Hulk Hogan on Staramba Spaces

Staramba.jpg

Staramba Spaces (Remember them? The blockchain-based virtual world where you can be neighbours with Paris Hilton?) has been busy uploading promo videos to Vimeo. Among the celebrities called upon to shill for Staramba Spaces is Hulk Hogan:

“Come train with Hulk Hogan! Come hang out on the beach with Hulk Hogan! Come surf on a tiger shark with Hulk Hogan!”

Uhhh… gimme a sec to think about this… how about…

NO. 

As I have said before:

How much interaction with real celebrities will you actually get, with all this talk of “lifelike scans” of celebrities and soccer stars? Why would you want to hang out with a 3D scan of a famous person in the first place?

I would dearly love to see the market research that shows people are willing to spend money hanging out with a 3D scanned likeness of Hulk Hogan, for any reason.

As far as I can tell, all that Staramba seems to have at this point, that its competitors do not, is a large and growing collection of 3D celebrity scans that they can (possibly) animate. How exactly does that translate into a virtual world platform that people will want to visit? How will people interact with Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan? It sounds like Staramba Spaces is creating a version of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. “Get closer to the stars!”

I just don’t think this idea is going to fly. (Sorry, Hulk!)

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UPDATED! The BBC Covers Decentraland: Virtually Making a Fortune?

I will hand it to the folks at Decentraland: for a virtual world that you can’t even visit yet, they are certainly attracting an awful lot of press attention (mostly for their expensive land prices). Today BBC decided to cover the platform on their Trending program.

Titled Virtually Making a Fortune?, the 23-minute BBC World Service radio program offers a good overall introduction to the Decentraland project, especially if you’re new to it.

BBC Decentraland.png

I am amused to note that the BBC used a still from the rather misleading “artistic concept” promotional video for Decentraland to illustrate their radio program. (You currently can’t do anything like what is pictured in the YouTube video on the platform.)

The program also failed to mention that you can already use platforms such as Sansar and High Fidelity to build VR-capable, fully-functional, visitable experiences at a much lower cost than Decentraland. As I have said before, spending a small fortune on 10 m-by-10 m plots of virtual land makes absolutely no sense when you can now build up to twenty 4 km-by-4 km experiences for free in Sansar, to cite just one example!

The program also goes into the whole idea that the company plans to build its virtual world and then withdraw, leaving Decentraland’s governance up to the resident landowners themselves. This is a somewhat fascinating but still-untested idea, which may not work out as intended.

UPDATE Aug. 27th: If you want to see some video with your audio, the story has now been placed on the BBC News website: The virtual land selling for millions.

Here’s a direct link to the six-and-a-half-minute news video (press F11 to see it full-screen on your monitor): https://www.bbc.com/news/av/embed/p06j77zq/45275461

Oasis Labs Raises $45 Million to Launch Privacy-First Cloud Computing on the Blockchain

OasisLabs.png

There’s still a lot of skepticism about blockchain. The technology still has hurdles to overcome in order to be truly useful in certain applications such as healthcare and the energy industry. But, as the MIT Technology Review reports, one recent blockchain startup, called Oasis Labs, is attracting a lot of attention and investment:

The cryptocurrency world is overflowing with big claims, but Song is a well-known computer science professor at UC Berkeley and a MacArthur fellow (as well as one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 in 2009). And a number of big-name funders seem to think her company, Oasis Labs, is on to something. This week, the startup announced that it has raised $45 million in a private token presale to a group of high-profile cryptocurrency investors and Silicon Valley venture capitalists. It also became the first project to get backing from Andreessen Horowitz’s new $300 million crypto fund.

Song says Oasis Labs has developed new “privacy preserving” smart-contract technology that overcomes fundamental limitations of today’s most popular smart-contract platform, Ethereum. She and several colleagues described a major component of the system in a recently published research paper (PDF).

