Virtual Universe Is a Victim of the Cryptocurrency Market Downturn: The Company Finally Releases a Statement

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After months without any official word about the Virtual Universe project, the company behind the product, Ukledo, posted the following message to their Telegram discussion group:

The Ukledo team wants to bring our followers up to date on the Virtual Universe (VU) project. As we have all undoubtedly seen, the crypto market is currently experiencing a major downturn and many projects are now underwater or completely failed. No one quite knows how long this condition may occur. VU has been affected by this general crypto bear market. Also, the consumer adoption of Virtual Reality is not quite where the market hoped it would be. It’s coming, but not as fast as most of us thought.

Virtual Reality development is an expensive and complex undertaking, even for the simplest of applications. As a result, until the market picks up (both from a consumer adoption and investment perspective) the team is focusing on a shorter term strategy that can create revenues to keep the Company moving forward, and keep your interest and involvement as well. The team is a big believer in the ultimate vision of VU. However, as is often the case with a young startup, timing plays a pivotal role in success.

We sincerely appreciate all the support from the community (and the nearly 20,000 users who signed up for a free account). We will do everything in our power in the months ahead to create a strategy that allows us to eventually bring this vision to market. Also, please do not fall prey to scammers who appear to be popping up in this Telegram from time to time.

We have had to reduce marketing/communications (related to budget) but will remain active in the channel for questions/comments.

Thank you,

The Ukledo Team

Well, this is serious, but at least we have a better idea what’s going on. Previous to this company announcement, one member of the Virtual Universe Telegram community (who is not associated with the company) posted this update with only second-hand information about the current state of the company:

I feel everyone’s pain. I’m disappointed that the VU team is not more active on Telegram or any other means of communication. I have talked to someone close to the project. Unfortunately, it’s sounds like the project is struggling to lock in investors in the private sale. They are also seeking the possibility of linking up with some well-established platforms in the space. I am by no means associated with the project. I only know people who are.

I also have many questions that have not been answered yet. I don’t believe the team is ready to call it quits yet. That is why there has not been any word on refunds. I can, however, assure you that they have not up and vanished. I will keep everyone posted with news that I receive since it does not seem the team is doing it themselves.

The Virtual Universe project is a reminder that even a beautiful-looking, well-featured demo does not guarantee success in this dire cryptocurrency market. Will the market recover? Who knows. Perhaps it would have been better if Ukledo, the company behind VU, had pursued a more traditional fund-raising route for their virtual world project from the start, rather than making a risky bet on crypto. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. It looks extremely unlikely that Ukledo will be able to stick to their original plan to have a public beta launch of Virtual Universe in January 2019. Those who have purchased VU tokens before their sale was suspended will simply have to wait to see if they will ever get a chance to use their tokens, or if they will become just another worthless cryptocurrency.

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Mark Space Announces the Visualization 2 Stage of Their Residential Development

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Remember Mark Space? I wrote in the past about how underwhelmed I was by their nascent virtual world platform, with its 360-degree photos of rooms where you rearranged 2-dimensional pictures of furniture. Not terribly impressive, and I’m not the only person who thought so, either.

Well, here’s the latest Mark Space promotional video:

The Russian company behind Mark Space has proudly announced an incremental upgrade to their platform, called Visualization 2. The big news is that you can now insert, rotate, and tint 3-dimensional objects such as furniture. In fact, what you build is now an awkward mix of 2D and 3D content, as can be seen in the following six-minute video that walks you through the whole process of decorating the 64-square-metre blank box you purchased for your residence using the MRK cryptocurrency:

You purchase the virtual land for your home using a marketplace called the UNITEX, which could badly use some well-written help pages to allow you to decipher the listings:

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The cheapest price for a 64 m² plot of land is 1,000 MRK (which works out to about US$6.00 at current exchange rates). So land is still relatively cheap, at least.

Mark Space plans to launch in March of 2019. If you’re interested, you can follow the project’s development via their Telegram, their BitcoinTalk forum, their Facebook page, plus LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Medium, YouTube, and of course, their website.

