Blockchain-Based Virtual World MARK.SPACE Fires Some Staff, and Announces a Pivot to Provide Business-to-Business Services Visualizing Real Estate

The long-running saga of blockchain-based virtual world MARK.SPACE has taken a few more strange twists since I last looked at it.

The company shut down its original Telegram group (with 2,626 members) and started up a brand new one (with 193 subscribers), explaining the reasons for this decision on their website in this undated news release:

Just like all of you, we are also upset by the current MRK token currency rate. However, we guarantee that we did not sell and are not going to sell our tokens on exchanges! By the way, speaking about the dissemination of false information – we are very upset by the negative informational background in this group – communication of this kind has led to a negative state of mind of a large part of the MARK.SPACE community.

In this regard, we have decided not to support this group anymore. Instead, the team is launching a new MARK.SPACE Telegram channel. We try to regularly please you with industry news, informational copyright articles, as well as platform updates. We duplicate all the information here, but, unfortunately, much remains unnoticed and we receive complaints that we are either inactive or have abandoned the development of the platform altogether.

Both of those accusations are obviously NOT true! The new Telegram channel will automatically duplicate news from the official MARK.SPACE website and you will be able to see all the news and updates without them being lost in the stream of comments and unnecessary links.

And then, in a Nov. 10th, 2019, in a news release posted to their website and to the new Telegram channel, MARK.SPACE dropped a bombshell announcement:

In May this year, it was revealed that a group of developers was trying to appropriate the MARK.SPACE technology: certain employees – in secret from their colleagues – wanted to use the technology for personal gain. To do this, they used the company MARK.SPACE Japan, and also planned to register (or possibly registered) a new legal entity in Japan called Site Makers Japan, through which over the past few months these corrupt employees tried to sell intellectual property owned by MARK.SPACE for 37 million US dollars. 

Having discovered the above facts in June 2019, MARK.SPACE Management took the following steps:

1. stopped financing Site Makers (in Russia), a company led by Vladimir Shlyapin that carried out technical development of the MARK.SPACE platform on agreement basis;

2. terminated the operating authorities and roles of Oleg Ershov, Vladimir Shlyapin, and Dmitry Shamov in the MARK.SPACE project, as they were the persons responsible for the incident with an attempt to appropriate the technology.

A Google search for MARK.SPACE Japan pulls up nothing, except a few older profiles of Dmitry Shamov. Searches for Site Makers and Site Makers Japan were similarly fruitless. MARK.SPACE has done a document dump from what it says was its internal investigation into the matter, stating “The documentation is provided without changes and in the original language.” (The documents all appear to be in either Russian or Japanese. Since I speak neither language, I have no idea what happened.)

In addition to these allegations the company makes against former coworkers, MARK.SPACE has announced a pivot to a brand new use: a business-to-business platform for visualizing real estate:

We inform you that, despite the situation, MARK.SPACE continues platform development. At the moment, our efforts are aimed at finalizing existing products, as well as selling business solutions. Over the past six months, negotiations with venture capital funds have shown that at this stage the platform needs to demonstrate sustainable development. Only after that it is possible to carry out the following stages of financing by venture funds on favorable terms and plan further IPO procedures.

Now the team is actively engaged in the promotion and sale of B2B solutions (https://live.mark.space/b2b-solution/), such as the visualization of real estate – objects both under construction and those already put into operation. MARK.SPACE representatives are currently negotiating with companies, contracts with which will allow to make substantial profits and direct them to finalizing B2C functionality of the MARK.SPACE universe. In addition, obtaining steady revenue through the sale of B2B solutions will allow the next stage of financing by venture investors on optimal conditions and to continue accelerated development of the MARK.SPACE platform.

It’s not clear to me what will happen to the previous business that MARK.SPACE was engaged in: their virtual shopping mall (which is still up), and their sale of virtual residential units to consumers (which I blogged about here and here).

For now, they are focusing on B2B solutions:

Thanks to our 3D/VR/AR solutions you can present existing real estate items as well as under construction ones to your clients in the most advanced and efficient way.

– 360/VR virtual tours for existing real estate

– 3D/360/VR virtual tours for under-construction real estate

– 3D modeling and visualization of apartments, offices, interior and furnishings

– 3D/VR modeling and visualization of development area

– Video production & 4D construction animation based on 3D modeling

– 2D floor plans redrawing in one style

– AR solutions for appealing presentations

Image taken from the MARK.SPACE B2B Announcement

Well, I wish the company well. There’s absolutely nothing in all this recent news that would encourage or entice me to invest in their MRK token or their virtual real estate. As I have often said before about this and all the other blockchain-based virtual worlds I cover on this blog: do every single shred of your homework before investing a penny! MARK.SPACE is another company that I will continue to monitor—safely from the sidelines.