According to a July 9th, 2018 press release:

Oasis Labs today announced it has raised $45 million from a16zcrypto, Accel, Binance Labs, DCVC (Data Collective), Electric Capital, Foundation Capital, Gaorong, Metastable, Pantera, Polychain, and more. Founded by a team of academic and entrepreneurial leaders, Oasis Labs is designing a platform to overcome performance, security and privacy limitations that have hampered blockchain adoption to date. The company has garnered investment support from a wide spectrum of the blockchain ecosystem including venture capital, crypto funds and hardware manufacturers.

“Today’s internet is experiencing significant growing pains when it comes to providing effective security and privacy protections, which is only compounded by the rise of data-intensive services like AI,” said Jake Flomenberg, partner at Accel. “At the same time, however, the opportunity has never been greater to responsibly leverage data in the web’s next phase of products and innovation. Oasis Labs is forging a new path by giving people control over their data while delivering a high-performance blockchain platform that will reshape the future of the cloud.”

Given the problems that people like Adam Frisby have pointed out in trying to apply blockchain to virtual worlds, this is an interesting development in blockchain research. You can follow Oasis Labs via their website, or via Twitter, Reddit, Gitter, or Telegram.

Why Virtual Universe and the VU Token Are Interesting to Me

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am choosing to participate in the Virtual Universe (VU) Initial Coin Offering Partner Program. Why? Two reasons:

  1. After my recent guided tour of VU, I feel very strongly that this is going to be a successful and popular virtual world/MMO hybrid platform, and I want to be a part of it when VU launches their beta this summer. This is the very first blockchain-based virtual world that I actually feel excited about!
  2. As a Canadian citizen, I reside in one of the three countries where I am currently legally forbidden from purchasing VU tokens (the other two are the United States and China). This means that the only way I can legitimately earn VU tokens to use in this social VR space before the beta launch is via the VU ICO Partner Program.

I want you to know this up front: this blogpost is a promotion for VU, in exchange for VU tokens.  You can follow on this webpage to see how many VU tokens I have earned by completing tasks in this Partner Program if you wish (right now, I am at number two on the VU Token Leaderboard). There’s nothing stopping you from participating in this Partner Program yourself, and earning some VU tokens!

IMPORTANT: VU Tokens are not a real currency. They are ERC-20 based blockchain tokens intended to permit players of Virtual Universe exclusive access to digital assets within a VR game known as Virtual Universe (VU). They are a form of in-game virtual currency.  Virtual value attributed to the VU Token will be as a result of in-game efforts by players, and no future value is represented or guaranteed.


VU image

Since February I have been investigating blockchain-based virtual worlds. I wanted to talk a little bit about one of the blockchain-based virtual reality projects that I found particularly interesting.

I’ve looked at a lot of blockchain-based VR projects over the past 6 months, and many of them are still pretty much vapourware (e.g. Decentraland, which you won’t even be able to visit until the end of this year at the earliest). But I was able to get a half-hour guided tour of Virtual Universe, led by Jeroen Van den Bosch, VU’s Chief Creative Officer and co-founder. If you’re interested you can watch the whole video here:

https://ryanschultz.com/2018/04/28/exclusive-video-a-guided-tour-of-virtual-universe-with-jeroen-van-den-bosch/

After my tour, and seeing what you will be able to do in Virtual Universe, I started following the project more closely.

In their whitepaper, VU is described as “part game, part social network, and part social creation platform, blending elements of Minecraft, Second Life and Simcity with innovative artificial-intelligence technologies that drive engagement”, and that is an excellent description of what it tries to be. It’s an intriguing mix of virtual world and MMO/MMORPG where you can collect wood, chop it up, and start a fire, feed worms to the AI-controlled bluebirds, or just explore your surroundings and interact with other users. As I understand from their recent Letter to the Community, explorers will be able to gather resources in the countryside in order to sell them:

Outside the city is our highly immersive LivingVR world, created from the ground up to feel as immersive as possible. Teeming with virtual life, beautiful sceneries and waiting to be explored by you. Let’s say you are exploring further than you have before and suddenly you discover a cave behind a waterfall. Inside it, you find rich copper deposits. You know copper is a desired resource in the city since its an ingredient in many crafting recipes for a wide variety of building blocks. You mine the copper and haul it back to the city. Once there you list your copper on the auction house and collect the cryptocurrency once someone wins the bid on it.

