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Metaverse December 3, 2022

EU Metaverse Party Wins Big from Epic Failure

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Header image for EU Metaverse Party

The European Union (EU) blew more than $400,000 on a metaverse party almost nobody came to, now users are lining up to visit the scene of the so-called disaster.

The story first came to light on Tuesday when one attendee at the “gala” event reported that he was one of only six people who showed up. By the end of the week, a host of mainstream media outlets picked up and reported on the news, barely bothering to hide their glee at the scale of the disaster.

Success through failure

The initial launch of the metaverse appears to have been nothing short of catastrophic, but with widespread publicity in the press, the EU metaverse is now, perhaps ironically, finding an audience. 

After initially failing to entice guests, users now wait for over an hour to enter the EU’s metaverse.

On Friday morning (UST time) the virtual event was full to capacity. Users were forced to get in a virtual line just to attend. The website declared:

“Sometimes, even in the metaverse, we run out of space.”

With the line at 29 prospective guests, waiting times for admission exceeded 1 hour. At the time of press, that line had grown to 74 suggesting that wait times were exceeding the 2-hour mark.

That is a remarkable turnaround for an event that only attracted 6 people on its gala day.

At 72 people and counting, the line keeps getting longer

Why does this need a metaverse?

The EU metaverse is the brainchild of the European Commission’s foreign aid department and Global Gateway initiative, tasked with building awareness and raising its profile.

The EU’s Global Gateway initiative is a €300 million ($315M) foreign aid program intended to rival China’s Belt and Road initiative. The commission plans to redistribute €300 million ($315M) foreign aid to global partners, with half of the money earmarked for nations in Africa.

The metaverse uses only a tiny fraction of that budget to raise awareness of the program at home and overseas. With scores of headlines and countless column inches now dedicated to the program, that aim appears met. 

MetaNews attends EU-party

With the EU-metaverse receiving relentless mockery, this MetaNews reporter went to experience the event firsthand. What was it all about, and was it really as bad as the mainstream press seemed to suggest?

The answer to that question is both yes and no

Upon first arrival, my metaverse avatar is dropped outside a building. Entering that building starts a video that is part of the EU’s social awareness campaign. 

Yours truly, attending a rave, only to realize my avatar is wearing earphones.

This is a fairly dry way to begin any so-called “fun” or engaging experience, and so, I move on. Deeper inside the building are some artworks with expository narration. I am reminded of the early days of the internet when people created personal webpages and only later started to think of things to fill them with. 

Anyone can go to and navigate and explore the environment with a browser, a mouse, and a keyboard. That’s not to say that navigation is especially easy. In fact, it’s a bit of a pain trying to guide the avatar around the environment as the site stalls and lags. More than a few times during the visit I find my avatar hopelessly colliding into a wall.

So far, the experience is akin to a 3D Geocities page crossed with a European social justice museum. It’s strange and disconnected and oddly fascinating.

This rave makes no sense

Traveling outside the building leads to the rave arena. This is one of the strangest locations in the environment. There is a DJ booth and a dancefloor consisting of multiple interwoven levels. Standing over the location is a giant asexual red statue. The statue is posed as a shot-putter, but in place of the shot, the figure cradles a giant coronavirus in its hand. 

Melody-free industrial beats blasts out of my speakers. A series of screens above the DJ booth flash disconnected images and words such as “education,” “digitalisation,” and “public health.”

I imagine that just like a real rave, this experience may make more sense with the aid of copious amounts of alcohol or stronger stimulants. On this particular morning I am sober and completely baffled. 

The one thing nobody minds sharing – a giant over-sized trash bag in the metaverse

Traveling deeper into the metaverse

Exploring the beach I discover that my avatar can take off and fly around the site like meta-Superman. On my return, I accidentally miss the pier and discover I can walk on water like meta-Jesus.

After some further exploration, I discover a treasure hunt, a giant bag of trash, powers of teleportation, and a secret beach location hidden within a giant rock. Before I leave I decide to take a few selfies with the built-in selfie camera so I can say “I was there.” 

Was the experience good? Not overly, but it would be uncharitable to say the experience didn’t contain at least a few bright spots. Did I learn more about the EU’s Global Gateway initiative? Yes, but only because I went on to research it later.

