UPDATED! Infiniverse: A Brief Introduction to a Blockchain-Based Augmented Reality Platform

Infiniverse 25 Oct 2018

Infiniverse is a blockchain-based augmented reality platform:

Frankly, this is nothing more than a slickly-produced promotional video, a purely imaginary artistic concept of what Infiniverse is supposed to be. (It reminds me of that equally imaginary Decentraland promotional video I keep seeing people refer to.)

The reality is probably very different from what is portrayed here. Who knows what the actual technical state of the project is? According to this Medium article, Infiniverse is currently in development and scheduled for a public beta release in the fourth quarter of 2018. (I’ll believe that when I see it.)

According to their white paper:

Infiniverse is a decentralized augmented reality (AR) platform and persistent virtual world on top of the real world, powered by the EOS blockchain and InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). Users can bring digital content into the real world, allowing it to be seen and interacted with by any other nearby users. The platform also allows users to place persistent content in the world, which remains in the same physical location even after the user has left the area or quit the application. However, due to the scarcity of real world space, users must purchase or rent “land”, the digital layer of real world locations, in order to place persistent content there.

Infiniverse has its own economy and virtual currency: Infinicoin, an EOS token. Infinicoin is used to register land and make transactions on the marketplace. The marketplace allows users to sell their creations, trade unique items, and buy and rent land, all without percentage-based commissions. The blockchain gives users full control and security over their virtual currency, land ownership and assets, while content is duplicated and distributed across the IPFS network.

Initially, the platform runs on iOS and Android devices that support AR frameworks with positional tracking, such as ARKit and ARCore. In the future, support will be extended to smart glasses when these devices are more mature and widespread, appropriate for outdoor use, and include GNSS chips for geographic location tracking.

The goal is to create a rich parallel universe that users can seamlessly switch into, allowing them to experience diverse AR content and applications, all co-existing and interacting, and a thriving virtual economy that allows content creators to create real economic value, while keeping all of the proceeds.

If you’re interested in Infiniverse, you can follow them on Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Medium. Or you can just visit their website.

Infiniverse 2 25 Oct 2018

Since it’s not yet clear how social this platform will be, I am not adding this product to my List of Social VR/Virtual Worlds. But it is interesting, nonetheless. I wish them luck!

UPDATE Oct. 26th: Someone from the Infiniverse team named Neb reached out to me via Telegram with the following video, in response to my question about the current technical state of the Infiniverse project.  This three-minute video shows how Infiniverse would look using a smartphone:

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Aether City: A Brief Introduction

Well, whaddayaknow? I turned over a rock and discovered yet another blockchain-based virtual world!

Aether 21 Oct 2018.png

Aether City is a new virtual world (city, to be more accurate) that uses the Ethereum blockchain to register property ownership.

The only way to explore Aether City is via their web browser, which is currently rather limited in functionality. You can buy units or entire buildings, such as this central skyscraper whimsically named “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”:

Aether 2 21 Oct 2018.png

According to their website:

A unit is the smallest unit of property ownership in Aether. It is a property that is defined by its coordinates occupying an area of 10 m³. A unit is a part of a building and is adjacent to neighboring units. The owner of a unit determines its appearance, fills it with content, and has the ability to connect the unit to its own domain.

However, there doesn’t appear to be any way to actually build content within your units yet. All you can do is put in a link to the property’s domain page. Rather limited. (At least Decentraland already has a working command-line editor that allows builders to create and deploy test scenes.)

I bet that the team behind Aether City, Aether Labs in Waterloo, would just kill for the kind of media attention that Decentraland is getting. But sadly, it would appear that the project is moribund. There have been only two Medium posts about it (Feb. 4th and March 11th of this year), and not a word since. Their Discord has seen no discussion at all since May 11th, and their Telegram channel has seen absolutely zero chatter, with only a couple of company-posted pictures of their bland, rather uninspiring-looking city:

Telegram Aether 21 Oct 2018

Frankly, I’m not sure exactly why anybody would want to spend their hard-earned cryptocurrency on this. The Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace building is for sale for 10 Ethereum coins (approximately US$2,000) if you’re interested. I think I’ll pass.

Virtual Universe: What’s Going On?

virtualuniverse

Ever since I had my first guided tour of Virtual Universe back in April, I felt that this was something special. As opposed to so many other blockchain-based virtual worlds that were more hype than substance, VU felt like an actual, solid product, tantalizingly close to a release date. I was excited, and I promoted VU as often as I could on this blog.

