CBC Radio Covers Decentraland

Decentraland is still getting the kind of mainstream press coverage that most other virtual worlds would kill for. The latest news organization to cover the blockchain-based virtual world, which is expected to launch later this year, is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, better known as the CBC.

CBC Radio’s Day 6 program reported on the Decentraland project in a report titled Welcome to Decentraland, where investors spend real-world dollars flipping virtual real estate. (In addition to the article text, there is audio of the ten-minute news report available at the above link.)

The report, which includes a warning that investors could lose their entire investment, profiles one virtual land speculator who estimates his holdings are currently worth US$150,000.

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Exploring NeosVR: An Overlooked Gem in Social VR

It’s unusual for me to write as much as I have about a social VR platform such as NeosVR without actually visiting it (I can’t remember if I visited it when it first launched or not. I think I did. An occupational hazard of doing this sort of work is that, after a while, all the virtual worlds I covered tend to blend together and I have to stop and ask myself: did I see or do that in Sansar or in Sinespace, or somewhere else?)

Regardless, I decided it was time for me to strap on my Oculus Rift headset and pay a visit to NeosVR.

My first visit was late yesterday evening, only for about 20 minutes. NeosVR starts you off (very sensibly) with a set of five tutorial videos which explain how to use the menus and controls, among other things. The first thing that you need to know about NeosVR is that it is not designed so that you can just pick it up and use it without training. There is a learning curve associated with NeosVR, and it is a fairly steep one, especially if you want to take full advantage of all the commands at your fingertips (and most of them are incorporated in your hand controllers.).

Fortunately, when I arrived at the main hub, there were a couple of experienced avatars present who helped me learn the basic movements, how to select and visit an experience from a display, and how to choose an avatar from the many default selections. One of them pulled out a camera and took a picture of me, which you can see below:

Another thing you need to know about NeosVR is that it is essentially a single-person development team, Tomas Mariancik (Frooxius), as opposed to a whole company of developers. One-person development teams have the distinct advantage of being nimble in adding new features and fixing problems, but that very flexibility can sometimes make for a confusing user experience. For example, my two guides last night were debating which of two different ways to teach me how to save this photo to my hard drive—the “old way” and the “new way”. I understand that the client software is updated daily. This means that something that once was true can change from one version to the next. Documenting the quickly-changing world of NeosVR must be a nightmare of a challenge!

So, after last night’s excursion, I decided to go back in this morning and delve a little deeper into NeosVR. I went back to the futuristic main hub, designed to look like a staellite of Earth, where there was an atlas of experiences to visit:

The first one I picked was sort of a demonstration of the graphics abilities of NeosVR, and it was quite impressive (a mere photo hardly does it justice):

Then I visited a Van Gogh art exhibit, with a 3-dimensional recreation of one of his paintings. Again, the level of graphics was impressive:

I would strongly encourage you to come visit and explore NeosVR. Tomas Mariancik has created a wonderful and innovative space for developers to build VR experiences, and all the other social VR platforms should be taking notes. This project compares very favourably in terms of features with better-known platforms such as Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace and VRChat (with the latter probably being the one product to which NeosVR will be most often compared). NeosVR is an overlooked gem, and I plan to visit it much more often in future to see how it evolves.

(Note: I have confirmed from chatting with the developer on Reddit that you do not need to purchase Neos Credits, their in-world cryptocurrency, to use and enjoy NeosVR.)

Comparing Blockchain-Based Virtual World Projects

I am still monitoring the various blockchain-based virtual world projects via their discussion forums on Telegram. In particular, there’s been a lot of chatter lately about the Mark Space project, which I still regard with a high degree of wariness. They may have made some cosmetic improvements to the spaces you can build, but I still don’t think they’re terribly appealing compared to what you can do in Sansar, High Fidelity, etc. Here, see for yourself:

However, a member of the Mark Space team posted the following table to their Telegram channel, comparing their product with other blockchain-based virtual worlds, which I did find of interest:

While I am already familiar with Decentraland, I’ve never or barely heard of some of these other projects before:

  • district0x
  • Metaverse (now there’s a poorly-chosen name!)
  • Cappasity
  • Spectiv
  • Prosense
  • Matryx

You know what that means, don’t you? It’s time for me to go do some investigating and exploring again! I’ll report back on what I find, and just how accurate this chart is.

