Metaverse April 26, 2022
Fluxon acquires Pluto metaverse platform
Fluxon, a global product development firm, has acquired Pluto, a virtual events platform where people can hang out and collaborate in the metaverse, in 3D worlds such as the Maldives, Burning Man, or Admont Abbey in Austria. This acquisition expands the company’s portfolio of productivity and collaboration products, which already includes Dory, a real-time Q&A application.
“I was sick of all the virtual happy hours, birthday parties, and workplace get-togethers throughout the pandemic. Random chance meets have virtually died off – you can’t expect to stumble into a friend, coworker, or interesting new person anymore “Elad Gil, an entrepreneur and investor, remarked “Everything on Pluto is portrayed in 3D, allowing people to explore their environment and run into each other at random. This enables for less organized serendipitous partnerships and scheduled meets.”
Fluxon collaborated to transform the concept into Pluto, a fully functional product that includes 3D environments that allow users to travel to music venues, conference centers, a calm beach — and even Burning Man. Attendees can roam around, represented by a live video avatar, and stroll in and out of talks naturally thanks to spatial audio. Pluto strikes a balance between realism and whimsical fantasy worlds that include customizability, fascinating mazes, and Easter egg hunts.
“We are excited that Fluxon will continue to extend the Pluto metaverse,” said Katsuya Noguchi, CEO and co-founder of Pluto. “Fluxon has been essential in building scalable and high-quality video, audio, and 3D technologies, and we are excited that they will continue to expand the Pluto metaverse.”
Fluxon plans to expand Pluto’s features and capabilities
In Pluto’s worlds, tens of thousands of people have already hung out, attended parties, or gotten to know one other better, with over 5,000 corporate and social events. User evaluations say it’s “by far the best virtual event,” a “mind-blowing” experience that makes individuals “feel connected again” and allows teams to “be there without being there.”
Fluxon intends to extend Pluto’s features and capabilities following the acquisition, including introducing more content such as games and new planets for users to explore and cooperate in. Pluto will also be available to organizations wishing to stage far larger branded events, such as conferences and concerts, according to Fluxon. The possibilities for developing new customised worlds are boundless now that Pluto has a team of world-class developers behind it.
Epic CEO Says Apple Could Try to ‘Crush the Metaverse’
Tim Sweeney, the CEO of video game and software developer Epic Games, is a big believer in the metaverse – but thinks Apple will try to either crush it or “extract all the profit from it.”
Sweeney made the comments during an interview with GameIndustry at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this week.
The executive has been a long-standing critic of Apple’s walled garden approach, having previously been entangled in a legal battle with the company relating to its App Store policies.
Also Read: Apple May Launch Reality Pro VR Headset Early
‘The metaverse must be open’
Apple is expected to release its Reality Pro VR/AR headset later this year, and many believe the launch could be a watershed moment for the much-hyped metaverse, encouraging mainstream adoption due to the tech giant’s name value.
Sweeney, though, isn’t buying it. In the interview with GameIndustry, the CEO predicted that Apple will “either try to crush the metaverse, or extract all the profit from it, one or the other.”
Explaining the rationale for his claim, the outspoken executive noted, “Apple doesn’t let you use a competing browser engine. So they can do the same thing with the metaverse, so they can say, ‘You must use Apple’s limited metaverse engine, you can’t build your own, you can’t use Unreal.’”
Such a policy would be anathema to the grand vision of an interactive, interoperable metaverse accessible to all users. As Sweeney himself says, “The metaverse has to be open, it can’t be another walled garden.
“Open is a natural state of things, it’s only in the past 15 years that we’ve seen walled gardens take over the world with iOS and Facebook and other companies.”
Unreal Engine is an advanced real-time 3D creation tool for photo-real visuals and immersive experiences. At the GDC, Fortnite developer Epic has been busy demoing the latest features of Unreal 5.2, such as a nifty substrate shading system that lets artists create materials at a level of quality and fidelity that was previously impossible.
Apple faces anti-competitive claims
Although it’s unclear whether Apple would actually disallow Unreal Engine, this isn’t the first time complaints have been levelled against the company and its anticompetitive practices.
