This Week in ARExperience
December 2, 2021 by Jon Jaehnig
- Epic Games has acquired Rockband maker Harmonix. Epic is widely hailed as a leading metaverse company despite limited XR offerings – an area in which Harmonix is more accomplished. Yet to come into play: Epic CEO Tim Sweeney’s stated but as-yet stagnant interest in blockchain-based games.
- In other blockchain gaming news, Jadu has announced Hoverboards going up for auction as NFTs in December, including ultra-rare hoverboards created in collaboration with Lewis Hamilton, Snoop Dogg, and Grimes. The hoverboards are currently just collectors’ items but will be playable accessories in an AR game set to be released next year.
- Ready Player Me also had a slew of announcements – some also related to gaming. Your avatar can now have a head created through a partnership with the performing artist Dead Mau5. Other more “classic” wardrobes are also now available, and the platform, which generates a 3D avatar from a photograph, has improved aspects of its algorithms relating to facial hair and eyebrows.
- To transition from gaming news to markets news, The Sandbox has just closed a $93M series B funding round, and has over 500,000 registered users. The blockchain-based world-building game is currently in an alpha phase and is only available on Windows devices
- Meta rival Gemini has cleared a $400M investment round led by Morgan Creek Digital. The funds are earmarked toward developing the “decentralized metaverse” in opposition to “walled garden” metaverses. Specifically mentioned were Meta’s Horizon Worlds, and Fortnite by Epic Games.
- In more industry news, Boson Protocol has named the Futures Intelligence Group, led by renowned futurist Cathy Hackl, as its “Metaverse Agency of Record.” Boson protocol, which sells physical objects as NFTs in virtual worlds, recently made headlines by purchasing land and opening a retail location in the Decentraland virtual environment.
- In other virtual storefront news, both the NFL and Nike have announced that they will be opening virtual commerce initiatives in the hugely popular social gaming world of Roblox. Avatar customization items are purchased on the platform using “Robux” which are in-turn purchased for fiat currency. Outfitters like Gucci have already seen digital versions of physical goods sell for huge sums in the Roblox world.
- Speaking of fashion in Roblox, the company just teamed up with the British Fashion Council to create the Fashion Award for Metaverse Design. The inaugural winner is cSapphire, who worked with Gucci on their Roblox initiatives.
- Out of games but still in virtual commerce, Yahoo and Saks have joined forces to launch a retail AR experience just in time for the holidays. The experience manifests as an AR filter launched through visiting the Saks’ Instagram account. Some of the filters are just fun, while others are virtual try-on experiences for physical items up for sale.
- To continue with our online retail theme, VNTANA and JOOR have partnered up to bring VNTANA’s 3D asset generation algorithms for web3D and mobile AR to JOOR’s SaaS eRetail platform.
- This news is significant for JOOR and VNTANA. However, the real winners may be users of JOOR, and everyone else who wants to see more web3d and mobile AR – particularly in retail. Surveys on interest in AR often show similar sample sizes having used AR and expressing interest in AR, possible suggesting that exposure breeds support.
Pegging down a theme for this week’s news is a tall order. There is a lot of gaming news, making it tempting to point out that gaming and social applications remain a driving force in XR development and adoption. However, there’s also a huge amount of investment and eCommerce news driving the narrative that XR isn’t just about gaming.
Of course, what’s most interesting were how many stories this week were about both – retail activations within virtual worlds. These stories show legacy industries making inroads into virtual spaces, but they also show opportunities for new markets and economies to develop within these virtual worlds.