InWith: the Metaverse in a Contact Lens?

A prototype of the InWith contact lens (source: Forbes)

The 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES for short) starts in Las Vegas a couple of days, although many would-be attendees are changing their plans at the last minute, thanks to the highly-infectious Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus! (You wouldn’t get me on an airplane nowadays if you held a gun to my head.)

Among the companies who plan to present products at CES 2022 is the Irvine, Calfornia-based engineering firm InWith, with a first-of-its-kind contact lens. A press release sent out today states:

InWith Corporation is showing at CES 2022, potentially the most advanced platform for viewing the coming Metaverse; an electronic soft contact lens platform designed for the masses to wear comfortably, enabling easy transition from real world to Metaverse, at will. InWith is planning to achieve FDA Breakthrough Clearance this year and to put the futuristic contact lenses on the market shortly thereafter.

The first applications of the technology will be “tunable vision” via mobile device and “augmented vision” coupled with mobile device control. These markets have been called multi-billion dollars by themselves, but the ultimate application may be fully immersive Metaverse viewing, offering users a super lightweight, virtually invisible way to go back and forth from real world viewing to the Metaverse…

InWith is the only company thus far, to publicly display this capability to integrate component circuitry into modern, soft contact lens materials. InWith is working with top Fortune 50 companies presently, to secure and introduce the first viable iterations of this technology in the market with the backing of several hundred patents in 2022.

Despite the repeated namedropping of the Metaverse (with a capital M), it seems pretty clear from this press release that accessing the metaverse via contact lens is still a far ways off into the future. Still, somewhat intrigued, I went to take a gander at their website, sporting a opening page with a definite new-age meditation vibe, where you have to click on the VISIONARIES WELCOME button (get it?) to get to the actual content:

Image course: the InWith website

ULTIMATE XR PLATFORM

Imagine a patented technology that enables computer circuitry to be embedded into name-brand soft contact lenses like those already worn by millions of people. This makes our platform the ultimate discrete wearable XR technology.

(Not sure if they actually meant “discrete”, meaning individually separate and distinct, or if they meant “discreet”, meaning intentionally unobtrusive; I suspect they meant the latter, since the device is similar to a “hidden” hearing aid. It just absolutely drives me up the wall when people confuse these two words with very different meanings!)

A MULTIVERSE PLATFORM

Our patented platform enables a multiverse of applications within a single contact lens, from XR to tunable focus, to Biosensors, these are just a few examples.

They have a partnership with the contact lends maker Bausch & Lomb. Charlie Fink wrote about it for Forbes:

InWith co-founder and CEO Michael Hayes says the unique marriage  marriage of highly biocompatible materials with 3-D flexible microelectronics embedded into molded hydrogel devices, which InWith calls “smart biology,” may be on the market “in the near future.” 

With InWith’s technology, the augmented lens is just like the soft contact lens 150 million people use every day. Except they’re connected to your phone. They harvest energy from the normal blinking of the eyes. Check your blood sugar. Send alerts and notifications. “This opens the door to hundreds of new devices: blood chemistry for cancer and virus detection, drug delivery, artificial organ parts with electronics for movement,” said Hayes in an interview. “This is the next big wave; the merger of the mobile device into the human body for full monitoring of your health. It will lead to less disease and longer lives.” 

Some of the elements of the InWith contact lens (source: Forbes)

There’s really very little additional information on the website, but that might change after any announcements the company makes at the CES trade show. Stay tuned! However, I wouldn’t throw out your virtual reality headset just yet… 😉

To learn more about InWith, visit their website or follow them on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Metafluencers, Metapreneurs, Metaclans and Metahuts: A First Look at Metafluence

Yes, you too, from the comfort of your bedroom, in your sweats and slippers, can be a METAFLUENCER! 🙄 (image source: CoinTelegraph)

The metaverse news is falling fast and furious lately, but first…another one of Auntie Ryan’s patented snarky, bitchy, and sarcastic editorial blogposts! (Priorities, people!)

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, I have gone down some pretty weird and obscure rabbit-holes lately. Among them, I have developed a recent fascination with toxic influencer culture: those men and women who become popular on social media, but sooner or later cause controversies, scandals, and scams, in some cases incinerating their “influencer” status and losing millions of followers.

(If you’re interested in this topic, I can recommend two YouTube channels to watch: Smokey Glow and Cruel World Happy Mind, both of which provide excellent summaries and commentary on what’s going down in the world of problematic influencers. They’re my current guilty pleasure!)

