Metaverse Newscast Episode 2: My Interview with Noz’aj About Beyond, Winner of the Best Domain Contest at the FUTVRE LANDS Festival in High Fidelity

I’m pleased to announce that the second episode of Metaverse Newscast is now available on YouTube! It’s an interview with Noz’aj, the winner of the Best Domain Contest at the recent FUTVRE LANDS Festival in High Fidelity for his epic, monumental science fiction experience called Beyond. As I have said before on this blog, it is one of the best VR experiences I had last year.

The interview includes a tantalizing peek at only a few parts of Beyond. You are encouraged to visit the domain yourself and explore it in full. It is well worth your time!

If you missed episode one, it’s available on the Metaverse Newscast channel. I’d like to thank my hard-working producer and video editor Andrew William! We plan to release one episode per month. Coming up in February is an in-depth interview with the talented Sansar scripter Galen!

Bronze and higher-level supporters of my Patreon fund-raising campaign (starting at only US$1 a month) will get exclusive previews of all Metaverse Newscast videos before they are released to the general public on YouTube. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all my patrons for helping to support both this blog and the Metaverse Newscast show. And stay tuned for more patron benefits!

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High Fidelity Pick of the Day: Queen Nefertari’s Tomb

This evening I had the privilege of joining a guided tour of the tomb of Queen Nefertari of Egypt (wife of the great Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II), led by Egyptologist Bethany Simpson. Bethany has been giving these tours since late last year; she has done about a dozen so far to small groups of visitors, and she will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. (Talk about an interesting job!)

The tomb is a recreation of what it would have looked like when it was built sometime around 1255 B.C., rather than how it looks now. In some cases, details from similar royal tombs were used to “fill in the blanks” on damaged images in Queen Nefertari’s tomb. (By the way, if you are interested in seeing a highly-detailed photogrammetric recreation of the tomb as it appears to visitors now, I can highly recommend Nefertari: Journey to Eternity on Steam for HTC Vive users, or the same named app on the Oculus Store for Oculus Rift users. Both are free!)

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Bethany Simpson in Queen Nefertari’s Tomb
This is a prime example of how virtual reality can be used for high-quality educational purposes, and this recreated “tomb” avoids wear and tear by countless visitors to the actual tomb in Egypt:

The tomb was closed to the public in 1950 because of various problems that threatened the paintings, which are considered to be the best preserved and most eloquent decorations of any Egyptian burial site, found on almost every available surface in the tomb, including stars painted thousands of times on the ceiling of the burial chamber on a blue background to represent the sky.

After the discovery of the tomb, scientists have found many deteriorated paintings caused by water damage, bacterial growth, salt formation, and recently, the humidity of visitors’ breath. The tombs’ structure set itself to be vulnerable to destruction. In 1986, an operation to restore all the paintings within the tomb and to replace over 3,000 years worth of dust and soot with pasted paper to the fragile walls and ceilings to preserve the paintings was embarked upon by the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation and the Getty Conservation Institute; however, work did not begin on the actual restoration until 1988 which was completed in April 1992. Upon completion of the restoration work, Egyptian authorities decided to severely restrict public access to the tomb in order to preserve the delicate paintings found within. This restoration process lasted until 1990, when scientists decided to conceal the tomb from visitors. 5 years later, Egypt’s Prime Minister, Hisham Zazao declared the tomb to be reopened to visitors, 150 visitors at a time. In 2006, after 11 years, the tomb was restricted to visitors once again, except for private tours of a maximum 20 people purchasing a license for US$3,000. As per November 2017, holders of a 1000 EGP entry ticket or of a Luxor Pass can visit this tomb.

Here are a few more snapshots from my tour (note that I have deliberately turned on nametags over avatars’ heads; this is an option, and you can turn them off if you find it too distracting):

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You can see all the snapshots that I and others have taken of this domain on this page.

Note that you must register (for free) to get a ticket to be admitted to these tours; you cannot just go in and explore on your own whenever you want, at least, not yet! Just select a date and time from the High Fidelity Events page and get your ticket from the EventBrite website (please note that certain dates and times are already sold out).

I cannot recommend this domain (and this tour) more highly! Having a trained Egyptologist show you the highlights of Queen Nefertari’s tomb and answer questions is a truly marvelous experience! Let’s hope that we see more such events in the various social VR platforms this year (of course, there are already three separate sets of antiquities you can explore on your own in Sansar from the Voyage Live: Egypt portal experience). Have fun!

High Fidelity Begins a Pilot Test of Trade Between Its High Fidelity Coin (HFC) and Ethereum (ETH): Will This Step Jumpstart Its Economy?

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High Fidelity is the first of what I call the “Big Five” social VR platforms (i.e., HiFi, plus Sansar, Sinespace, VRChat, and AltspaceVR)  to set up a blockchain-based in-world currency, called High Fidelity Coins (HFC). On January 8th, 2019, High Fidelity announced that it would begin testing the trade of High Fidelity Coin and Ethereum (ETH; a popular cryptocurrency):

Initially, we will allow users to purchase HFC using ETH. We will conduct trades of HFC in fixed amounts equivalent to $25 or $50 (HFC 2,500 or 5,000). Since HFC is a stablecoin pegged to the US Dollar, while Ethereum varies against the Dollar, the exchange rate between HFC and ETH will fluctuate.

