This Week In The Metaverse: NFT.NYC, Meta’s New VR Headset Prototypes

Things are moving fast in the metaverse, and in the wider world of Web3 as a whole. Depending on who you ask, this futuristic, blockchain-based space is either the next big thing for marketing — and for almost everything else — or an overhyped fad. Here’s what you need to know from this past week:

NFT.NYC takes over midtown Manhattan

Thousands gathered in New York City this week for the fourth annual NFT.NYC, an event designed to bring together some of the best, brightest and most eager minds from the NFT community. The whirlwind, four-day event — running June 20-23 — included NFT galleries, appearances from Web3 celebrities, exclusive parties and massive digital billboards in Times Square displaying new NFT projects (the number of oversized, digital QR codes competing for one’s attention was a bit overwhelming). The event conspicuously took place the same week as the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity — undoubtedly the world’s largest and most prestigious annual event for marketers — which returned this year after a two-year pause due to the pandemic. While Cannes Lions in many ways symbolizes the old guard of creativity, NFT.NYC seems to represent the new.

Meta showcases new VR headset prototypes

Meta founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg gave an online presentation on Monday showcasing the company’s new prototypes for virtual reality (VR) headsets. The presentation also seems to have demonstrated the considerable distance that stands between the current state of the technology and VR’s uncanny valley — that is, the point at which virtual phenomena seen behind a headset becomes nearly indistinguishable from the real thing (that point is also sometimes referred to as the “visual Turing test”). Zuckerberg displayed four hardware prototypes, some of which sound a bit more like desserts than a piece of highly sophisticated technological equipment: Butterscotch, Half Dome, Starburst and Holocake 2. There are a number of technical problems — such as what some in the VR space call “retinal resolution” — that will need to be surmounted before VR graphics become convincingly photorealistic. Each of the prototypes were reportedly engineered to address one of those problems, but we’re apparently a long ways off from a device that solves all of them and is simultaneously compact enough to ship, not to mention to wear comfortably on one’s face. “There’s still a long way to go,” Zuckerberg said at the end of the presentation, “but I’m excited to bring all this tech to our products in the coming years.”

Agencies unveil new metaverse activations for Cannes Lions

The metaverse might still be somewhat esoteric for many marketers, but a growing contingent among them have been racing to become pioneers in this growing virtual landscape. This was evidenced at Cannes Lions this week, where a number of leading agencies unveiled new activations designed to, among other purposes, help their clients establish a foothold in the metaverse. McCann Worldgroup, for example, launched its ‘MWVerse,’ a virtual experience designed in partnership with Meta, which showcases some of the agency’s work that’s on display IRL at the festival, thereby (the agency hopes) reaching a larger audience. Similarly, Wunderman Thompson built ‘Inspiration Beach,’ which the agency describes as “an immersive metaverse activation to celebrate the start of advertising’s biggest festival in Cannes.” Those activities, designed to coincide with Cannes Lions, follow in the footsteps of other metaverse-based projects from a handful of leading advertising agencies.

Amid potential crypto winter and $258bn lawsuit, Musk says he will ‘personally support Dogecoin’

Elon Musk — serial entrepreneur, occasional provocateur and the wealthiest person in the world — has reiterated his support for Dogecoin, despite the ongoing crash in the crypto market and a recent $258bn lawsuit filed against him which alleges that he, along with his companies SpaceX and Tesla, are at the head of a Ponzi scheme designed to drive up the price of Dogecoin and dupe crypto investors. In a virtual interview with Bloomberg during the Qatar Economic Forum earlier this week, Musk stated: “I just know a lot of people who are not intending that wealthy who… have encouraged me to buy and support Dogecoin. So I’m responding to those people… when I’ve walked around the factory at SpaceX or Tesla, they’ve asked me to support Dogecoin, so I’m doing so.” (Tesla began accepting Dogecoin for some of its merchandise earlier this year, and SpaceX could soon follow suit.) He also said that he has “never said that people should invest in crypto.” The value of Dogecoin — a cryptocurrency that started as a bit of a joke in 2013 — spiked this week after Musk underscored his support for the coin.

Mini and Fender make their metaverse debuts in Meta’s Horizon Worlds

Meta debuted two new virtual activations on its Horizon World VR platform at Cannes Lions earlier this week: one for automotive brand Mini, and another for musical instrument company Fender. The ‘Miniverse,’ developed alongside Pereira O’Dell, is a branded racing game that “re-imagines that heart-pumping Go-Kart feeling in ways you would never think were possible,” according to an online announcement from Meta. The Fender ‘Stratoverse,’ built in collaboration with R/GA, is described by Meta as “a Stratocaster guitar-shaped island surrounded by floating islands, giant Fender guitar amps and planets floating high above in the stratosphere and features a first-of- its-kind co-play audio experience to create original music riffs.” Like many new branded virtual experiences, the activations from Mini and Fender in Horizon Worlds appear designed to blend marketing with gaming in an effort to draw in a younger audience while simultaneously positioning the brands behind them as forward-thinking. “We could not be more pleased to have been invited by Meta to bring Fender into the metaverse for the first time,” Evan Jones, Fender’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “As a brand we are committed to enabling all forms of musical expression and are thrilled by the potential this technology has to allow Fender fans and creators to come together, play, and create across borders, cultures and from any distance. Collaboration and experimentation are essential ingredients for the musical journey, and we’re looking forward to seeing what creators can do with the unlimited potential of the Metaverse and our first Fender Stratoverse experience.”

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