News Watch: What I Didn’t Blog About in April and May!

I’m constantly on the look out for stories for the blog, bookmarking anything and everything that I or my readers might find of interest—news and announcements about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse (including the blockchain-based platforms).

At the moment, I’m so backlogged with my bookmarks, that today I’ve just decided to share many of them with you, in an effort to get caught up! Each would likely be the seed for a proper blogpost all on its own, but here each one will just get a sentence or two, a brief annotation only. Hope you don’t mind!

Ready? Let’s dig in!

Geekwire: ‘Second Life’ creator shares lessons learned from one of the world’s first metaverses (an interview with Linden Lab’s founding CEO, Philip Rosedale).

Businesswire: Razorfish Study Finds 52% of Gen Z Gamers Feel More Like Themselves in the Metaverse than in Real Life (Razorfish and VICE Media Group released findings from a new research study, titled The Metaverse: A View from Inside).

Road to VR: Virtual Social Platform ‘Rec Room’ Hits 3 Million Monthly Active VR Users (Rec Room continues to rack up some impressive statistics).

The Conversation: Can you truly own anything in the metaverse? A law professor explains how blockchains and NFTs don’t protect virtual property (a thought-provoking editorial by Indiana University law professor João Marinotti)

Medium: World War “M” and the curse of the Metaverse, by Avi Bar-Zeev (an editorial where Avi poses the question: If “The Metaverse” represents our digital future, who decides what “it” is?)

metamandrill: Interview with Founder Adam Frisby of Sine Wave Entertainment (an interview with the man behind both Sinespace and Breakroom)

NFTs are Legally Problematic (a 46-minute YouTube video featuring lawyer Steve Mould and NFT pundit Coffeezilla)

24/7 Crypto: Metaverse hotel for avatars to open in Decentraland next week: “The first ever metaverse hotel (*cough*cough*Second Life*cough*cough*) is being opened next week in Decentraland by Singapore’s Millennium Hotels and Resorts.”

TIME: 6 Lessons on the Future of the Metaverse From the Creator of Second Life (a good overview article, with the writer talking to both Philip Rosedale and Tom Boellstorff about the lessons learned from Second Life).

moOMNI: Around the Metaverse by DrFran Babcock (short but essential reading; Fran shares her thoughts about the community within the metaverse).

Road to VR: A Dating App for Meeting Avatars in VR Aims to Build Very Real Relationships (a review of the Flirtual matchmaking app)

XR Today: Sensorium, Humanity 2.0 Launch Vatican City Art Metaverse (Ultra high-end social VR platform Sensoirum Galaxy partners with the Humanity 2.0 Foundation to build a virtual gallery for Vatican City). “The company’s Sensorium Galaxy platform is currently in beta testing, with a launch date set for later in the year to expand its availability across devices, including VR headsets, PCs, and mobile devices.”

Road to VR: Meta to Merge ‘Venues’ Event Space into ‘Horizon Worlds’ Social VR Platform (starting June 6th, 2022, Horizon Worlds users will have direct access to live sports, concerts, comedy, and user-created meet-ups in Horizon Venues).

WIRED: This VR App Has Legs: Spatial adds support for full-body virtual avatars, giving realism in VR a step up (the Spatial social VR app now had a full-body option).

The Atlantic: Lessons From 19 Years in the Metaverse (an interview with longtime Second Life blogger Wagner james Au).

Medium: Web3.0 Must Be Destroyed (long, but well worth the read).

Harvard Business Review: Cautionary Tales from Cryptoland (interview with Molly White, creator of the website Web3 Is Going Just Great).

Current Affairs: Why This Computer Scientist Says All Cryptocurrency Should “Die in a Fire” (interview with UC-Berkeley computer science professor Nicholas Weaver)

Now that I’ve shared some of my most interesting finds with you, I hope that this list will tide you over until I can whip up some fresh new content for you! Expect more blogposts soon. (If people find these news roundups useful, I might continue to write them, as well as my regular blogposts.)

I Was Interviewed by a Business Reporter for The Globe and Mail for an Article About the Metaverse

On March 10th, 2022, I was contacted by Joe Castaldo, a business reporter for The Globe and Mail (which bills itself as “Canada’s National Newspaper”). He was writing up a story about businesses entering the metaverse, and the current metaverse hype cycle, and he asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed.

After checking in with my union representatives at the university, who gave me the all-clear to go ahead, I was interviewed for an hour via telephone. The Globe and Mail had given Joe a Meta Quest 2 wireless VR headset, so a couple of weeks later, I gave him a guided tour of two popular social VR platforms, VRChat and AltspaceVR.

Well, Joe’s article was published in The Globe and Mail today, titled Is the metaverse the future of the internet? A Globe journalist steps inside to find out (if you should hit a paywall, here is an archived version).

I’m not going to reproduce the entire newspaper article here; I was mentioned in the final few paragraphs:

For Ryan Schultz, the widespread interest in the metaverse is a little weird. “My obscure, niche hobby has suddenly gone mainstream,” he told me. A reference librarian with the University of Manitoba, he spends a few hours every week strapped into a headset or exploring desktop-based worlds, and has been blogging about it for years.

