advertising (“click here for our store”)
  • Brand advertising (long-term exposure to brand “Nike!” “Nike!” “Nike!”)
  • Connection or usage fees by users
  • Connection or usage fees by commercial developers
  • Premium content (models, features, events)
  • Premium services
  • Special placement of content/locations/events
  • Rent, building or land ownership, and development
  • In-world currency and in-world transactions
  • Cloud storage services
  • Cloud hosting services
  • Consulting services

Beliefs

  • For most companies, the metaverse will be used as an opportunity to extend their existing business models.
  • In the short term, major metaverse platforms which intend to use surveillance or data mining of their clients are less likely to fully disclose that information for fear of backlash and reduced adoption rates.
  • In the long term, major companies which are currently engaging surveillance and data mining of their clients are expected to continue that practice on a metaverse platform.
  • A metaverse does not need to limit itself to real-world constraints just for the sake of closely simulating reality.
  • The more complex and integrated a platform is, the slower that innovation becomes.
  • Users and developers are dependent on platform providers for technological innovation.
  • While competition can result in waste, it still remains a net positive for metaverse development. A competitive market is good.
  • The choices made in the initial design of a metaverse are critical to its character and its success.
  • A general-purpose metaverse cannot succeed inside of a self-contained bubble. It must interface with the real world to be successful. (Novelty will bring the users in, but utility will keep them.)
  • A metaverse could be embodied in different forms which have yet to be demonstrated.
  • A metaverse is most likely to be created and maintained by a small team effort, web-based company, or gaming company (rather than the telco or an organzied non-profit model as given in science fiction).

Valve’s Lighthouse as USB: Anything More than a Bunch of Spin?


This is the third article in a series on the Valve/HTC Vive Ecosystem. If you you need additional context, please begin with the first article in the series.


Quote from Gabe Newell's interview in The Nerdist Episode 306. Image source: unknown

Quote from Gabe Newell’s interview in The Nerdist Episode 306. Image source: unknown

Introduction

A famous quote from Gabe Newell is about a lesson that Valve learned early-on when dealing with the Internet. You can find it in Episode 306 of the Nerdist Podcast at 00:12:14.

Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the Internet because they will catch you. They will deconstruct your spin. The will remember everything you ever say for eternity. -Gabe Newell

At this year’s Game Developers Conference where Valve announced their Virtual Reality partnership with HTC, and at that time, Gabe made an incredible claim about the Lighthouse tracking technology:

So we’re gonna just give that away. What we want is for that to be like USB. It’s not some special secret sauce. It’s like everybody in the PC community will benefit if there’s this useful technology out there. -Gabe Newell (Valve)

The story which accompanies the interview describes Lighthouse as a way of providing infinite input solutions into Virtual Reality. “As long as tracking is there, anything can be brought into VR, like how USB ports enable you to plug (virtually) anything into your computer.”

What the Technology Brings

In the previous two articles, we’ve dug into the technology itself, and it supports what we’ve been told. Spend perhaps $100-150 for two of Valve’s Lighthouse units and mount them in opposite corners of the room. At that point, you can almost forget about them. But any enabled device that you bring into the room can take advantage of:

  • Rock-solid positional data with high precision and resolution
  • Rock-solid orientation data with high precision and resolution
  • Very low additional power use (passive sensors, undemanding electronics)

Read More…

Competitors with Different Goals: Valve versus Oculus

The recently announced HTC Vive looks to be a strong technology competitor against the highly anticipated consumer release from Oculus in the PC space. While Oculus has long-ago stated that they are working to deliver their consumer VR headset at a lower margin, possibly even at cost, HTC/Valve has announced their entry of a premium VR experience.

A Different Focus

What is overlooked by many is that while these two companies compete in VR hardware and software, their focus couldn’t be any more different. Read More…