And it is not just resource gathering that can be done in VU, there will be plenty of quests available for you and your friends to experience exciting adventures with plenty of loot to be had!

Last week, Virtual Universe unveiled their brand-new game portal website, where you can register for an account, and read up on the game’s backstory.  The website is at https://vutoken.io/ and you can also register for an airdrop of their VU token. VU also offered free apartments for the first 1,000 people who registered, and they were all snapped up within 48 hours! There are still some penthouse apartments available, for those people who choose to purchase VU tokens. (People from Canada, the U.S., and China are legally forbidden from buying VU tokens due to current cyrptocurrency regulations in those countries.)

Here’s the backstory to the game:

You’re awake! Good. We have some catching up to do.

Earth as you know it is gone. Global warming and endless warfare left the planet in ruins. But humanity survived! Sort of… spaceships could make the journey to new planets, but human bodies couldn’t. They can’t survive any exposure to space radiation. The solution? House human consciousness in identity crystals, or IDCs for short, After all, isn’t consciousness that what makes a human, human?

So welcome to Uruk, the first city on the planet Raetis. For the past two years, your robot counterparts have been building Uruk. The ship you arrived on now serves as the city’s power source, which sits at the city center. We call this The Core. You’re joined by the thousands of other humans who continue to live through consciousness alone. It’s alright to not feel like yourself. Your chip has been activated inside an avatar, the way all humans now exist. So what’s next for you on this new planet? That’s for you to decide.

Explore Uruk with your friends. Sell your goods and services for real cryptocurrency. Even try on a new avatar for size – your IDC is compatible with any avatar here in Uruk. You aren’t confined in the borders of Uruk, either. The city relies on rare resources for power, which need to be uncovered and mined. You can help out, or simply explore the rest of your new home planet. But remember, most of Raetis is still a mystery. We can’t be sure what creatures or dangers lie amidst the planet’s rocky and cavernous landscape. The farther you venture from Uruk, the riskier your adventure becomes, so be careful!

It’s your life, do what you’d like. Welcome to your world.

Well, I hope this is enough info to interest you in the platform. I’m really looking forward to their beta launch sometime later this summer!

UPDATED: Virtual Universe Has Launched Their Game Portal

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am choosing to participate in the Virtual Universe (VU) Initial Coin Offering Partner Program. Why? Two reasons:

  1. After my recent guided tour of VU, I feel very strongly that this is going to be a successful and popular virtual world/MMO hybrid platform, and I want to be a part of it when VU launches their beta this summer. This is the very first blockchain-based virtual world that I actually feel excited about!
  2. As a Canadian citizen, I reside in one of the three countries where I am currently legally forbidden from purchasing VU tokens (the other two are the United States and China). This means that the only way I can legitimately earn VU tokens to use in this social VR space before the beta launch is via the VU ICO Partner Program.

I want you to know this up front: this blogpost is a promotion for VU, in exchange for VU tokens.  You can follow on this webpage to see how many VU tokens I have earned by completing tasks in this Partner Program if you wish (right now, I am at number two on the VU Token Leaderboard). There’s nothing stopping you from participating in this Partner Program yourself, and earning some VU tokens!

IMPORTANT: VU Tokens are not a real currency. They are ERC-20 based blockchain tokens intended to permit players of Virtual Universe exclusive access to digital assets within a VR game known as Virtual Universe (VU). They are a form of in-game virtual currency.  Virtual value attributed to the VU Token will be as a result of in-game efforts by players, and no future value is represented or guaranteed.


virtual-universe-logo.jpg
Virtual Universe Logo

This summer I have (rather impatiently) been waiting for the beta launch of the Virtual Universe social VR/MMO platform. The company’s original plans were for a private beta launch in July 2018, and a public beta launch in January 2019, and as far as I know, they are still on schedule.