Mr. Schultz finds the speculative nature of the digital land rush in some worlds off-putting. “People are investing in this basically as a flex and as a boast to their friends that they can afford these artificially limited items,” he said. Businesses with virtual office space, meanwhile, are likely spending money on a “really fancy three-dimensional brochure.”

He’s seen much of it before. Corporations flocked to Second Life when it took off in the 2000s. Coca-Cola installed soft drink machines, Toyota set up a car dealership, American Apparel built a clothing store, and IBM established an island for employee recruitment and training.

It wasn’t long before the corporate enthusiasm died. “Nobody came to visit these locations, because the people who were already in Second Life didn’t care,” Mr. Schultz said.

He understands the appeal of virtual worlds, though. When he first discovered Second Life, he spent hours there each day. Away from the computer, he has jokingly called himself an “overweight, divorced, gay librarian with diabetes.” At 58, he feels his body growing older, and he’s struggled with depression so bad he’s taken leaves from work. “I kinda suck at this whole reality business,” he wrote on his blog.

In Second Life, Mr. Schultz loved building avatars – angels, supermodels and a Na’vi from, well, Avatar. There was solace in becoming someone else. During the pandemic, he’s met his social needs through virtual reality, and a mental-health app became a lifeline. “I can put on my headset, join a group, and use cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to work through issues and problems, and it’s extremely powerful,” he said. “You feel like you’re really present.”

For those of us who are not already immersed, such moments are likely a long way off. I searched high and low for meaning and connection in the metaverse, but mostly found empty branding experiences, a speculative frenzy around digital assets, and people who were just as curious as I was to find out what this was all about, and were still searching for answers.

But given the relentless enthusiasm of those trying to turn the metaverse into some kind of reality, there will be plenty of chances to try again, for better or worse.

I think that Joe did a good job of describing the metaverse in a way that newspaper readers could easily understand, and there are a couple of videos included in the digital version of the article which made me laugh at certain points, as Joe and his producer Patrick Dell navigated Decentraland and Horizon Worlds!

I also appreciated that the online article linked out to my ever-popular list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds. I’m not really expecting a spike in traffic to my blog (I didn’t get one when I was interviewed by a writer for New Yorker magazine in 2019), but it was an interesting experience, nonetheless.

(By the way, I do receive more and more requests to be interviewed lately, because of my blog. I turn most of them down, but I said yes to this one, because The Globe and Mail is a major Canadian newspaper, and one which I read often.)

The Globe and Mail newspaper interviewed me for an article on the metaverse

P.S. The mental health app mentioned in the quote above is called Help Club; here’s the blogpost which I wrote about this self-help social VR app for mental health.

Mapping Out the Territory: Metaversed’s Directory Is a New List (and Accompanying Metaverse Universe Infographic) of the Ever-Expanding and Evolving Metaverse

SEE ALSO: Welcome to the Metaverse: A Comprehensive List of Social VR/AR Platforms and Virtual Worlds

Sometimes you need a good map of the territory—and that also applies to the metaverse! (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

There has been a deluge, an absolute torrent, of metaverse news stories lately, partly sparked by Facebook’s October 2021 rebranding as Meta and its pivot to become a metaverse company, and partly because of the recent feverish interest and speculation in what I call the NFT metaverse platforms (both those existing and those not yet launched). As a result, the word “metaverse” is on a lot more people’s lips than it was a year ago!

Because of personal circumstances (e.g. the coronavirus pandemic, a 5-week strike by my union, etc.) I deeply regret that I have, thus far, been unable to find an opportunity to reorganize and recategorize my popular list of metaverse platforms, which, as you can clearly see from my WordPress stats below, has seen a truly remarkable surge of views in recent months:

When exploring the metaverse, it always helps to have a map of the territory (which is one of the reasons my list has become so popular lately). People want to know what is out there, and what their options are.

In the past, I have pointed readers to other people’s attempts at making sense of the ever-evolving metaverse and the many companies building it. One sterling example is the Directory of Collaborative XR Platforms, which aims to be a central repository of detailed information about XR collaboration products and platforms, primarily intended for the corporate and educational sector. I aspire to organize and categorize my own metaverse list to such an extent as the XR Collaboration website! I definitely recommend you check it out, if you have not already done so.

Well, guess what, people? Yesterday, I found another company who is working on creating a map of the territory! They are a consulting firm called Metaversed.

Metaversed bills itself as “the original metaverse consulting company”, saying:

We are passionate experts and thought-leaders in virtual worlds, MMOs, virtual reality, augmented reality, virtual goods and NFT’s. Since 2006 we’ve worked with global brands, game developers and publishers, agencies, start-ups, governments and investors providing de-facto analytics and strategic guidance coupled with high-impact, result-driven activation, consulting and advisory services. Oh, and we also do charts.

