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Virtual landgrab and digital opiate for the masses – monetizing the metaverse

Opportunities for digital identity sector to adapt traditional services
Virtual landgrab and digital opiate for the masses – monetizing the metaverse

Nobody seems very excited about the metaverse, but also nobody seems to know what it is. This is not stopping a gold rush for metaverse tech and now a virtual landgrab. For the digital identity sector there could be money to be made in identifying real-world individuals and connecting them to their avatars and digital assets, though this is merely a continuation of traditional identity services claim sector watchers.

Facebook restructuring with a parent company called Meta may have got advertisers and speculators excited, but if Meta gets a jump on virtual creation then it is clear who will be making the money from that world.

“The metaverse – is this actually the time we should be talking about it?” asks Travis Jarae, founder and CEO of digital identity investment advisory Liminal (formerly One World Identity), in a webcast with Liminal’s MD, Cameron D’Ambrosi and Dave Fields, MD at PTB Ventures.

Dave Fields said there is “lots of stupidity” at the moment, as has been seen previously with cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

“I think we’re definitely in a hype cycle, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to be made,” said Liminal’s Cameron D’Ambrosi. “The metaverse is a distillation of all the areas of digital identity which have become important for normal, non-metaverse transactions.”

Fields believes that there will be a mix of closed, regulated metaverse systems alongside open and permissionless ones. “There’ll be a role for the same digital ID providers, the incumbents that we have today then I think the open and permissionless space is going to be a totally new design field that will vastly overtake the permissioned space,” said Fields,

“It’s just going to take a lot longer to get there because the onboarding’s going to be a lot harder and it’ll take longer to find the user cases that will catalyze adoption.”

D’Ambrosi states that the real-world mechanisms for disputing errors with ID will not exist in the metaverse, meaning new ways for proving or disputing ownership of digital assets will have to be developed. The direction for digital identity providers and authenticators will simply to continue in the way they are already going with digital-first services.

Digital ID in the metaverse and current internet are, according to D’Ambrosi, “Different flavors of the same fundamental ice cream.”

Travis Jarae also acknowledges that “we are very far away from having seamless digital identity programs” but believes aspects of the metaverse will require the evolution of user verification technologies: “The idea that we have to protect kids online is also going to become a very big conversation. We’ve talked about age assurance, age verification quite a bit here and that conversation’s only going to get louder and louder and louder as kids start to put on VR headsets to go to school.”

The general consensus is that metaverse problems are simply a continuation of internet problems for firms, although Jarae believes identity could matter a lot more in the metaverse than in the internet today if there are communities where individuals have permission to edit the rules and functions of the community.

Open Meta Association launching organization to catalyze open metaverse movement

Nothing could be more metaverse than the Open Meta Association, naturally based in Switzerland, raising US$4.5 million at a $100 million valuation in a token presale to create the Open Meta DAO (decentralized autonomous organization – and token). This will be an organizing body to promote the growth of an open metaverse built on Web3 infrastructure and owned by the community.

By keeping the metaverse for the community, the Open Meta DAO hopes to keep out corporate gatekeepers. According a statement, “The Open Meta DAO will serve as an outlet for its initial 50+ founding members. These members represent different protocols and networks, and together they will use the Open Meta DAO to invest more holistically in blockchain-agnostic initiatives that support the metaverse, both in gaming and the growth of the ecosystem at large.”

The buyers in the June 2021 presale will receive their tokens in January 2022 when the Open Meta DAO is minted. A public sale will take place later in the year.

“We believe the metaverse will touch nearly every person on Earth over the next decade and will be worth trillions. It will reshape the way people make their livelihood and it will be a powerful tool for social mobility,” said Ryan Gill, Managing Director of Open Meta DAO, commenting on the launch.

“If done correctly, it can be life-changing for billions of people around the world, but it must be built openly to achieve its true vision. In response to the Facebook announcement, there are a growing number of disjointed efforts around this shared open vision in a scramble to make a stand.”

Something for everyone – till it sells out

Metaverse opportunities abound for digital identity firms if they are willing to go even further upstream in its creation – and cannabis cultivation. Aftermath Islands, a burgeoning metaverse spread across virtual themed islands has announced that its Bitcoin Bay island has sold all its plots. Worry not. It is also launching the Cannabis Cove series of islands which will feature “interactive growing farms in which qualified players can cultivate hemp plants and where available, conduct eCommerce operations.”

Biometric and blockchain ID firm Liquid Avatar has spun off a subsidiary – Oasis Digital Studios Limited – which is providing user (or at this stage, buyer) ID verification. It also takes 30 percent of all sales transacted on the digital archipelago.

Cannabis Cove is being created in collaboration with Colorado-based Primo Gardens, “a vertically integrated cannabidiol (“CBD”) and Hemp company that grows, extracts and produces tinctures, cosmetics, lotions, pet treats, salves, gummies and other products directly in their own facilities.” The islands will support the global growing of hemp. “Oasis will maintain a vested interest in the Cannabis Cove islands program,” states the release.

Oasis will provide Liquid Avatar technologies for age verification and jurisdictional requirements. These products should serve Oasis well as the creator of Vegas.com is also partnering with Aftermath Islands to “build an entertainment and gaming experience island in their upcoming metaverse,” Vegas Island. “Oasis will maintain a vested interest in the Vegas Island program.” It is not clear if the 30 percent cut applies to cannabis sales and ‘gaming.’

The release suggests more than just gaming on Vegas Island: “The global online gambling market size is projected to reach US$158.2 billion by 2028, exhibiting a CAGR of 11.4 percent during the forecast period. Aftermath Islands believes that virtual gaming and other related experiences are prime opportunities for metaverse activities.”

Metaverse to ‘monetize all human behavior’ and become the ‘ultimate surveillance tool’

The metaverse at the Meta rather than the Open Meta DAO end of the spectrum would not just allow people to share cannabis growing tips on a fake island, but would provide the metaverse owners with vast new swathes of user data, according to reporting by Vice.

The metaverse gives us “a more complete vision of what Facebook’s intentions are” says Janus Rose in conversation on Vice’s Cyber podcast, discussing her recent article on how biometric sensors in VR headsets could complete Meta’s harvesting of user data in the 3D realm.

“When a billionaire says something, we’ve started to accept it as true or as fate or inevitable,” says fellow podcast guest and panopticon expert Chris Gilliard. He describes tech such as VR headsets as part of “luxury surveillance” – items such as the Apple Watch and typically associated with the wealthy, that perform variety of functions, and collect biometrics but are not thought of as surveillance equipment.

The guests discuss the idea of the metaverse being an opiate for the masses and whether the world’s owner class are happy to keep people occupied and out of politics while in the metaverse.

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