In their whitepaper, VU is described as “part game, part social network, and part social creation platform, blending elements of Minecraft, Second Life and Simcity with innovative artificial-intelligence technologies that drive engagement”, and that is an excellent description of what it tries to be. It’s an intriguing mix of virtual world and MMO/MMORPG where you can collect wood, chop it up, and start a fire, feed worms to the AI-controlled bluebirds, or just explore your surroundings and interact with other users. As I understand from their recent Letter to the Community, explorers will be able to gather resources in the countryside in order to sell them:

Outside the city is our highly immersive LivingVR world, created from the ground up to feel as immersive as possible. Teeming with virtual life, beautiful sceneries and waiting to be explored by you. Let’s say you are exploring further than you have before and suddenly you discover a cave behind a waterfall. Inside it, you find rich copper deposits. You know copper is a desired resource in the city since its an ingredient in many crafting recipes for a wide variety of building blocks. You mine the copper and haul it back to the city. Once there you list your copper on the auction house and collect the cryptocurrency once someone wins the bid on it.

And it is not just resource gathering that can be done in VU, there will be plenty of quests available for you and your friends to experience exciting adventures with plenty of loot to be had!

We do know that there will be one main city in Virtual Universe, called Uruk (named after the ancient Sumerian city considered to be the first city in the history of civilization).

Today (July 6th, 2018), Virtual Universe officially launched their game portal:

VUtoken 4 July 2018.png

According to this brand-new website, you will be able to do the following in VU:

  • Own Property: Buy, sell, and invest in property. Purchase a unique property and customize it.
  • Start a Business: Generate BTC, ETH and VU through in-game product and service sales.
  • Find Hidden Treasure: Explore the planet and find hidden treasure. Recover lost artifacts in ancient ruins.
  • Adventure: Explore the Virtual Universe with your friends. Hang glide, sail, dive, and explore a vast world
  • Shape the Future: Shape the entire universe with decisions you make. Make your mark in VU.

Here’s the backstory:

THE STORY

You’re awake! Good. We have some catching up to do.

Earth as you know it is gone. Global warming and endless warfare left the planet in ruins. But humanity survived! Sort of… spaceships could make the journey to new planets, but human bodies couldn’t. They can’t survive any exposure to space radiation. The solution? House human consciousness in identity crystals, or IDCs for short, After all, isn’t consciousness that what makes a human, human?

So welcome to Uruk, the first city on the planet Raetis. For the past two years, your robot counterparts have been building Uruk. The ship you arrived on now serves as the city’s power source, which sits at the city center. We call this The Core. You’re joined by the thousands of other humans who continue to live through consciousness alone. It’s all right to not feel like yourself. Your chip has been activated inside an avatar, the way all humans now exist. So what’s next for you on this new planet? That’s for you to decide.

Explore Uruk with your friends. Sell your goods and services for real cryptocurrency. Even try on a new avatar for size – your IDC is compatible with any avatar here in Uruk. You aren’t confined in the borders of Uruk, either. The city relies on rare resources for power, which need to be uncovered and mined. You can help out, or simply explore the rest of your new home planet. But remember, most of Raetis is still a mystery. We can’t be sure what creatures or dangers lie amidst the planet’s rocky and cavernous landscape. The farther you venture from Uruk, the riskier your adventure becomes, so be careful!

It’s your life, do what you’d like. Welcome to your world.

VU planet 4 JUly 2018.png

VU city 4 July 2018.png

VU towers 4 July 2018.png

You can already claim an apartment from the website (there are 1,000 apartments available in what they are calling Genesis Towers):

VU claim apartment 4 Jul;y 2018.png

Here’s a sneak peek of the avatars from the Gameplay page on the website, which are a definite improvement over the simple placeholder avatars we used in my initial half-hour guided tour or Virtual Universe back in April:

VU avatars 4 July 2018.png

There are six different types of avatars, which at first glance appear to be similar to the character classes in most MMOs/MMORPGs like World of Warcraft:

  • Starter
  • Explorer
  • Creator
  • Merchant
  • Prospector
  • Warrior

And here’s some more details on the gameplay:

Play, explore and discover

Uruk is a gigantic city with endless opportunities. Participate in exciting adventures in the entertainment district, socialize with your friends in the finest clubs of the city and enjoy big community events!

