Barbados to Set Up an Embassy in Decentraland

The Caribbean nation of Barbados is planning to set up a virtual embassy in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland. While the idea of a country setting up an embassy in a virtual world is not new (both Sweden and the Maldives have had embassies in Second Life), this is the first time that a country has set up an official presence in a blockchain-based virtual world, and perhaps a sign of things to come.

According to a recent CoinDesk article written by Andrew Thurman, Decentraland is not the only metaverse platform the country is looking at:

In what could be seen as a historic step toward the legitimization of the metaverse, the island nation of Barbados is preparing to legally declare digital real estate sovereign land with the establishment of a metaverse embassy.

The Barbadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade signed an agreement on Sunday with Decentraland, among the largest and most popular crypto-powered digital worlds, for the establishment of a digital embassy. Per a press release provided to CoinDesk, the government is also finalizing agreements with “Somnium Space, SuperWorld and other Metaverse platforms.”

Both Decentraland and Somnium Space I could see as possible sites for a virtual embassy, but SuperWorld? Really? The last time I looked at the SuperWorld project, back in January, I was less than impressed with the concept. I wonder how much the Barbadian officials understand about the metaverse, if they lumped SuperWorld in with Decentraland and Somnium Space. Let’s hope they are getting good advice!

The CoinDesk article goes on to say:

With the release of the embassy, tentatively scheduled for January, Barbados will become the first country in the world to recognize digital sovereign land. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Ministry of Science and Technology, and many other governmental bodies reviewed the plans over “several, several months,” said [Barbados’ ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, H.E. Gabriel] Abed.

The country has also retained legal counsel, as the embassy will set a number of unique precedents. So far experts have said that the embassy will be compliant with international law as well as the Vienna Convention.

Barbados is among the friendliest countries in the world for cryptocurrencies and has been among those leading the charge on the development of a central bank digital currency.

A view of Barbados (Photo by Kathryn Maingot on Unsplash)

Thank you to Akumie for the tip!

Somnium Times Covers News and Events on the Blockchain-Based Social VR Platform Somnium Space

The Somnium Times website

I may have been belabouring the point lately, but I still feel, quite strongly, that many of the newer social VR platforms have not been promoting themselves very effectively lately. I have written before about how Second Life’s bloggers, vloggers, and livestreamers promote SL, saying:

Second Life has a vibrant and thriving community of thousands and thousands of bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and machinima makers. Combine that with a flourishing ecosystem of programs and tools, such as the Black Dragon viewer, and you get a creative frenzy of activity which is, as yet, unmatched by any other social VR platform or virtual world (although VRChat comes close!). It’s essentially a self-sustaining marketing machine at this point, selling SL to a wide outside audience…

So my message. to all those companies which are toiling away, hoping to inherit the mantle of Second Life and become the next massive metaverse platform, is this: pay attention to your community, and encourage their creative pursuits! You might be pleasantly surprised at the spin-off benefits of cultivating and leveraging your fanbases.

Well, today I want to spotlight a great example of someone who has done just that, promoting the blockchain-based social VR/virtual world platform Somnium Space. Somnium Times is a website and an associated YouTube channel focused on news and events in Somnium Space, by Marc Demar. Here’s an example video:

Yes, that’s right, in much the same way that I originally started this blog four years ago to focus on Sansar, Marc has started his website and channel to focus on what’s happening in Somnium Space. Every social VR platforms out there should be asking themselves: What do I have to do to find someone like Marc Demar?

And if you can’t find someone to volunteer to do it because they’re such a fan of your platform, perhaps you should consider how to better cultivate those raving fans. You might want to ask yourself if there are ways or tools (like the Black Dragon viewer) to allow those fans to create high-quality, compelling content to spread via social media. Perhaps, you should consider even taking the step to (gasp!) pay someone to create sponsored content to advertise your world. (If you’re interested, here are my rates for advertising and sponsored blogposts. Was that subtle enough for you? 😉 )

The point I am trying to make is this: you can’t just create a platform, then sit back and do nothing to either a) promote it, or b) enable other people to promote it. The platforms are not just going to magically sell themselves (as Sansar has discovered to its detriment over the past four years). As RuPaul says: You have to work!