We are currently allowing creators and performers that have earned in-world currency to sell their HFC for payment directly for USD. These trades are handled in-person with High Fidelity staff. As we enter the New Year (2019), we will begin offering automated tools to support selling HFC for ETH.

As we’re still learning about trades for ETH, we’ll begin by scheduling in-person (in-world) trades for users buying HFC with ETH. A High Fidelity banker will specify an Ethereum wallet to deposit your ETH to pay for the trade. You’ll receive HFC from the bank on the successful completion of your trade. You can schedule an appointment here.

If you’re new to the world of blockchain trading, you can learn more about one of the more common trading platforms (Coinbase) here. You can learn more about the steps required to set up a wallet for payment here.

Over time, we see this being our primary method for purchasing and selling HFC. It’s convenient, global, well-governed and broadly adopted. In future, we may enable trades to other cryptocurrencies or tokens, either directly or through third-party exchanges. We also hope that HFC will be used by other VR platforms or applications, making the transfer to Ethereum even more useful.

High Fidelity also published a list of Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about this move:

Who can trade HFC and ETH?

All High Fidelity users will be able to buy and sell their HFC for ETH. An ETH wallet will be required.

What is the HFC to ETH exchange rate?

HFC is pegged to the US Dollar. US $1 = HFC 100. Since the value of ETH floats against the Dollar, the value of High Fidelity Coin floats against Ethereum in turn.

Why is HFC a stablecoin?

Speculation in High Fidelity Coin as a cryptocurrency would be counter to our goal of creating a thriving economy in High Fidelity. If the real world value of HFC changed unexpectedly for non-economic reasons, the potential rewards for creators and those working in High Fidelity would become unpredictable, discouraging users to hold and trade with the currency. We want people to know they can cash out their HFC at any time for a fixed real-world value.

Can we still trade directly for US Dollars?

Yes, but this may be discontinued in 2019.

Will you start trading HFC for Bitcoin?

In future, we may enable HFC trading for other cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin.

Why aren’t you just using ETH in the first place?

High Fidelity has developed its own cryptocurrency, HFC, since traditional blockchain currencies are not suitable for a virtual world environment. Specifically, ETH is more of an asset class than a stable trading currency. Its value varies over time, making it difficult for traders to use the currency in fair exchange for goods. Additionally, HFC trades more quickly and without built-in transaction fees. Currencies that rely on a proof of work method to generate and confirm blocks (e.g. Bitcoin) currently require too much time to be used as a real-time transactional currency.

This is uncharted territory for High Fidelity, and a step not without some risk, despite their assertion that they want HFC to be a “stablecoin”. Many other social VR and virtual world platforms will no doubt be watching closely to see how well HiFi’s economy adapts to this change. High Fidelity is still having a bit of difficulty getting its economy off the ground, and encouraging content creators to make and sell products on its Marketplace, at least compared to the relative success of the Sinespace Shop and Linden Lab’s Sansar (where the Sansar Store now boasts well over 18,000 items on sale). Linden Lab and Sinespace currently have no plans to introduce cryptocurrency on their platforms, as far as I am aware.

Could this move backfire? Given the constraints that High Fidelity has put in place, it seems doubtful that this could fail. However, many Ethereum owners will likely hesitate before exchanging their hard-earned cryptocurrency to HFC. While HFC might prove a safe haven in the current bear market, it may also prove a trap in times when ETH is soaring in value. Frankly, blockchain-based virtual worlds are just too much of a risk for me to even contemplate investing a penny, and I would urge anybody who does to do every single scrap of their homework before investing in any cryptocurrency.

Happy New Year! Where to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Social VR

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I will be celebrating New Year’s Eve offline, with real-life friends here in Winnipeg. It looks like we’re going to have a cold night! 😉

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Meanwhile, in Winnipeg…

If you are looking to spend New Year’s Eve online, here are a few options on the various social VR platforms:

Sansar

Eliot (Linden Lab’s Community Manager for Sansar) will be hosting three New Year’s Eve events in Sansar in different timezones:

High Fidelity

High Fidelity will be hosting a round-the-clock event at The Spot from Monday, Dec. 31st 2:00 a.m. to Tuesday, Jan. 1st 4:00 a.m. (Pacific Time).

Sinespace

As part of its Winter Festival, Sinespace is hosting a New Year’s Eve party. Check the login page of your Sinespace client for more details.

VRChat

The best place to find out what New Year’s Eve parties are happening where in VRChat is, as always, the VRChat Events Discord server. Apparently, there’s a round-the-clock party happening at Void, according to AgentM83:

They’re partying in every time zone all day long (started this morning).


However you choose to ring in the new year—online or offline, alone or with friends, awake or asleep!—may 2019 bring you happiness, peace, and prosperity.