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Entertainment February 22, 2023

Gen Z Users Prefer Virtual Worlds to Social Media: Report



Gen Z Users Prefer Virtual Worlds to Social Media: Report

A new report by immersive media company Everyrealm has shined a spotlight on young people’s use of technology. The “Immersive Media Market Report” suggests members of Gen Alpha (born after 2010) and Gen Z (born in the mid-to-late 90s) prefer virtual worlds and social video gaming to social networks like Instagram and Facebook.

Published this week, the report reveals that young digital natives are leading the transition from 2D social media platforms to immersive virtual worlds that combine elements of interaction, gameplay, digital identity, and asset ownership.

Also read: Is Your Privacy Protected in the Metaverse?

Social Media is Yesterday’s News

Among several interesting revelations to come from the survey is that young audiences spend 5x as much time in immersive digital environments as they do trawling through social networks. As for reading books, the report didn’t even mention this anachronistic pastime. 

While Instagram was said to arrest the attention of users for around 30 minutes each day, the average Roblox session lasted 2.5 hours. A massively-multiplayer online gaming platform, Roblox hosts over 50 million daily players and generated $1.9 billion of revenue in 2021.

“Immersive media is becoming an increasingly popular leisure activity to the detriment of other media formats – a trend which marketers and companies need to prepare for,” the report noted.

Giving its view on the popularity of social video games and virtual worlds, Everyrealm’s authors suggested such platforms offered a superior level of interactivity and engagement than that which is provided by traditional forms of media. 

“Video games are no longer just a form of entertainment and have instead become an entire lifestyle. Players are able to connect with friends, create their own content, and customize the game to their liking – all of which satisfies their social requirements and desires for customization,” the report said.

Defining Immersive Media

Immersive media is an umbrella term that encompasses virtual worlds (The Sandbox, Decentraland), social video gaming, the metaverse, interactive experiences, VR/AR, and haptics. The appeal of building virtual lives in vast online worlds is no secret, though the report exposes just how much distance the sector is putting between itself and social media.

Some 90% of Gen Alpha and Z users said they considered themselves to be gamers or game enthusiasts, while over half said they were able to express themselves more easily in virtual worlds, compared to real life.

What’s more, around half of this youthful cohort spent approximately $60 billion each year on games, subscriptions and virtual goods such as armor, swords, and loot boxes. 

This virtual goods market accounted for nearly $61 billion by itself in 2021, though a crypto winter has reduced the value of many items tokenized on the blockchain. Statista forecasts that this market could surge past the $200 billion mark by 2028.

Everyrealm has a dog in this ideological fight, of course: it’s the company behind virtual-community-driven projects like The Row and Fantasy Islands, as well as the upcoming social video games Narcos: Metaverse and Hometopia.

That young people will continue to drive the advancement of the immersive media space seems like a no-brainer, particularly as more sophisticated VR technology comes online. The question is, how will social media companies react to losing ground? And how will this growing obsession with virtual worlds shape the destiny of youngsters back in the real world?

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.


Disney Dismisses Metaverse Division, Polygon Feels the Heat

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Disney Dismisses Metaverse Division, Polygon Feels the Heat

Disney has announced that it is abandoning plans to explore the metaverse, and the news has vibrated through many parts of the Web3 industry including cryptocurrencies. 

The animator, together with major fashion brands (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Yves Saint Laurent and Nike), automotive companies Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and fellow media company Warner Brothers, are the pioneer companies that have filed for NFT and metaverse trademarks with the United States Postal and Trademark Office (USPTO). 

According to the Wall Street Journal, around 50 employees in Disney’s metaverse division have been dismissed. The layoff in the AR and VR-powered division represents a modest fraction of the company’s downsizing that will see about 7,000 lose their jobs. 

While the mass media, multinational, and entertainment conglomerate has been experimenting with several technologies under the metaverse banner, including producing AR films, creating virtual stores, and integrating blockchain technology, the slow adoption of the virtual world has made the sector largely unprofitable for Disney and other firms. 

The latest development has not just affected Disney employees. Stakeholders of the crypto economy, particularly Polygon (MATIC) holders, have also seen a substantial reduction in their portfolios amid the layoffs.

Polygon (MATIC) is down by 12% in March 

In July 2022, Polygon was selected along with Red 6, Obsess, Lockerverse, Inworld, and Flickplay as the six participants for Disney’s Accelerator Program

The Program came with a vision of building the future of immersive experiences with a primary focus on artificial intelligence (AI) characters, NFTs, and ARs. 

As an integral part of the NFT industry, Polygon ranks 5th on the log of blockchains by all-time NFT sales volume with approximately $764 million from 1.05 million buyers involved in over 6 million transactions.

Disney’s association with Polygon at the time led to a 94% spike in the price of MATIC after opening and closing the month with trading prices of $0.4781 and $0.9283 respectively. 

Disney Dismisses Metaverse Division, Polygon Feels the Heat


The opposite reaction has been felt in MATIC’s price due to the layoffs. MATIC is down by 12% in March after opening the month strongly at $1.1952 and declining to $1.0470, as of 09:30 UTC on March 28.

Disney Dismisses Metaverse Division, Polygon Feels the Heat


NFT and metaverse trademarks continue to be filed 

According to USPTO data shared by licensed attorney Mike Kondoudis, a large number of companies have filed NFT and metaverse trademarks.

At a glance, these include Wynn Resorts, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, FUJITSU, Nissan, Fallout, Lucasfilm, Samsung, Shutterstock AI, Grammarly, Amazon, Lacoste, and General Motors (GM).

Other firms to have explored opportunities via trademarks are Walmart, Sports Illustrated, Death Row Records, American Music Awards, and Disney. The latter’s latest application is for the new Marvel television TV show.

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AI Revolution in Music Production: Kanye West and Beyond



AI Revolution in Music Production Kanye West and Beyond

AI has the potential to reshape the music industry with users now able to replicate popular artists’ music, including the voice of Kanye West. The industry has undergone significant transformations over the years, thanks to advances in technology.

In the digital age, we have seen the rise of streaming services, virtual concerts, and music production software that have made it easier for both professionals and amateurs to create and distribute their work.

But perhaps the most groundbreaking development in recent times is the integration of AI into music production, and one of the most remarkable examples is the ability to replicate the voice and style of popular artists like Kanye West.

Machine-made artistry

AI-powered music creation platforms are making waves, allowing users to generate music and vocals that mimic the sound and style of their favorite musicians. This technology is not only democratizing music production but also raising questions about creativity, originality, and the future of the music industry.

One such platform gaining attention is OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4, a powerful AI model that can generate human-like text, music lyrics, and vocals based on a vast dataset.

With ChatGPT-4, anyone can write lyrics, suggest melodies, and have the AI model produce vocals resembling the voice of famous artists. This has led to a surge of AI-generated music and content that blurs the line between human and machine-made artistry.

Using AI tools, one can write lyrics and record vocals, uploading them to the AI tool and having a model that’s already trained using sample voices from an artist to alter how the song sounds, so it matches the artist chosen.

An AI Kanye

AI enthusiast Roberto Nickson posted on his Twitter feed the process by which he produced a song that sounds like Kanye West using AI. After writing “8 bars” and using a West-style beat from YouTube, Nickson transforms his own vocals to sound just like Yeezy.

“I found this Kanye-style beat on YouTube, I wrote eight bars, I’m gonna record them now and then I’m gonna have AI Kanye replace me,” says Nickson on the video.

In his composition, Nickson includes these lines: “I attacked a whole religion all because of my ignorance. What was I thinking? That was some b***s***. I lost Adidas but I’m still Yeezy.”

Anyone could easily believe it’s Kanye, with the lyrics referring to his controversial comments about Jewish people and the end to his partnership with Adidas.

This isn’t the first time we are witnessing this technology; recently ElevenLabs released a better version of its Prime Voice AI platform, allowing one to input text and choose a voice to turn the text into audio.

Things will move fast

The implications of AI music production are far-reaching. On the one hand, it democratizes music production, empowering creators who may lack formal training or resources to generate professional-quality music.

Aspiring artists can use AI-generated vocals to create demo tracks or experiment with various styles without the need for expensive studio time or collaborations.

Moreover, AI-generated music has the potential to revolutionize the way musicians and producers work, facilitating creative collaboration between human and AI.

Artists can input specific parameters, such as tempo, key, and genre, and have the AI model generate unique compositions, which they can then refine and personalize. This collaborative process can lead to innovative, never-before-heard sounds and styles.

Nickson himself predicts “things will move very fast in the next two years,” while others contend the technology is “insane.”

Another user could not hide their excitement at Nickson’s video and commented:

“This is absolutely mind-blowing. I mean I knew it was possible, but to hear it like this in action, is a whole other ball game. Great work on your end too, bars were fire.”

Unresolved questions

However, this technology also raises ethical and legal concerns. As AI-generated music becomes more prevalent, it challenges our notions of copyright, ownership, and artistic integrity.

Should AI-generated music that replicates a popular artist’s style be considered copyright infringement? Who owns the rights to AI-generated music, the AI creator or the user who provides the input?

These questions remain unresolved and will likely be the subject of ongoing debate and legislation in the coming years.

Furthermore, the ability to replicate popular artists’ voices and styles may lead to an oversaturation of content, making it difficult for original work to stand out.

The music industry could become inundated with AI-generated music that mimics successful artists, potentially stifling creativity and undermining the value of human-generated art.

Mixed feedback

Responding to Nickson’s tweets, CVV Entertainment said: “My prediction: This type of AI feature will eventually be governed by piracy & copyright infringement laws. Remember back in the day with Napster, etc., that evolution of implementing piracy laws. Same concept here. Give it 5 years, laws go live. Not a catch all of course.”

Another user commented “I’m all for AI but Jesus Christ this freaks me out.”

Markus Karner thinks the development is “repugnant” and authorities should quickly move in to protect artists’ “unique voice.”

Despite these concerns, AI-generated music is gaining traction and will likely continue to play a significant role in the future of music production.

To navigate this new landscape, artists, producers, and industry professionals may have to adapt and embrace the potential of AI while addressing the ethical and legal challenges it presents.

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Taco Bell’s Metaverse Wedding Actually Happened



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.

Taco Bell wedding

The happy couple marry in the Taco Bell metaverse (Screenshot: Decentraland)

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.

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