Earlier this year, Spotify and eight companies and associations co-authored a letter to the EU Commission’s executive vice president, dubbing the firm “harmful, anti-competitive, and monopolistic.” Signatories called for greater regulation to combat Apple’s app distribution practices, which they claimed “imposed unfair restrictions” on their businesses.
Sweeney, for his part, believes antitrust laws are necessary to keep Apple in check, saying, “We see them as utterly dominating this business if they’re allowed to use their market power and hardware to do so. So we’re fighting that.”
We’d like to, but Apple kicked Fortnite out of Mac by terminating our developer account. We have no idea why they did this, because we broke no Mac rules, but here we are!
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) March 23, 2023
Appearing alongside executive VP Saxs Persson at the GDC’s State of the Unreal event, Sweeney brought the audience up-to-date on all things Epic including animation tools for virtual humans (MetaHumans) and an Unreal-powered creation tool for Fortnite (UEFN), which has been launched in public beta.
The metaverse ain’t dead
Last year, Epic announced a $2 billion funding round to advance its vision of building the metaverse, with the likes of Sony Group Corporation and LEGO investment firm KIRKBI pledging capital.
This week, Sweeney sat down with The Verge and said the metaverse was “a much more enjoyable and personal and empathetic medium than today’s social networks.”
He also took the opportunity to throw shade at Facebook, where everyone “gripes about politics and shows how awesome they are through photos.”
You gotta love Sweeney’s scorched-earth approach to interviews, where tech rivals are routinely trampled underfoot. But his comments about Apple in particular are likely to be shared by many metaverse maximalists, such are the measures it takes to prevent rivals from competing with its App Store.
According to a recent report by Bloomberg Intelligence, Apple’s entry to the metaverse could be a catalyst for faster growth, and the metaverse space could be worth $615 billion by the end of the decade.
The question is, will walled gardens be the norm – or will the metaverse be open to all?
Taco Bell’s Metaverse Wedding Actually Happened
Last year, fast food chain Taco Bell claimed to have found a couple that would marry in its eponymous metaverse. Months went by without further updates from the outlet, but now it appears that the unusual wedding actually went ahead.
The lucky couple from California had the ceremony in February of this year, and details of the event have now become public.
The Taco wedding bells
In August of 2022, Taco Bell ran a competition to find a couple it said would be married in its metaverse. The setting would be virtual but it was promised that the wedding would be real.
Sheel and Amruta from California were the lucky couple. To keep in theme with the high-tech nature of the metaverse event, Sheel said he wrote his vows with help from ChatGPT.
“I promise to always keep your phone charged,” Sheel said at the virtual altar.
“I promise to help you look for your AirPods every single morning… I promise to be your human gravity blanket whenever you ask for it. I promise to laugh at your jokes… I promise to never let our love become stale, and to always keep everything spicy and exciting. I will cherish and adore you for all eternity and spend all my days with you by my side.”
As it turned out, the Taco Bell metaverse was actually hosted within Decentraland, an open 3D virtual environment in which the land itself is owned by users. Unlike the common public perception of a metaverse that is accessed via headsets, Decentraland is browser-based, making the environment easy for anyone to enter.
Guests included people near and dear to the couple, but random Decentraland users were also apparently able to gatecrash.
A Twitch streamer going by the handle Legiqn recorded his attendance at the celebration to preserve the evening for posterity. As Legiqn pointed out, the couple had a long history with the fast food chain.
“Their first date was at a Taco Bell,” said the influencer. “I don’t think it gets anymore romantic than that.”
This takes the cake
Besides being Taco Bell-themed, the wedding also conformed to Indian traditions that the couple and their family wished to be respected.
Actor Kal Penn, known for the Harold & Kumar film series, was among those in attendance.
On conclusion of the wedding, when the couple were pronounced husband and wife, Penn interviewed the happy pair to see how they felt about their Taco Bell wedding experience.
“I’m super stoked,” Sheel said.
“It’s real,” Amruta added. “We’re married.”
From there the guests headed to the reception so the pair could have their first dance as a married couple. That was not the end of the highlights, however; there was still the small matter of who might be the next lucky person to be married in the Taco Bell metaverse.
Twitch streamer Legiqn was determined to catch the bouquet when the bride threw it over her shoulder.