Verdict: The EU Global Gateway isn’t the complete disaster mainstream media has painted it out to be, but neither is it worthy of its one-hour waiting time.

/MetaNews.

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Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.

Business

Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech

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Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech, says Zuckerberg
Artist's rendering.

Meta, keen to be a Metaverse giant, plans to launch virtual reality headset Quest 3 later this year, with better mixed reality technology, said CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta confirmed that the release should be called Meta Quest 3. It’s expected to cost between US$300 and US$500, which is about a third of the Quest Pro (the Quest Pro is currently priced at $1,499.99).

Also read: Meta Employees Undermine Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Strategy

The new headset will provide support for Meta Reality, which is technology that enables virtual reality headsets to also be used for augmented reality. This technology allows devices to create mixed reality experiences.

Meta Reality in Next-Gen Consumer Headset

The mixed reality ecosystem is relatively new, but Zuckerberg thinks it’s going to grow a lot in the next few years.

“Later this year, we’re going to launch our next generation consumer headset, which will feature Meta Reality as well, and I expect that this is going to establish this technology as the baseline for all headsets going forward, and eventually of course for AR glasses as well,” said Zuckerberg.

Beyond MR, the broader VR ecosystem continues growing. There are now over 200 apps on Meta’s VR devices that have made more than $1 million in revenue, Zuckerberg said.

How Meta Reality will look in more affordable headsets is yet to be clear.

Meta’s Reported Win over FTC will be Crucial

Meta has reportedly won court approval earlier this week to acquire VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, which will be a huge boost for Zuckerberg’s ambitious metaverse project.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

“There is a lot of work there that we haven’t actually shipped the product yet. VR, which is starting to ramp, right, Quest 2, I think, did quite well. We have multiple product lines there with the Quest Pro,” said Zuckerberg about Quest 3.

When Meta shipped Quest Pro at the end of last year, it was something their CEO was “really proud of” and believed it was the first mainstream mixed reality device to set the standard for the industry with Meta Reality.

“As always, the reason why we’re focused on building these platforms is to deliver better social experiences than what’s possible today on phones,” said Zuckerberg.

The possible benefit could be expected in Quest 3 through the acquisition of Within.

 

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Metaverse

Interpol Wants to Police Metaverse Crime. But That May Not Be Easy

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Interpol Wants to Police Metaverse Crime. But That May Not Be Easy

The International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, is looking at ways to police crime in the metaverse, according to secretary general Jurgen Stock. However, the agency may find that to be hard in the absence of a universally agreed definition of the “metaverse,” let alone of metaverse crime.

Stock said, “criminals are sophisticated and professional in very quickly adapting to any new technological tool that is available to commit crime. We need to sufficiently respond to that. Sometimes lawmakers, police, and our societies are running a little bit behind.”

“We have seen if we are doing it too late, it already impacts trust in the tools we are using, and therefore the metaverse. In similar platforms that already exist, criminals are using it,” he added, according to the BBC.

Defining the metaverse

The metaverse may be thought of as the idea of a post-physical world in which life is lived virtually on the Internet: “a single, shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space” where humans experience life in ways they could not in the real world.

Also read: Is the World Ready for Music Concerts in the Metaverse?

American author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term “metaverse” in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. He referred to the metaverse as an all-encompassing digital world that exists parallel to the real world.

However, the word gained significance when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of the social media company to “Meta” in 2021, a rebrand that focused on building the metaverse.

While at this point users are already utilizing a range of hardware such as headsets to gain access to the immersive experiences of the metaverse, there’s still no universally agreed definition of the metaverse. Much less of metaverse crime.

What does metaverse crime look like for Interpol?

The building blocks of the new form of communication are still being laid down. Anyone can build their own metaverse and define how that specific digital world works. Interpol has now built its own virtual reality (VR) space in order to catch up with criminals operating in the metaverse.

The VR unit is aimed at helping its officers with training for virtual interactions. Announcing the launch of the virtual reality metaverse last October, Interpol said:

“As the number of metaverse users grows and the technology further develops, the list of possible crimes will only expand to potentially include crimes against children, data theft, money laundering, financial fraud, counterfeiting, ransomware, phishing, and sexual assault and harassment.”

Interpol is still having a hard time defining metaverse crime. Madan Oberoi, the executive director of technology and innovation at Interpol, admitted to the BBC that “there are crimes where I don’t know whether it can still be called a crime or not.”