So, what do I think about all this now? I think that there are virtual worlds out there that are way, WAY ahead of Mark Space in development, and which do not rely on the blockchain or cryptocurrencies (which I still feel is a solution looking for a problem to solve). And what you can actually do on the platform (even if they did finally integrate 3-dimensional objects) is not really that impressive overall.

There’s some talk of user avatars and AI-controlled pets, but no mention of how they will work, or how you can customize them. The entire project is big on fancy graphics and lofty promises, but still very short on the technical implementation details. Take, for example, this image used to promote their new residential creation tool:

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There is absolutely no way you can actually build a house that looks like this, using the limited toolset Mark Space is going to make available in Visualization 2! You are restricted to 64-square-metre boxes, which you can connect with doors (if you own more than one connected box). Compared to what you can already achieve in any of the newer virtual world platforms—Sansar, High Fidelity. Sinespace, VRChat—this is laughable. Even 15-year-old Second Life has far better in-world prim-building tools than what Mark Space offers you.

Again, I will be watching safely from the sidelines as this project unfolds. I wish them luck; they are certainly going to need it to succeed in this severely depressed cryptocurrency market. The only blockchain-based virtual world that I would even have considered investing in before (Virtual Universe) has gone as silent as the tomb after suspending their token sale. The crypto market is hammering a lot of start-ups.

Mark my words: there will be casualties among the many blockchain-based virtual world platforms within the next two years. Caveat emptor! As crypto journalist Ian DeMartino has written:

VR is cool, Blockchains are interesting. That doesn’t mean investors should throw their money at anyone who says those industry buzzwords. The MARK.SPACE demo is really bad VR and the MARK.SPACE token is a really [bad] crypto.

Stay away at all costs, or at least until they come out with a product that actually has some potential.

Cryptovoxels: Taking a Second Look

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Cryptovoxels Logo

I’ll admit it. I was harsh. And sarcastic.

When I first took a look at Cryptovoxels, I thought that the idea would never fly:

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.

But, this week, after aggressively cross-promoting my new Discord on various other Discord servers of which I was a member, the developer, Ben Nolan, contacted me and invited me to come back and join the chat in the Cryptovoxels Discord. I was expecting to be crucified for what I had written earlier, but everybody was very friendly, and we had a great, wide-ranging discussion.

You can now visit Cryptovoxels within your WebVR-compatible web browser. Cryptovoxels also supports the Oculus Go, Gear VR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headsets.

One thing I noticed right way is that Cryptovoxels is no longer a monochrome-only world: you can now have colour!

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It would appear that Cryptovoxels already has a small but very committed community of builders, people who are enjoying the creative aspects of the platform and who are working with Ben to expand it further. There are already six distinct neighbourhoods, as well as a map which allows you to teleport from location to another.

Cryptovoxels is also working on experimental portals to other social VR/virtual worlds! I visited an in-world portal that teleported me into JanusVR, for example.

Some of Cryptovoxel’s users are frustrated Decentraland investors and developers who are still waiting to receive invitations to join their closed alpha (I signed up too, and I’m still waiting.) One thing that Cryptovoxels definitely has going for it, is that it is among the very few blockchain-based virtual worlds where you can actually build something right now, publish it, and receive visitors! When this will happen in Decentraland is open to speculation.

Set-up instructions are pretty easy: it’s essentially prim-building, just like the old days in Second Life!

Building parcels is done completely in the browser, you don’t have to use your coding skills, just click to play blocks and build your parcel.

  1. Purchase a parcel from opensea
  2. Make sure you have metamask unlocked and then click sign in above
  3. Go to your parcel from the parcel list and click the refresh ↻ button
  4. Make sure the owner is your wallet address
  5. Click visit
  6. Press tab to bring up the menu, go to the blocks tab, and select a block
  7. You should now be able to click and shift click to start building

You can follow Cryptovoxels on TwitterDiscord, and Reddit, or just visit their website.

So I now take back my earlier harsh, sarcastic assessment of Cryptovoxels. It’s taken off quite nicely, and it appears to be thriving! Just goes to show you how wrong I can sometimes be. Please accept my apologies, Ben.

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Nyan Cat House in Cryptovoxels

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

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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.

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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: