It’s time to take another look at Mark Space, the blockchain-based virtual world I have talked about a fair bit in the past. I still find the whole project to be somewhat mystifying, even a bit stupefying, in its lofty ambitions and slick promotion.
And Mark Space has been putting out some pretty perplexing promotional videos lately, like this one:
And this one, focusing on their development team:
Which is all well and good, but neither video tells you a damn thing about the actual product they are selling! I tend to be rather suspicious of companies that choose to spend their money on slick advertising which lacks in specific product details.
In case you forgot, the basic idea behind Mark Space is that you can buy square virtual spaces which you can decorate with 360-degree photographs of interiors, and 2D and 3D models of furniture. And… that’s pretty much it for now. Frankly, Mark Space cannot even begin to compare with much more fully-featured social VR platforms and virtual worlds such as Sansar, High Fidelity, even long-in-the-tooth Second Life, where your avatar navigates within actual three-dimensional space, instead of just clicking and panning through 360-degree photographs!
But perhaps there have been some recent developments, something to support the hype, so I decided to pay a return visit to see what’s up.
The Mark Space three-story shopping mall, where you are dropped when you first arrive in Mark Space, and which currently seems to be the only space you can explore, is packed full of big name, high-end stores, including, but not limited to:
- Dolce & Gabbana
- Saint Laurent
- Alexander McQueen
- Alexander Wang
- Stella McCartney
- Diane von Furstenburg
- Michael Kors
- and many more brands
For example, here’s the virtual Gucci store:
And, once you get inside, you can select and inspect Gucci wear:
A pop-up window appears when you click on an item in the store, like this red jacket, complete with a Buy button at the bottom:
When you click on the Buy button, it takes you to another website, MARK.MODA, where all the goods I checked were marked “Not Available”:
My question is: does Mark Space actually have any agreements with these vendors to display their products and use their brand names and logos so prominently in its shopping mall? I would expect that an official affiliation with many of these high-end brands would be rather expensive line item for (what I assume is) a small start-up company. One journalist has already caught the company on their previous claim to having an official partnership with Jaguar and Land Rover, when that was not the case. So when I see such a lengthy listing of prestigious brand names, I do tend to get a little suspicious.
I wonder what the official representatives of these companies would have to say if they were to take a look at what Mark Space is doing. Do they even know about this? Do they care? And can Mark Space get away with this, even if they claim it’s just for demonstration purposes? The answers to those three questions, in order, are probably: No. Yes. and No.
According to the legal section on Gucci’s official website:
Oh, and in another development, Mark Space also boasts a brand-new “VR mode” for their web browser app. Here’s what it looks like on my desktop monitor:
I can only assume this display is meant for cellphone-based VR headsets. According to a press release issued today:
Today we’ll tell you about a new platform feature — screen synchronization! The new feature allows to display everything that the user sees in the cardboard (into which a smartphone is placed) on a second screen. This means that the platform already allows to easily start using virtual reality for educational and auxiliary purposes: for example, during exhibitions, presentations, or just because. To enable this feature, you must simultaneously log into the same MARK.SPACE account on your smartphone and PC.
Sigh. Forcing you to sign in twice (on two different devices), just to be able to see a scene in cellphone VR? And I can find no Mark Space app on the iPhone App Store, so I assume this works for Android phones only. Or do they just expect you to use the web browser on your phone, too?
Caveat emptor! Oh, and I have emailed the Intellectual Property department of Gucci to ask them whether or not they actually have a relationship with Mark Space, with a link back to this blogpost.
UPDATE 6:28 p.m.: Well, I have been doing some more in-depth exploring of the MARK.MODA website, and I have found a number of Gucci items that appear to have valid pass-through links to third-party online stores carrying the actual Gucci products, like the Russian version of Farfetch.com. So who knows? Maybe I could be completely wrong, and all this is totally legitimate. Perhaps MARK.MODA (the store) predates MARK.SPACE (the virtual world), and the company is merely expanding its existing online business to include virtual world shopping. If so, then more power to them, and I apologize. But I still wonder if Gucci actually knows about their virtual storefront in Mark Space, and what they have to say about all this.
UPDATE 6:53 p.m.: Well, this just gets weirder and weirder! It looks like MARK.MODA is not really so much a shopping site as a sort of Pinterest-like social media site where users can dress up a model in clothing selected from various designers, and share the resulting picture with their social network for comments and likes. Any sales links go straight through to various third-party vendors. I even found a two-minute promotional video for MARK.MODA:
And it would appear that MARK.SPACE (the virtual world) predates MARK.MODA. None of the videos on the MARK.MODA YouTube channel is older than 5 months, and Mark Space has been around for longer than that. This is absolutely fascinating! I feel as if I have tumbled down a rabbit hole!
I wonder how long they have been working on all this, and if this rather cool service is only available via the one Russian website, or if there are other versions as well. This actually puts the whole Mark Space project in a rather different light. According to the English version of this Russian page from the MARK.MODA website:
MODA-MARK.com is one of the core products of MARK.SPACE Technologies, which operates an open-source platform for creation of 3D, VR and AR-compatible spaces (websites). MARK.MODA is built and based on a unique VR-code, created by our developers within the framework of our main company MARK.SPACE.
At present, we are testing the platform in the Russian Federation, where it has already gained popularity among stylists and fans of fashion. In the near future, MARK.MODA will be integrated into the MARK.SPACE Universe, which will allow for use of the full functionality of the platform and its launch into Asian / US / EU markets.
So it does look like it is just the one Russian website for now, with plans to expand. Now, whether any of this is actually going to work in a virtual world (let alone adding in VR) remains to be seen. But it is cool nonetheless. And I am rather intrigued!