Well, I guess it was time that somebody linked the words “influencer” and “metaverse” to create that hybrid monster: the metafluencer!

My target today is a truly cringeworthy article from CoinTelegraph, first brought to my attention on Twitter by Tony Vitillo (a.k.a. SkarredGhost), an Italian man whose blog, The Ghost Howls, often has virtual reality product reviews and weekly news round-ups about the VR/AR/MR/XR industry and the metaverse. Here’s the tweet:

Now, this is not the first time I have taken CoinTelegraph to task for their reporting (here’s the first time, if you’re interested, complete with a mind-bogglingly tone-deaf illustration). But this time, they’ve truly outdone themselves!

The article starts off reasonably enough:

As it is currently positioned, the metaverse will hold the potential to give creators a whole new aspect of interaction and communication as they gain new opportunities to work with other creators and reach new audiences. For creators, the question now becomes not if they will shift to the metaverse, but when will they do so. After all, nobody wants to be the business still figuring out Instagram Reels while the world moves on to the metaverse.

But it turns out that Metafluence is actually the name of a proposed metaverse platform for influencers! Check this part out:

A city where influencers rule

The Metafluence platform is currently being incubated by the venture capital firm specializing in blockchain technology, Master Ventures. This engagement is set to continue over the next two years and is among a number of other partnerships the team has under their belt.

With a shared goal, the name Metafluence will come to represent the name of a single city in the metaverse, one that social media influencers will control. The city itself will comprise influencer homes, also known as Metahuts, which can be customized based on the influencers’ choice. Custom spaces will provide an added opportunity for influencers to better monetize their audience and continue engaging closer with brands.

Additionally, these huts can act as a storefront for influencers to share their digital artwork and other NFTs, providing new monetization and engagement opportunities. Influencers may also choose to come together in Metaclans as they collaborate for maximized reach and other strategic collaborations or participate in public and private virtual events.

Metafluence? Metaclans? METAHUTS?!?? Excuse me while I metavomit… 🤮

And, lo and behold, like so many blockchain-based metaverse projects that are essentially just a white paper at this point, there’s a Metafluence website!

WE ARE CREATING THE FIRST METAPRENEURS

We are on a mission to convert Social Media Influencers into Metaverse entrepreneurs through our influence-to-earn platform by enhancing their relations with audiences and brands. Our solutions for influencers automatically address advertiser and audience challenges, enabling brands to organically grow and thrive in web 3.0.

Metapreneurs? Yet another Frankenstein meta-buzzword??!? Oy gevalt!

There’s also the requisite Discord and Telegram channels (oh, why is Telegram so popular for these kinds of blockchain/crypto projects?). Oh, yes, I forgot to mention: there’s also a cryptocurrency called $METO, along with a bunch of promised future features (including decor and upgrades for your Metahut!):

Some potential use cases for the $METO cryptocurrency

O.K., I am officially metaover this metaproject with all its unnecessary metabuzzwords, jumping on the metabandwagon. I’m not even going to bother including it in my list of social VR and virtual worlds because (as far as I can tell) it’s essentially vapourware at this point in its existence. Meh. If they actually do launch something, maybe I’ll circle back and write about it more then. Until then, I will safely watch from the sidelines.

This project reminds me of nothing so much as the truly disastrous Staramba Spaces/MATERIA.ONE project, which at the time had brought aboard celebrity influencers like Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan (you can read all my blogposts about that particular fiasco here). The people who invested in MATERIA.ONE never got anything back from their investments, so this is time for me to once again issue my standard warning for such projects:

Please, for the love of God, do EVERY. SINGLE. SCRAP. of your research before investing a penny in any blockchain/cryptocurrency/NFT project! Don’t be swayed by a white paper full of statistics, projections and promises, a Discord or Telegram full of cryptocurrency bros, and a slick-looking website! You will need to do YOUR OWN due diligence. Caveat emptor!


Thank you to Tony Vitillo for the heads up!

Mona: An Introduction

Image source: the Mona website

Mona is a brand-new blockchain-based metaverse platform, accessible via your web browser, which describes itself as follows:

Mona is seeding the open metaverse through the creation and use of beautiful, unique 3D Spaces.

We believe art is about the experience, and the experiences that will store the most value over time will be 3D, one-of-one, and dynamic which is why Mona Spaces are so unique…

Spaces are best viewed within Mona, but for the benefit of the builder, and holder, we are minting the files needed to move your Space elsewhere.