Metaversed claims a rather impressive list of previous and current clients:

But what I found most interesting (and especially dear to my librarian-cataloguer heart!) is that Metaversed has created a large, detailed alphabetical list, with an accompanying infographic, called the Metaverse Universe, which maps out as many social VR platforms and virtual worlds as they could find:

The Metaverse Universe and Radar charts show companies operating in the virtual worlds sector. The Universe chart shows virtual worlds segmented by how they are accessed (via browser or virtual reality headset) and whether they’re on or off a blockchain. The Radar Chart has a different perspective, grouping virtual worlds by major genre.

I especially like the way Metaversed has broken the metaverse market into sectors or segments, which is strikingly similar to my own personal thinking about how it should be organized and categorized. Here’s the breakdown of the Metaverse Universe infographic:

Category 1: Browser-Based (Flatscreen) Virtual Worlds

*Note that I do not endeavour to cover this particular segment of the metaverse on my blog, although I have written about it in passing. I also note that neither my list nor the Metaverse Universe attempts to cover the adult/sexual metaverse platforms, something in which I also have little interest in documenting (although the few times that I broke that rule, they rank among the most popular posts on my blog!).

†I would place IMVU firmly into the “Kids, Tweens and Teens” category myself, but part of the fun of analyzing other people’s maps of the territory is noticing these sorts of differences of opinion, which make you think about and question your own assumptions!

Category 2: Virtual worlds in VR (what I refer to as Social VR on my blog)

Now, on first glance, I am uncertain as to why Metaversed’s map makes this distinction, so I will have to do a little more digging to understand the difference between what Metaversed considers “rooms” and “worlds” social VR platforms. Again, great food for thought! Hopefully, I can speak with the creator(s) of this map, who are currently uncredited on the Metaversed website (in fact, I can find no mention of the team behind Metaversed at all, which I do find a bit odd for a consulting firm who is angling for your business).

Category 3: Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds in VR (a.k.a Blockchain/Crypto/NFT-Based Social VR)

  • Those based on the Ethereum blockchain (e.g. Somnium Space, Spatial)
  • Those based on another (i.e. non-Ethereum) blockchain

Category 4: Blockchain-Based, Browser-Based (Flatscreen) Virtual Worlds

This is an extremely thorough attempt at mapping out the territory, which gladdens my little librarian heart! It also takes into account the vibrant quarter-century history of the metaverse by including venerable platforms such as Active Worlds! (Obligatory rant.)

I do notice a few platforms which have been skipped (notably NeosVR, VirBELA, Vircadia, and Raspberry Dream Land at first glance, but I should probably cross-check the Metaverse Universe map against my own list to find others).

Even better, the Metaverse Universe map and list includes several platforms which I had never heard of before! You know what that means; it’s time for me to go exploring and write up a few more blogposts! HOORAY!!!!

You can check out Metaversed’ Metaverse Directory list and accompanying Metaverse Universe infographic here (on their website the company states, “Contact us for high-res versions”, which I will certainly do! I will also be adding a link to this list to my own list (Welcome to the Metaverse: A Comprehensive List of Social VR/AR Platforms and Virtual Worlds), which, as I stated up top, is desperately in need of some reorganization and recategorization (my task over the next couple of months!).

I’m just so excited to discover that other people are interested in the taxonomy of the metaverse, and are working to create good maps of the territory! My wish and hope is that all of our individual efforts inspire each other’s work, and push each of us to make even better maps of the ever-evolving, ever-expanding metaverse.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Housekeeping Notice: I’m Juggling

Between the ongoing pandemic, the recently-concluded five-week faculty strike at my university, and now the unexpected war in Ukraine, things have been a little crazy around here these past 3 months (did you know that 14.5% of Manitobans are of Ukrainian ancestry?). Like many of you, I have been glued to the news lately.

Throw in a broken Valve Index VR headset (my unit, of course, died a couple of months after its one-year warranty expired, and Steam has asked me to ship back my headset and cables to be replaced with a refurbished, non-warrantied, headset.) Also, Carlos and I have also—finally!—started working on Episode 1 of Season 2 of the Metaverse Newscast, about which I will be sharing more news soon.

I forgot to mention that after 23 months of working from home for my university, this week I finally returned to my office in the library full-time. (The University of Manitoba has a firm vaccine mandate and a KN95 facemask mandate. Faculty, staff, and students were required to upload proof of vaccination to a special, secure website, and students who did not do so were deregistered from their courses this term. U of M is following the science and absolutely not messing around, which makes me feel much more comfortable coming in to work every day!)

I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment
(photo by alexey turenkov on Unsplash)

I’m juggling a lot at the moment. All of this is my very long-winded way of saying: don’t expect a whole lot of blogposts from me over the next few weeks. I’ll do my level best to stay on top of all the news and events happening in the metaverse, but no promises 😉

Thanks to my readers and followers for your continued support and engagement! And you are welcome to join the Discord server, with 650 passionate members, representing every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and all the companies building it, and we’d love to have you participate (or, if you prefer, just lurk and learn!).