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk 😉

To Teleport or Not to Teleport: Teleporting Versus Walking in the Metaverse

Ever wish you could teleport in real life?
(Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash)

Earlier this week, I had a guided tour of the blockchain-based social VR platform Somnium Space, where I was informed by my tour guide that the virtual world had just implemented teleporting. Scattered throughout the one large, contiguous virtual landscape which comprises Somnium Space were teleporter hubs, where you could pull up a map, click on the teleporter hub you wanted to travel to, press a button, et voilà! You were instantly transported to your destination.

A teleporter hub in the central city square of Somnium Space (at night)
The red arrows indicate the location of teleporter hubs on the map

What makes Somnium Space unusual among metaverse platforms is that you cannot simply teleport from one place to another distant location; you either must make use of the provided teleporters, or walk/run/fly/swim to your destination. (Of course, you can certainly “short hop” using a limited form of teleporting, but that is only for shorter distances, not for instantly getting from one end of a large, contiguous landmass to another.)

In other words, the teleporter hubs of the Somnium Transportation System are set up much like a modern urban subway system, where you can only travel to a particular, pre-built subway station that is situated the nearest to your intended destination, and then walk the rest of the way. Many people might remember that in the very earliest days of Second Life, there were also teleporter hubs in the days before avatars could instantly teleport themselves from one location to another!

Another thing that sets Somnium Space apart from other social VR platforms is that there are only going to be so many “public” teleporter hubs. In face, some of these hubs are going to be auctioned off as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and the successful bidders with such a teleporter hub on their properties will be able to charge a cryptocurrency fee in order to use their teleporters! (In other words, they would operate much the same as a real-life toll road or highway.)

Closely intertwined with the idea of teleporting vs. walking is the layout of a metaverse platform. Is it one large contiguous landmass, like Somnium Space, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and (to a certain extent) Second Life? Or is it a collection of smaller worlds, like VRChat, Rec Room, Sansar, and Sinespace? If it is the former, then means of transportation (and ease of access to transportation) becomes more important. If it is the latter, then another tool which many of the newer social VR platforms offer is the ability to create a portal—either temporary or permanent— between two worlds. (Of course, you could consider a teleporter hub a portal.)

So, keeping all this in mind (particularly the distinction between SHORT HOP teleporting and teleporting to a DISTANT location), we can create a chart outlining the transportation affordances of the various metaverse platforms:

Name of Platform (Layout)Walk/Run? *Distance
Teleport?
**
Create Portals?
Second Life (mostly one contiguous landmass, with private islands)YESYESYES
Sinespace (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Sansar (separate worlds)YESNO (but you can create teleport hubs)YES
VRChat (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Rec Room (separate worlds)YESNOYES
AltspaceVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
NeosVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Cryptovoxels (one contiguous landmass with some islands) YESNO (you can add coordinates to a URL, though)YES
Decentraland (one contiguous landmass) YESYES (/goto X,Y)NO
Somnium Space (one contiguous landmass)YESNO (but there are teleport hubs)NO (unless you count teleport hubs)
* – Can a user walk/run/fly/swim from one location to another? This includes SHORT HOP teleporting.
** – Can a user personally choose to teleport from one location to a second, DISTANT location?
† – Can a user create a temporary or permanent portal from one location to another?

Obviously, all metaverse platforms offer some form of personal locomotion for your avatar (walk, run, fly, swim, short-hop teleporting, etc.). This is standard.

It is also clear from this table that the metaverse platforms which consist of many smaller worlds (Sinespace, Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, AltspaceVR, and NeosVR) all prefer the creation of temporary and permanent portals to allowing users to teleport great distances on their own steam. On the other hand, all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds which consist of one contiguous landmass tend to allow some form of teleportation across great distances.

You will notice that Cryptovoxels uses a rather brute-force method of “teleporting”, which consists of appending the coordinates to the end of the URL you enter into your web browser client (which are much the same as the coordinates which form part of the SLURLs used in Second Life, but not nearly as convenient in my opinion).