“For example, there have been reported cases of sexual harassment,” he said. “If you look at the definitions of these crimes in physical space, and you try to apply it in the metaverse, there is a difficulty.”

“We don’t know whether we can call them a crime or not, but those threats are definitely there, so those issues are yet to be resolved,” he added.

Oberoi said law enforcement needed to “know about the metaverse” in order to “help people who have been hurt in the metaverse.” It is one of Interpol’s objectives, he explained, “to make sure law enforcement personnel start using the metaverse and they become aware.”

Uphill task

Alex Kim, chief monetization officer at XR platform Sensorium Galaxy, said while discussions around metaverse regulation may help create “safe digital environments” for users, there is still need to strike a balance in implementation.

“The metaverse is being envisioned as a decentralized platform over which no central authority has control over,” Kim told MetaNews.

“This begs the question of who exactly should be tasked with monitoring the metaverse and what powers can this entity potentially have, and over what and whom.” Continuing, Kim added:

“It’s clear that policing the metaverse won’t be as straightforward as some might be hoping, but it’s very positive that the conversation surrounding the topic is moving forward, especially given the rapid pace of current technological developments.”

Software engineer Brandon Church laughed at the idea that the global police agency wanted to play guard to the metaverse.

“[The metaverse] is just an idea at the moment. The problem with ideas is that sometimes they never see the light of day. So these guys [Interpol] are working on policing an idea? I’m seriously wondering [where they are going with this],” Church told MetaNews.

Arseny Myakotnikov, cofounder and CMO of drive-to-earn Metadrive, believes the Interpol initiative goes against the ethos of decentralization, a key foundational principle of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, and Web3.

“Each metaverse must exist as a separate digital universe, where investors would be able to set their own rules and regulations based on the weight of their votes through decentralized voting within the project’s DAO,” he says

“It’s important to stress that most of the violations mentioned by the Interpol cannot be committed at the current stage of metaverse technology development.”

Interpol is an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control. It was created 100 years ago and is made of 195 member countries.

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Business

Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within

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Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within

Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, has reportedly won court approval for the acquisition of VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, after the Federal Trade Commission attempted to block the deal.

Also read: Lawsuit Filed Against Meta, Snap, TikTok for Mental Health Crisis

A US district judge, Edward Davila in San Jose California, “denied the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the proposed transaction” in a sealed decision on Wednesday, reported Bloomberg, citing a source familiar with the ruling.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Following the news, shares of Meta were slightly positive on Wednesday afternoon.

Facebook and The FTC also declined to comment with Bloomberg’s query citing the sealed nature of Davila’s decisions.

Push for Metaverse

The reported victory in this case may boost Mark Zuckerberg’s push towards the Metaverse. Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

Meta Quest Pro for $1500 and Meta Quest 3 are also in the company’s VR line-up, which has already developed VR spaces for work and play.

The Supernatural, developed by Within, was one of the first subscription-based services on the original Meta Quest.

Supernatural, a fitness app that features video instructors and motion-tracked workout routines, carries similarities to Meta’s successful fitness VR music game Beat Saber. Beat Saber was also acquired by Meta in 2019.

 Meta’s Dominance

A trial before the FTC’s administrative judge will start on Feb. 13. The FTC will also decide if it will continue with the case. Lina Khan, the chair of the FTC, was appointed by US President Joe Biden to bolster antitrust enforcement as a key principle of his administration’s economic policy. Hence, if this order stands, this loss to Meta will be a significant setback for Khan.

The FTC sued Meta back in July, arguing this acquisition would expand its dominance in the consumer VR market, highlighting its purchase of Beat Saber three years ago. The agency even emphasized that the addition of Within would even eliminate a “beneficial rivalry” between the two companies.

At the time, “the case was) based on ideology and speculation, not evidence, the idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

It’s still to be decided whether this will be the end of this story or not, as the FTC has declined to comment.

“Out of respect for the court’s orders, the FTC is not in a position to comment at this time,” FTC director of public affairs Douglas Farrar told The Verge.

Within would be the third start-up acquired by social media giants over the last decade if this case ends here and Meta purchases one more VR start-up. Previously, Meta acquired Oculus in 2014 before purchasing Beat Saber in 2019.

 

 

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