But the cryptocurrency markets this year have been rough—absolutely brutal—lately. Many cryptocurrency tokens for various projects have lost a great deal of their initial value. Many people who jumped on board the cryptocurrency bandwagon when certain coins were riding high are now looking at their losses and cursing their bad luck. The Telegram channels I follow have been full of angry, bitter, and demoralized buyers.

Very recently, Virtual Universe decided to turn their VU token sale from public to private. Their only public message about this change was posted to Medium on Sept. 27th:

ICO Update

As the Industry continues to evolve rapidly, the VU Token team has been advised to take our sale private at this time. We want to thank our contributors and supporters for their patience as we continue to pursue private investment sources.

The Company intends that current VU Token owners will receive their tokens upon the conclusion of our token sale.

We remain excited and committed to the creation of Virtual Universe. Stay tuned to our social channels for updates.

The Virtual Universe Team

And then, silence.

In recent days, I have been approached privately by two worried people, one of whom had made a significant purchase of Virtual Universe tokens during their public ICO period, and another one who (like me) was an active participant in the VUtoken Partner Program. Both had the same question: “What’s going on?” I didn’t know what to tell them. I honestly don’t know what’s going on. But the sudden lack of communication is a very troubling sign.

There hasn’t been an “Earn & Win” task posted since early August, and I am starting to feel a little concerned. I’ve posted questions in both the Discord and Telegram channels for the Virtual Universe project, but nobody has responded to my questions.

What’s going on?

Staramba Spaces Launches Their Shop: Act Now, There’s Only 412 Coveted Spaces Next to Paris Hilton!

Staramba Store 6 Oct 2018.png

Staramba Spaces (you remember, the social VR space/virtual world with links to celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan) has launched their online shop, where you can buy… well, not much, yet. All they offer for sale right now are “bidding rights” for various sectors:

  • Celebrity Sector
  • Soccer Sector
  • Tennis Sector
  • Hulk Hogan Sector
  • Paris Hilton Sector

They explain, in the product description of the Paris Hilton Sector:

Plot Bidding Right for the Paris Hilton Sector. This early access Bidding Right enables you to bid for your own real estate plot in the Paris Hilton Sector of the celebrity cluster Primus of STARAMBA.spaces. You will have the opportunity to participate via your Staramba Tokens in the non-public Investor Phase (starting in November 2018) before any public bidding begins.

Be the first!

Bid for a real estate plot with your Staramba Tokens before the public bidding begins.

Next to YOUR star!

The plots will be in Paris Hilton Sector in the celebrity cluster Primus on our first planet, Pasyra.

Here’s a picture of what the planet Pasyra will look like, with the location of the Paris Hilton sector:

Planet Pasyra 6 Oct 2018.png

I note with amusement that these “bidding rights” are limited to one per buyer, and there are “only 412 left in stock”:

Paris HIlton Sector 6 Oct 2018.png

I’ve been trying to figure out what the bidding cost (25 STT, or Staramba tokens) works out to in US dollars, but I haven’t had much luck in finding a website that will do the conversion for me. All I can find is this rather long-winded Medium post explaining the projected lifecycle of Staramba tokens, with the following less-than-helpful timeline:

Staramba1.png

Now, I also follow the chatter on the Staramba Telegram discussion forums, where someone posted the following information:

After the ITO: restricted trade and trade of STT

In November a restricted trade will be possible depending on regulations. This trade is only possible inside the Leondrino Wallet. It is most likely, that initially trade restrictions must be followed: on a daily, monthly and yearly basis as well as per transaction. These specifications are imposed on us by the competent authority in Germany. This means that the STARAMBA.Tokens can be offered and bought once. The price can be made by the seller or the buyer but cannot be lower than 0.25 USD per STT, which was the last price during the ITO. As soon as the STARAMBA.Tokens changed the owner or wallet, the new owner cannot resell those tokens until token class A was reached.

But you can still use them to buy services and products in the STARAMBA.spaces shop.

Tokens which were not sold during the ITO will be offered by Staramba as sell orders (instant exchange) for 1.00 USD per STT, as this is the value per STT reflected in the shop offers, to give all interested parties the possibility to fill up their STT account and afford desired products and services in the STARAMBA.spaces shop.

The token class B will be the next step and an “advanced” restricted trade will be possible.

