Spatial News™ #007
This week we're all about metaverse regulation, the web3 hype cycle, the metaverse hype cycle, and more!
Blow the horns! Happy 2022 and welcome to the seventh edition of Spatial News™! Last year we started out with words of wisdom, this year we start out with words of ambition.“Don’t you want a little taste of the glory? See what it tastes like.” - Nacho from Nacho Libre.
Pedaling the Metaverse Hype Cycle
Way back in Spatial News™ #004, I shared an article on the metaverse by Professor Bob Stone where he states that over his 30+ years in the XR industry that he has witnessed that the sector has experienced an eight-year “hype and reality” cycle, a cycle that the as-of-yet-nonexistent metaverse will likely share. (Going by Gartner’s definition, a hype cycle is a model designed to help organizations figure out the best time to adopt an emerging technology.)
In that newsletter, I had asked, speaking mostly to myself, where we are in this current 8-year XR cycle. Well, my Déjà vu kicked in harder than Neo’s, and I remembered that on a LinkedIn post, most likely early 2021, I had asked him similar questions. While I can’t find the original post to link it here, I did find his answers, which I had saved. The first question I asked (I’m pretty sure) was a two-parter and dealt with how long the cycles lasted and why the companies that failed in the downturn of a cycle had failed.
“Roughly 7 year cycles of waning and waxing depending on a myriad of things, such as hype, failure of tech companies to deliver, failure of tech to deliver, start-ups with bright ideas coming and (mostly) going, adoption and rejection in different sectors, etc.
While he seems more recently to have adjusted the length of a cycle from 7 to 8 years, Professor Stone’s long view is what is important here. I then asked him when the cycles had begun and had ended.
“They've been 1993 to 2000, 2000 to 2007, 2007 to 2014, so we're coming to the end of the 4th cycle (in my diary, at least)”
With Zuck announcing the new name of FB’s parent company and NFTs being Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2021, it’s probably safe to say that 2021 was the beginning of both the metaverse hype cycle and most likely the beginning of the new XR hype cycle. Interestingly, March 2021 was when Beeple sold his Everydays: The First 5000 Days NFT at Christie’s for $69 million, when Rec Room, the social VR platform, transformed into the first XR unicorn, and, ahem, when Spatial8 became 1 year old.
What say you, dear reader, is 2021 a decent starting point for both metaverse and XR hype cycles? We could use Gartner’s Hype Cycle, but I’d like to hear about other models and others’ informed opinions.
And since I brought up Beeple’s NFT mega sale as a possible signpost for the beginning of the metaverse hype, 3w2h (where, when, why, how, how much) does crypto’s own hype cycle relate to the metaverse’s hype cycle?
A Visual History of NFTs
Here’s a cool visual history of NFTs shared by Anthony Day, Blockchain Leader at IBM, on LinkedIn. Perhaps it can provide some information on where we might be in the metaverse cycle from an NFT perspective (or maybe it’s a good way to break up the wall of text).
It’s too Early to Get Excited about Web3
Tim O’Reilly’s article also provides some clues to the question above. For new school Web3 proponents like the Ethereum folks, personal data seems to be the core of the difference between Web2 and Web3. So while Web2 is dominated by FAANG-type companies that exchange services for personal data, Web3 is built on the blockchain and is decentralized allowing people to participate without having to monetize their personal data. As the person who defined ‘Web 2.0’ 17 years ago, though, O’Reilly has seen “several cycles of decentralization and recentralization.”
“[T]he current stage of Web3 is more equivalent to 1995 or 1999 [of the dot.com boom]—the early stage of the bubble or its end? Given the current valuation of crypto assets (and tech startups in general), it’s hard to argue for the earlier date.”
In these cycles, he argues, the money that is generated in the bubbles is used to build the infrastructure that will power the actual revolution where billions of people are using the technology.
So, by analogy, for NFTs, the bubble is going to pop but the money generated can be used to create the infrastructure underpinning the technology so that NFTs can become revolutionary.
A lot needs to be done before we can get there though, such as solving blockchain’s problems with computation, bandwidth, and storage, for example. Will blockchain really be the backbone of Web3 or the metaverse? Let’s see where the NFT-bubble money goes.
Anyhow, if we look at the metaverse from Stone’s XR cycle it seems to be in the early hype, but from O’Reilly’s description of Web3 from a crypto perspective it seems to be more like the late hype before the bubble bursts. Thoughts?
Let that marinate as we continue down the road of challenges.
The Need for Metaverse Regulation
Louis Rosenberg, the AR pioneer and CEO of Unanimous AI, writes that he sees the
“Three M’s of the Metaverse, as the core problems [which] boil down to…
(1) The Metaverse will monitor our lives
(2) The Metaverse will manipulate our actions
(3) The Metaverse will monetize us like never before”
How will this be done, and how do we regulate the metaverse to prevent these things from happening? I strongly recommend you read the article yourself to learn more.
In his LinkedIn post Alvin Wang Graylin, China President of HTC, shares and supports Rosenberg’s article. He also highlights eight challenges for the metaverse, some of which overlap with Rosenberg’s assessment.
Credit: Alvin Graylin
We can add the unsavoury behaviors encountered in the “Wild West” of Meta’s verse Horizon Worlds, which already includes groping, as a subcategory to one or more of those entries in that list.
To go back to Graylin’s LinkedIn post, Rafael Brown, an XR entrepreneur and gaming industry insider, makes a great comment that harkens back to what O’Reilly was saying about the dance between centralization, decentralization, and recentralization.
“[I]ndustrial routers, switches, fiber optic cables, undersea cables, satellites, power grid, and power stations… they’re not decentralized. The things that run the web on the internet are run by governments and utilities and telecommunications companies. And they always will be. Sorry. The physical contains the virtual.”
To take it to a level above gov-, utility-, and telecom-owned infrastructure, according to Jack Dorsey, Web3 is run and owned by traditional VC investment like Andreessen Horowitz and not a kind of decentralized ‘people’s movement’.
The point of all this is that no matter if and when Web3 becomes decentralized in the cyclical dance, it will be built on infrastructure and systems that are centralized, and we, the commonfolk, will never own that.
As I jump back and forth between the nebulous ideas of Web3 and the metaverse and the various challenges surrounding any version of them, the final question I’ll leave you with is this: will the metaverse, in its Super Saiyan form, actually need Web (2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) or the Internet infrastructure to exist?
It’s been a few weeks so I had a lot to read, digest, think about, and say, but I guess the moral of the story is: watch out for the hype or rhetoric (for or against Web3 and the metaverse) - know, as best you can, where we are in the cycle of things and what you’re getting into. (Reading Spatial News™ and contacting us at Spatial8 can’t hurt.)
And while we’re in the mode of giving advice and because I did promise, we’ll end off with Social AR for Dummies.
Social AR for Dummies
Welcome to our micro-column co-written by Maria Nova, a social AR creator. (Check out her Instagram for references of her terrific work.)
Tip #2: “Never promise to do a filter in a week. Bugs need to be tested. Iteration plays a very important part. Feedback from the client takes more time than the actual development.”
Tune in next week for Tip #3!
I hope this edition of Spatial News™ started 2022 off with a pyrotechnical bang. It was a bombardment. Feedback is the rocket fuel additive we need, so please give it freely. Thank you for reading, and, remember, we are spatial!
P.S. Don’t forget to take our Future Technologies Usage Survey 2021 for a chance to get some random NFTs!