“Yes, bouquet time, this is what I’ve been most excited for,” said Legiqn as he prepped himself to ‘grab’ the flowers. “This is where my gamer skills come in,” he announced to his followers as the big moment arrived. Unfortunately for Legiqn those gamers skills did him little good, as a user named Bleace caught them instead.
With the formalities over, guests danced on the virtual dancefloor to celebrate the unforgettable occasion, as a QR code flashed on the screen so they could all order Taco Bell. If that’s not a happy ending, I don’t know what is.
Metaverse-themed Coworking Hub Opens in Central London
A dedicated hub for metaverse-centric startups has opened in the West End of London. Huckletree’s 22,000 square-ft office, located at 213 Oxford Street and spread across two floors, is the company’s fifth hub in the UK capital and the first seeking to “bring together Web3, creatives and investors in one place.”
Announcing the space back in September, Huckletree said the hub would see “Web3 builders working alongside Metaverse pioneers, avant-garde designers, animators, digital disruptors and a passionate investor community.”
Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg Hasn’t Forgotten the Metaverse
A space to create
As well as providing a space for web3 entrepreneurs and builders to work, Huckletree has put an expert advisory board in place to help establish the venue as a go-to workspace for industry professionals.
Board members include Founder of metaverse-focused FOV Ventures David Hanes, Jack Smyth, who manages Chanel’s web3 strategies Chanel for BrandTech Consulting, and Daniella Loftus, head of digital fashion firm This Outfit Does Not Exist.
“Web3 and the metaverse have the potential to transform every industry as we know it, and the community working behind the scenes, be they on the investment or business side, are in need of a space to call home that can also be a platform for funding, deal-flow, ideas, talent, and togetherness,” Huckletree CEO Gabriela Hersham told CityAM last year.
Themed around Web3 and the metaverse, our vision for Oxford Street is to house the most curated community of impactful brands, talent and investors, building the future of web – and the future of everything 🤘
Discover more >> https://t.co/ODD3hqcoZ5 pic.twitter.com/fCt8PFf2u6
— HUCKLETREE (@huckletree) January 4, 2023
“I’m excited to see how a space like this can help to push the physical realm and physical possibilities of Web3 to be a place where new, old, imagined and physical can converge,” added board member Ashumi Sanghvi, who is also the CEO of creative production agency MAD Global.
The workspace will be equipped with demo areas wherein tenants can stress-test new technologies and products. There is also a rooftop terrace for events, an NFT gallery for artists to display their talents (or collectors to show off their collection), an immersive meta-lounge for gaming, and several reading booths.
As well as supporting startups during working hours, the venue is expected to host web3 workshops, Q&A sessions, product demos, and meetups.
Huckletree Oxford Circus already has a few notable tenants who operate in the web3 space, including Surreal DB, MassMutual Ventures, Project A, Haven and FivePointFive. The company’s other London-based hubs include Huckletree White City, based in the Mediaworks building, and a space dedicated to GovTech, AI, security and policy in Westminster.
Appetite for physical coworking
Critics may wonder why a dedicated physical workspace is required for metaverse ventures. Isn’t the whole appeal of the metaverse that you can don your VR headset and trade ideas in a colorful virtual environment, while maintaining the same levels of productivity? In theory, yes. But though many startups favour a remote-working policy, others still prefer a hybrid or office-based model.
In a recent blog post, Gabriela Hersham pushed back against the notion that embracing the metaverse means plugging into VR and abandoning face-time with colleagues. “We’ve seen the appetite to gather in physical places for the Web3 community, take the NFT event in New York in 2022, which was claimed to the Superbowl of NFTs,” she wrote.
“Where there is community, there is a need to gather, exchange and actively collaborate… We believe there is a need to bridge connections and unlock new opportunities and deal-flow, whether that be introducing traditional creatives into how to design in the metaverse, or to upskill corporate brands on how they can unlock blockchain technology or NFT tokens for their customer campaigns or back-ops functions.”
Huckletree might be the first metaverse-oriented workspace in London, but it isn’t the first globally. Last year, EmpireDAO leased 36,000 square feet in Manhattan to create a coworking space for web3 project builders. Spread across six floors, it offered hot desk memberships tokenized as NFTs. However, the venture hit difficulties in crypto winter and closed shop at the turn of the year.
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