In short, you can take your Space with you. This is fundamental to the open metaverse. For now, you will need an experienced builder to port your Space to another metaverse world. Compatibility is dependent on capabilities of other worlds.

You can explore a directory of virtual spaces built in Mona from your web browser

The three core components of Mona are:

  • Spaces: “Mona Spaces are 3D environments that you can build and mint on the Etherium or Polygon blockchain. Spaces are designed to be composible [sic], social, and interactive and can hold and display other collectibles.”
  • Artifacts: “An Artifact is any unique digital asset placed within your Space. These can link out to other marketplaces. Some examples of Artifacts are a photo, video, or a 3D object. In the future, you will be able to remove or replace Artifacts in your Space.”
  • Portals: “A Portal connects two or more Spaces together. Portals allow for easy navigation between Spaces inside of Mona. Basically, a Portal is a hyperlink to another Space or other metaverse worlds like Decentraland or CryptoVoxels.”

Among the future features Mona plans to support are full custom avatar system integrations; multiplayer support for up to 100 concurrent users in a Space; an implementation of adjustable artist royalties; a set of builder tools; token-gated/ticketed events; and VR/AR support:

Our team has a deep backround in AR & VR, with previous work at Magic Leap and are names in a dozen patents. We understand the future is in the headset, and we are building towards that future.

Key members of the team at Mona (source: Mona website)

And the new platform seems quite willing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to attracting content creators! Mona is hosting what they call a Renaissance build-a-thon, with an open call for architects, 3D artists, and game designers to craft virtual spaces, with over a quarter of a million dollars in the prize pot, and a top prize of US$35,000! More details can be found here on a special website.

I think this is a very savvy move by Mona, and one which many competitor metaverse platforms should strongly consider as a way to boost their adoption (Hellooo, Wookey-run Sansar?)

I mean, I have been saying this till I was blue in the face over the past four-and-a-half years I have been writing this blog: just making a social VR platform or virtual world, and then sticking it out there without any marketing or promotion or incentives, and just expecting content creators to somehow stumble across it on their own has demonstrably proven to be an abject failure in most cases (VRChat being a notable exception, and they have the livestreamers to thank for that). You can’t count on being in the right place at the right time; you need to sell yourself and your product!

All companies that hope to compete and succeed in the now-hypercompetitive metaverse marketplace should read this blogpost.

Here’s the timeline for Renaissance build-a-thon:

  • Jan. 1st | Announcement
  • Jan. 8th | Build Kickoff Event
  • Jan. 11th | Renaissance Q&A (Live on Twitter)
  • Jan. 12th | Build Brainstorm
  • Jan. 20th | Build Feedback Session
  • Jan. 27th | Submission Deadline (11:59pm Pacific Time)

If you’re curious about Mona and want to find out more, you can visit their website (you can learn more about the Renaissance build-a-thon event here), join their Discord server, check out their listings on OpenSea, or follow them on social media: Instagram or Twitter.

I will, of course, be adding Mona to my comprehensive list of social VR and virtual worlds (which, by the way, I will be reorganizing and recategorizing early this year).

Pandemic Diary, January 2nd, 2022: A Playlist of Uplifting Music for Pandemic Times

My new playlist for Omicron times

It is now officially 658 days since March 16th, 2020, when I began working from home for my full-time paying job as a science librarian at the University of Manitoba.

Suffering from a wicked case of insomnia, I finally got out of bed around 2:00 a.m. and started working on a playlist of music, using a previous playlist I had created to get me through a five-week strike at my university as my starting point.

I just finished, and I have been listening to these tunes on loop all morning and afternoon, and I am feeling immeasurably better! These are songs about finding strength in the face of adversity, hope, resilience, never giving up, etc. I now share them with you in hopes that they will help you get through this pandemic.

I named this playlist after two of the songs on it: Invincible (by Kelly Clarkson) and Overcomer (an absolute BANGER of a Christian song by Mandisa, with an inspiring video; see below). Yes, I have included a few songs by contemporary Christian artists, which I still listen to even though I now consider myself an atheist (or perhaps agnostic); I hope you don’t mind! You can always skip them if it offends you. 😉

Invincible, by Kelly Clarkson
Overcomer, by Mandisa

Stay safe, and stay healthy in these unprecedented times!