Transportation affordances are yet another way to classify metaverse platforms in my continuing effort to create a taxonomy of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

So, what do you think? Have I made an error in my table? Do you have an opinion about the benefits of teleporting and portals versus walking around and exploring the landscape? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave a comment, thank you!

Editorial: Fuelled by the NFT Boom, Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds Are Having a Moment—But Will It Last? Is It a Bubble?

A Reuters news article posted today, titled The ‘metaverse’ bet: crypto-rich investors snap up virtual real estate, which first came to my admittedly-distracted attention as a trending news item in my Twitter news feed, starts off as follows:

What do you do with a $69 million artwork that doesn’t physically exist?

That’s the question faced by the Singapore-based investor calling himself Metakovan, who made headlines last month when he bought the digital artwork “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by the American artist Beeple at Christie’s.

The work is a non-fungible token (NFT) – a new type of virtual asset that has its ownership status and authenticity verified by blockchain. NFTs have exploded in popularity in 2021, with prices skyrocketing.

Metakovan, real name Vignesh Sundaresan, plans to put the artwork on display in four virtual world environments. He is working with architects to design gallery complexes that the public can enter via web browsers or virtual reality technology.

Blockchain-based virtual worlds are definitely having a moment: the following trending news story showed up on my Twitter feed

It is clear to anybody that is paying attention that the NFT (Non-Fungible Token) boom is sparking intense interest and resulting speculation in the blockchain-based virtual worlds where such NFTs can be displayed: Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, Somnium Space (all already launched and seeing more and more business) and The Sandbox (which launched its first phase on March 31st, 2021). It seems like every second room on the hot new drop-in social audio app Clubhouse is about NFTs and how to get into the market.

Market speculation in the first three blockchain-based virtual worlds has only intensified recently, with previously unheard-of trading volumes and rapidly escalating prices as bidding wars break out over virtual properties. Here is a graphic linked to from the aforementioned Reuters article, showing just how suddenly land values have jumped in Decentraland (and I’m quite sure that early investors are rubbing their hands with glee!):

And some big-name companies are being attracted to the blockchain-based virtual world marketplace (quotes are from the Reuters article up top):

In what will be one of the biggest names to join the party, videogame maker Atari told Reuters it planned to launch its own blockchain-based virtual world and would soon announce details.

Online environments are going to be “very very big”, regardless of fluctuations in the price of bitcoin, said Frederic Chesnais, head of Atari’s blockchain division and the company’s former CEO. NFT real estate could one day fetch millions of dollars, he added.

Atari, ahead of its plans to open its own blockchain-based world, has licensed a retro arcade within Decentraland and is due to open a casino.

Among the people interviewed for the Reuters article was the creator of Cryptovoxels, Ben Nolan, who expresses caution in the current feverish NFT market:

“I expect that there’ll be a crypto winter in the next couple of months, the whole NFT boom will explode and then all the value will absolutely collapse,” said Ben Nolan, founder of the virtual world Cryptovoxels.

“Doing NFTs as an investment or as a way to make money is really ill-advised.”

However he does see a future for virtual worlds and NFTs.

“Do I think most people will use virtual worlds? Probably not, but I think a lot of people will and I think NFTs are a big part of that growth,” he said.

“Actually walking around with another person in a virtual space and looking at art together is a really nice way to spend time,” he added.

We can expect that more companies will enter the blockchain-based virtual worlds marketplace, attracted by the possibility of making profits from virtual real estate—whether that real estate is used for galleries to show NFTs or not.

Interesting times! I choose to remain safely outside the fray, peering in occasionally to write the odd blogpost—emphasis on odd 😉 . The following are links to all my previous blogposts written about four of the currently available (or soon-to-be-available) platforms:

Stay tuned for further dispatches from the blockchain-based virtual worlds and social VR platforms! (Yes, both Cryptovoxels and Somnium Space support VR.)

And I’d love to hear from you: Do you hold land on these four platforms? Do you think we are in a financial bubble? Feel free to sound off in the comment section!

We’d love to hear form you!