At this time trading on other exchanges (selection process has already started) will be possible. Furthermore, the possible limits defined for the restricted trade might be loosened.

That means that today, no exact date can be provided when token classes B and later A will be reached. Every step is made due to all regulations and has to be approved by the regulator in advance.

The aim is to have the STT listed on exchanges that meet all regulations. Therefore, we are in close contact with the regulator to get information about which licenses are needed. At the moment, there is no final decision on regulations regarding trading tokens on exchanges from the side of the Financial Supervisory Authority, but we know that they are setting them up and we are in close contact with them to meet all requirements with the highest precision.

Depending on the time it takes until regulations are defined, we cannot tell you when the STARAMBA.Token will be available on exchanges or which exchanges are approved by the Financial Supervisory Authority.

Our goal is to get the STT listed on established exchanges as soon as the applicable regulations are in place and to make the STT as liquid as possible by October 2019. Nevertheless, our product development team of more than 70 people is working on STARAMBA.spaces and the whole company with more than 100 employees is doing its best to have a successful STARAMBA.Token.

If you should have any further requests regarding regulations or trading of the STARAMBA.Token feel free to contact us and we try to answer all questions as good as we can in the next newsletter.

So, you got all that straight? You basically need a Ph.D. in crypto to figure this thing out.

And for what?!?? A coveted space next to Paris Hilton or Hulk Hogan?? Or rather, a possibly-animated “lifelike scan” or “lifelike 3D avatar” of Paris Hilton, or Hulk Hogan, or some soccer star, or Gene Simmons from KISS?

KISS 6 Oct 2018
Image from the Staramba website

I’m sorry, but this simply makes no sense to me at all. Caveat emptor!

VIBEHub Has Launched Their Platform

Back in March I wrote about a new, blockchain-based virtual world called VIBEHub. There has been much grumbling on the VIBEHub Telegram about the recent lack of news in terms of product development.

Well, I discovered today that they have completely redesigned their website and launched their platform:

VibeHub 6 23 Sept 2018.jpg

You can visit what they call “hubs” using a web browser on your desktop or, if you are using a WebVR-compatible browser, you can also visit them in your VR headset.

VibeHub 4 23 Sept 2018.jpg

You can create your own hub, and even charge an admission fee for entrance. Here’s a brief tutorial video from their YouTube channel:

Interestingly, there are future plans for many different kinds of experiences, everything from music to gaming to education to comedy, listed in the left-hand side panel. These are all listed as “Coming Soon”:

VibeHub 7 23 Sept 2018.jpg

There’s also a Marketplace, where you can spend VIBEHub credits (their blockchain-based in-world currency, called VIBE) on things such as avatars:

VibeHub 8 23 Sept 2018

Currently, the only way to get VIBE credits is to buy them using cryptocurrency (they support the MetaMask wallet). They say that you will be able to buy VIBE credits using your credit card in future.

You have a choice of a robot or human avatar. I must admit that I found the robot avatars to be kind of cute:

VibeHub 9 23 Sept 2018

But I found the human avatars to be, well, let’s just say “aesthetically challenged” (at least compared to other platforms such as Second Life and Sansar) and leave it at that. The oversized hands and overly-long fingers are the stuff of nightmares:

VibeHub 3 23 Sept 2018.jpg

(You have to go through the avatar selection menu every time you enter a new hub. It does not appear to remember what you saved from the previous hub.)

I found the brand-new platform to be somewhat buggy, both in desktop and in VR mode. Hubs seem to take a long time to load (and I have broad bandwidth and a fast gaming computer).  In desktop mode, either I could not move my avatar at all, or I could not get him to stop running. In VR mode, I found that I could move, but I could not turn. Rather a frustrating experience overall. But it’s early days.

The new VIBEHub website home page webpage states:

We support HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Daydream by Google, Samsung Gear VR. Don’t have a VR/AR headset? No problem we also support WebGL/WebVR on compatible modern browsers on your desktop or mobile devices. Other hardware platforms like Magic Leap and PSVR coming soon. Experiences will vary depending on device capabilities. However no one gets left out.

Magic Leap One support “coming soon”? That would make VIBEHub the first platform to support both VR and AR headsets. I’ll believe that bit of marketing hype when I see it.

VIBEHub is the second cryptocurrency-based virtual world platform to actually launch (after Mark Space, which is rather underwhelming). It will be interesting to see how the platform develops over time.

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!)

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