Earn crypto rewards

Yup that’s right, you can earn cryptocurrency for playing our game. Help the community doing daily quests and get rewarded for your time and effort in VU tokens.

Harvest and sell resources

While you are exploring the vast landscape of planet Raetis, you will encounter a wide variety of resources. Gather these resources, bring them back to the city and sell them on the marketplace for cryptocurrency. But be careful, Raetis is full of hostile creatures so make sure you are prepared for battle before you venture into the unknown wilderness!

Shape the world around you

Collect enough VU tokens and you will be able to purchase your own plot of land on Raetis. Once you own your own corner of the world, you can shape it just the way you like it. Plant trees, place rocks, even design and construct your own home!

Customize yourself

Player will have a wide variety of avatars to choose from, all of them are highly modular so you can customize your character to make it unique!

Run a virtual business and earn crypto

If running around the world looking for rare resources is not your cup of tea then there is another major way for you to earn cryptos while playing VU: start your own virtual business! Purchase a commercial plot, construct one of the available player run ventures and start generating cryptocurrencies.

The website says, under the Beta tab:

VU beta 4 July 2018.png

I did have a question. It says the VU closed beta is “only accessible to pioneers”, and when you click through, “This section is only accessible to pioneers. You can become a pioneer by purchasing VU tokens.” So, how will Chinese, Americans, and Canadians (like me) be able to participate in the VU closed beta if we are legally forbidden from buying VU tokens?

I asked this question on the official Virtual Universe Discord server, and Jeroen Van den Bosch, VU’s Chief Creative Officer and co-founder, told me:

We are working on a way that token holders (not just buyers) can upgrade to pioneer (so that would include people participating in the bounty program). But that functionality is not ready yet.

VU is going to have to find ways to include people from countries where we cannot buy the VU token. Otherwise, they will be excluding a large number of potential players.

The more details that the team at Virtual Universe reveal, the more intrigued about this project I become! I’m looking forward to setting foot on the planet Raetis!

UPDATE July 8th: Virtual Universe has announced an airdrop of VU tokens, and their Telegram server has been inundated with floods of new users! Over half of the 1,000 free apartments in Genesis Towers have already been claimed, and the rest are expected to sell out within the next 12 hours, so if you’re interested, you’d better hurry!

SECOND UPDATE July 9th: The apartments in Genesis Towers have sold out!

Genesis Towers sold out 9 July 2018.png

Ceek: A Brief Introduction

Ceek 5 July 2018.png

Ceek is yet another blockchain-based VR app that has ambitious plans to offer live concert events and other experiences:

CEEK VR simulates the communal experience of attending a live concert, being in a classroom, attending a sporting event and other “money can’t buy” exclusive experiences with friends anywhere at anytime. CEEK VR creates, curates and distributes Virtual Reality content for top-class partners using patented headsets and CEEK’s VR platform.

The website is full of references to big-name musical artists such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. A YouTube promotional video explains how blockchain technology is used on the Ceek platform:

Here’s a second promotional video, showing some of the VR venues within Ceek:

The Ceek token sale website has more information. Ceek alrready has a partnership with Universal Music:

CEEK VR, Inc.’s partnership agreement with Universal Music Group grants rights to live performances with top tier artists including Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, U2, Sting, Neyo and more! CEEK has upcoming releases with major studios and influential producers.

CEEK’s mobile ready, VR headset is sold at major retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Target and includes a $10.00 iTunes reward gift code with purchase.

CEEK VR is a distributor of cryptographically authenticated immersive content and merchandise. CEEK’s device agnostic platform is compatible with smartphones, Smart TV’s, desktop, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality devices. CEEK’s world class partners include Universal Music, Apple and T-Mobile.