I leave you with this vague and mystifying promotional video for Mark Space, which makes me wonder what exactly the company is spending their money on—an actual virtual world, or slick advertising to bring in more investors? This sort of thing raises all kinds of red flags for me.

Or, if you really want to see something trippy that pretty much has absolutely nothing to do with the actual product, check out this promotional video for Cappasity!

The level of insanity in this market is breathtaking.

Mossland: A Brief Introduction

Mossland 2 Jan 2019.jpg

Look, I’m going to just come right out and say it. Mossland is another one of those blockchain-based virtual reality/augmented reality projects that makes you scratch your head and go, huh?

The concept behind Mossland is simple enough: users bid on virtual versions of real-world properties (this is very similar to another “augmented reality” game I had profiled earlier, called Worldopoly):

What is Mossland: The City?

  • Mossland: The City is a location based Mobile Augmented Reality (AR) game that will launch on the 4th quarter of 2019. In this game players can view the actual buildings around you and purchase the virtual real-estate online. By using the blockchain based cryptocurrency, Moss Coin, you can safely purchase and trade in game real-estate and augment the buildings with various AR accessories. Users can enjoy the game while trading and interacting with other players.

What is the Mossland: The Auction?

  • ‘Property’ are all the buildings that can traded in ‘Mossland: The City.’ ‘Mossland: The Auction’ is a service provided for players to start bidding on unique landmark properties that will be traded in the game before anyone else.
  • Starting the opening of October 12th, each Friday five landmark properties will be released in the auction. Everyone who has an account for the Mossland: The Auction can participate in the auction, and the landmark is given to the user with the highest bid.

Do not be disappointed for not winning the bid, the participants receive incentives for just participating in the auction!

  • The winning bidder receives 80% of the Moss Coin that was used for the final bid and the remaining 20% is given to the other participants in the auction.
  • The user who is the owner of the property can auction out the Landmark to other users through a new auction on the open market.

Why participate in Mossland: The Auction?

  • Mossland: The City provides an opportunity for anyone in the world to own a virtual building. Users can be an owner of a virtual real-estate after completing tasks and missions. This can be a famous building in your area, your school, your workplace, even a cafe that you often go to.
  • You can become a forerunner of the virtual property that has actual value. Applying Augmented Reality(AR) advertisements to your buildings can generate additional values.
  • It would be much more difficult for users to own unique landmarks after Mossland: The City launches and is provided to more users. Mossland: The Auction provides a one and only opportunity for the potential users of the game to monopolize in owning the exclusive landmarks.
  • There are no limits and predictions on how high your property’s price might rise. You can expect a huge increase in your pre-acquired landmark property when Mossland: The City has an explosive number of users.
  • Due to the nature of any auctioning system, there will always be a chance where a good landmark can be bought at a low price. Constantly checking the prices of the landmarks and checking out the auction pages will be an exciting experience.

I have to chuckle about the bit where they talk about “an explosive number of users”. But my serious question is (and this is a question I ask about many of these blockchain-based projects): why would anybody want to do this?!?? 

Amazingly, over the past three months, 170,000 bids were placed on 258 properties in 30 auctions:

Mossland 2 2 Jan 2019.jpg

The most expensive property to date is Seoul City Hall (which is not terribly surprising; Mossland is run by a South Korean company called Reality Reflection). The winning bid was 1,253,500 MOC (their in-game cryptocurrency), which works out to almost US$45,000, according to this online currency exchange calculator:

MOC to USD 2 Jan 2019.jpg

Why would anybody want to pay 45,000 dollars for the rights to a virtual property that you can’t even visit yet, and won’t be able to for at least another year? 

Now, to cover their asses, the company does include this legal statement:

Notice: Mossland’s Moss Coin (MOC) is an in-game currency; it has no inherent value and should not be purchased for purposes of speculation, investment or profit.

As if people were not spending all this money on properties that they intended to flip for profit later. Another example of sheer greed overriding common sense. The problem is, who is going to buy these virtual properties? What can you do with them? NOTHING, from what I can tell. Sell advertising, as the company suggests above? Advertising requires visitors. Who is going to bother visiting these properties?!?? How are they going to visit them?? On their cellphones, as suggested by this promotional video? Why would they even bother???

Argh, this blockchain bullshit is driving me crazy.

Note that, since there is no indication that you can actually be social (i.e. interact with other avatars) in Mossland, I am not including this on my list of social VR/virtual worlds. Frankly, I should take Worldopoly off that list, for the same reason.