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Lucas Rizzotto Proposes That Social VR’s Power Users Are Those With Mental or Physical Illnesses: Do You Agree or Not?

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Lucas Rizzotto, who is the founder and CEO of the VR experience Where Thoughts Go (available on Steam and the Oculus Store), has posted a thread of tweets on Twitter, suggesting that the “power users” of social VR are those who suffer from a mental or physical illness that prevents them from participating fully in real-life society:

Lucas says:

I don’t know if people know this, but the power users of social VR right now are kids and people who suffer from a mental/physical illness that stops them from socializing normally in their day-to-day life. Social VR is what gives them control over their social life.

By “power users”, I mean the people that spend the most amount of hours in-app, which are the users that are theoretically gaining the most from a product. Exceptions may apply, but it still doesn’t change the overwhelming majority.

This tells us something REALLY important: people use social VR to fill GAPS missing from their real-life interactions, not to REPLACE them. The more similar social VR interactions are to the real-world the less use they have to the general population. It fills less gaps!

And it makes sense! Social VR fills very important gaps for those 2 groups. Kids have a social life heavily constrained by their families & educational institutions, while people who suffer from certain illnesses may be stuck at home or too anxious to engage normally with others.

What this means is that the idea that the everyday men and women will simply stop hanging out in real life and just do it in VR instead is delusional. There are so many hidden nuances about in-person interactions that people won’t give up, even if they cannot verbalize them.

So the question becomes: when are people willing to give those things up?

1) When it’s overwhelmingly economically advantageous to meet in VR (i.e. you don’t have to fly somewhere)

2) When the social gathering is more about acquiring information than connecting at a human level

So if you’re a designing a social XR product, ask yourself: are you filling a gap in people’s social lives or are you just giving them another way to do what they do today? And if that’s so, are the economic benefits enough to justify them giving up the nuances of meeting in real life?

Now, the idea that social VR/virtual worlds are a haven of sorts for those with disabilities or illnesses is not exactly a new concept. In fact, Brenhard Drax (a.k.a. Second Life and Sansar videomaker Draxtor Despres) has made an award-winning documentary about this topic, called Our Digital Selves: My Avatar is Me, which you can watch below:

Lucas Rizzottos’ premise is rather intriguing. But I don’t agree with Lucas’ proposal that social VR’s power users are mostly people who do have a disability or illness of some sort. While I agree that the overall percentage of the disabled or physically/mentally ill participating in social VR/virtual worlds is certainly higher than what you would find in real-life society, it is still a clear minority of social VR users.

Most of the people who use social VR are mentally and physically healthy, non-disabled people who choose to spend a certain portion of the day inside a VR headset! They do so for a variety of reasons, not necessarily that they don’t have real-life options.

That is not to say that the differently abled, and those who have a mental or physical illness, aren’t attracted to social VR and virtual worlds. I can think of numerous examples of people I have met in Sansar, such as Shyla the Super Gecko (who is profiled in Drax’s documentary above), who successfully use Sansar as a social outlet. And I myself have shared on this blog about my struggles with severe clinical depression, so even I would fit into Lucas’ thesis. I admit that there have been days in the past, when I was depressed, when I would rather slip on my Oculus Rift headset and be social in a virtual world than go outside in the real one. And I found that the mood lift I would get from being social in VR was similar to the one I would get in real life, too.

What do you think? Do you agree with Lucas Rizzotto that social VR’s power users are those with mental or physical illnesses, or not? Please feel free to leave a comment below, or even better, join us on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server and tell us what you think there! We’d love to have you.

I Will Be Writing a Blogpost on Black Friday Sales in Social VR and Virtual Worlds, and I Need Your Help: Where Are the Sales?

I can remember a time here in Canada when there were no Black Friday sales. Canada follows the British tradition of Boxing Day (Dec. 26th) sales. But over the past decade, Black Friday crept north of the border, and now we have both Black Friday and Boxing Day sales.

This year I have decided to write a blogpost outlining the Black Friday sales happening in those social VR platforms and virtual worlds which have an in-world economy:

  • Second Life (of course!)
  • Sansar
  • High Fidelity
  • Sinespace

For example, FULLSpectrum (Medhue and Bagnaria’s store in Sansar) is having a buy-one-get-one-free sale on their custom human avatars. Bagnaria tells me:

FULLSpectrum Black Friday Special (November 26 -November 29): TWO FOR ONE | Buy any FS avatar and get a second of the same value or less for free. You will automatically get your money back for the second avatar you buy. For obvious technical reasons you need to be friends with FULLSpectrum to get your money back. Contact Bagnaria for support.

If you have news about a Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) sale taking place on those four platforms, please leave me a comment here, or use my Contact form, or message me on one of the many Discord servers where I am a member (my handle is RyanSchultz). Thank you!