CEEK Tokens are governed by Ethereum Smart Contracts, allowing token holders ability for flexible, tokenized ‘in-world’ interactions, rewards, voting, contests, virtual goods and other transactions utilizing ERC20 compliant Tokens called CEEK.

At the moment, Ceek does not appear to support either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headsets, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, or Gear VR, although they have issued a press release that they plan to offer support sometime later this summer:

With the mission to be the first to reach one billion “CEEKERS” of content and exciting experiences, CEEK VR will be introducing new environments which will include photorealistic avatars…debuting this summer for ROBLOX in VR, GEAR VR, OCULUS VR, AND MICROSOFT mixed reality headsets.

The Ceek website currently only offers two VR viewer options: a Ceek-branded VR headset for US$99.99, which works with your existing cellphone, as well as a US$14.99 Megadeath-branded cardboard headset, which also works with your cellphone :

Ceek 2 5 July 2018.png

Here’s an unboxing and hands-on review video of the Ceek headset:

I downloaded the Ceek app to my iPhone to test it out (it’s also available for Android devices). It offers two ways for you to view content, either a 360-degree display or the use of the Ceek VR headset:

IMG_1848.PNG

Since I don’t have the Ceek VR headset, I chose the first option. Bascially, you get a sort of heads-up display that looks like this:

IMG_1849.PNG

What I found incredibly annoying was a pop-up window that appeared over the HUD, which I could not clear:

IMG_1850.PNG

I eventually gave up in frustration. I have no idea how well the Ceek VR headset works, but the app seems pretty useless without it.

It would appear that Ceek still has a few bugs to iron out. I’d check back in 6 to 12 months to see what progress has been made.

UPDATED: Cryptovoxels, A Brief Introduction

What? What’s that you say??

You say you’ve got Ethereum burning a hole in your pocket, and you’re actively searching for a monochrome, voxel-based virtual world that supports both virtual reality and is on the blockchain? Well, have I got an offer for you! Take a gander at the sexy monochrome website of Cryptovoxels!!

Cryptovoxels 5 July 2018

But wait, there’s more! There’s a YouTube video showing you just how visually exciting the virtual world of Cryptovoxels really can be!!

C’mon, admit it! Doesn’t that make you want to immediately break open your wallet and part with some hard-earned cryptocurrency to buy your very own monochrome, voxel world? (Hey, c’mon!! It’s way better than Decentraland! You can actually visit it!!)

*sigh* Blockchain-based VR has officially jumped the shark.

UPDATE July 8th: I chatted very briefly today with the developer of Cryptovoxels via Twitter, and I know he’s disappointed that I’ve judged his platform so harshly. It’s an interesting project, and I’m sure that it’s been fun to work on. But honestly, compared to what most of the other metaverse platforms are offering, Cryptovoxels doesn’t stand a chance. I did a quick calculation, and in order to buy a piece of land to build my voxels on, it would cost me at least 0.1 Ethereum, which works out to CDN$64.00:

eth.png

Sorry, but I’m not buying, and I don’t think that many other people will choose to invest either. There’s just too many other platforms out there that offer a lot more, for less money. Sansar is offering up to three 4 km by 4 km experiences, for FREE, and you can build in colour! Sinespace is offering one region, which can be up to 32 km by 32 km, for FREE, and you can also build things in colour! Both platforms also allow you to create more than just blocks! You can import mesh objects of just about any complexity you desire.

And if you compare it with Minecraft, a similar voxel-building virtual world, well, that’s only CDN$35.00, half the price of the cheapest plot of Cryptovoxels land, and with much more functionality.

And frankly, I am getting totally fed up with all this blockchain-based virtual reality nonsense. People are putting blockchain into projects where it is a solution hunting around for a problem to solve. I am so sick of the blockchain hype already!

Maybe I’m wrong; maybe Cryptovoxels will be successful. But I doubt it, based on what I have seen so far, and comparing it with other products already on the marketplace. Your mileage may vary.