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The metaverse will mostly be for work – Quartz

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Emerging tech reporter
Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson has been thinking about virtual reality and the metaverse for decades. As of 2020, he even teaches in it (more on that in a moment).
For all of the chatter from Facebook/Meta, Nvidia, and other companies about building the metaverse, though, he thinks the metaverse will be mostly empty. That is to say, there won’t necessarily be a lot of things to do in this immersive version of the internet.
While social experiences and games could come to define the space, Bailenson, who founded Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, is betting that education and work will remain the “killer apps” of virtual reality (VR) in the years to come. Fittingly, the VR sports training company he co-founded, Strivr, has since shifted its focus to business training broadly.
Bailenson recently spoke with Quartz about what the metaverse is, the state of metaverse technology, and why the developers of the metaverse can be conscientious about their carbon footprint. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Bailenson: The term “metaverse” comes from Neal Stephenson’s 1996 book Snow Crash. Stephenson defines the metaverse as basically the internet, but immersive. Imagine the internet skipped the 2D version and went right into VR. That’s the notion of the metaverse.
In March 2020, when covid-19 hit, Stanford asked professors to volunteer to move their normal teaching load to summer 2021. I volunteered because I’ve been teaching a class since 2003 called Virtual People and I wanted to, given that we were remote anyway, try to do it in immersive VR in the metaverse. So in June 2021, 101 Stanford students all had their own headsets at home and we networked via avatars in the metaverse using a platform called Engage.
We talked and we learned and we experimented and we traveled. We spent about 60,000 shared minutes inside virtual reality and did all the things that Stephenson wrote about way back then. This fall, I’ve got 178 Stanford students and we are doing incredible things. We’re building things in the metaverse. We are having small group discussions. We’re doing travel and meditation and medical classes. I don’t think the hardware was ready nine or ten months ago. In the last six or seven months, the hardware has gotten good enough where I can do the class I’ve always dreamed of since the late ’90s.
We’re learning a ton about how to teach and learn in VR. Our class was a magnitude of order larger than anything anyone has ever tried. When you combine the two classes, you’ve got 250 students-plus in VR with a group for 10 weeks in a row. The lessons that we’ve learned ranged from what size group is the best for small-group discussion to how many avatars can you render in the same scene before the whole system crashes.
More importantly, we’ve been developing a curriculum that leverages what the metaverse is [and isn’t] good for. Once a week, we do kind of a lecture where we talk about readings and we have guest lecturers come in and we do that over Zoom. If you’re looking at someone talking, you don’t need to be in VR, right? One reason why I want my smaller discussions to be in VR is that it preserves the spatial coherence of the conversation. And I’m very strict—I don’t want to get anyone dizzy ever. We have short bursts with 30- to 40-minute experiences.
When you go through the history of VR, it’s all about training, starting with the Flight Simulator in 1929. It has been a killer app of VR since there’s been VR and that remains the case today. Video games are doing okay. And you’re getting thousands of people per day going to places like AltspaceVR or VRChat, but not hundreds of thousands.
Ultimately, what’s going to drive VR is that it’s really good for training. What Strivr does is we put you in this incredibly immersive scene. We began as a football training, training quarterbacks and other players, and then we went to other sports—US Olympic skiing, NBA free-throw shooting. In 2016, we pivoted to enterprise, and so the largest client remains Walmart. Currently, we do lots of things where there are other people around, but those people are either controlled by A.I. or they’re recorded people that we’re beaming in via video capture. What the metaverse is going to do is that, with all the Strivr training scenarios, we’re now going to be able to do it in teams.
One of the most successful trainings for Strivr is active shooter training. The CEO of Walmart has publicly discussed this. [In 2019, a gunman shot and killed 22 people and wounded 23 others at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.] Many of the employees were working that had already trained with Strivr’s active shooter preparation tool. And so they were prepared in a way that they wouldn’t have been had they not done that training. It’s one of the most incredible success stories of VR, as horrible as that day was. The CEO says that lives are saved because decisions are made faster because of the practice from employees who use VR.
I’ve dedicated my career to VR—I’ve done nothing but think about it during my work life since the late ’90s. That being said, I don’t use VR recreationally. It’s not something that you do for fun yet. VR has always been about solving hard problems. You’re putting something on your head. You can’t see the real world. You can only do it for a certain amount of time because it is different, perceptually, than the real world.
What Google Glass and others learned the hard way is that if you’re not solving a problem, people don’t really want to be having these wearables on their faces. The problem with Google Glass is that there wasn’t really much to do there. It was a small visual field. There was no way to track your input properly and it just didn’t actually do that much. VR eventually is going to be super fun for the consumer, but until we get there, it’s going to continue to do what it’s always done, which is solve really hard problems.
I certainly think it’s broken down barriers to a ton of areas of remote work and about, you know, the need to have a physical handshake in order to seal the deal. On the other hand, the pandemic caused delays in production channels that led to made it harder to get hardware. And the pandemic caused the economy to struggle, so a lot of startups didn’t make it through.
Also, VR is still fairly new—the way that a lot of people get exposed to it is that they go to someone’s place of work or their lab or their house, and they try on VR and say, “Oh, this is awesome.” It kind of spreads that way. And that was lost during the pandemic. So I say there are two sides of the coin, but I agree with you that the loss of the stigma of remote work is a huge one.
What you’re going to see in VR is no different than what you’re seeing on different social media. There are dozens and dozens of platforms. Some of them are designed for small-group interactions. Some are good for large-group interaction. Some of them are designed to be places where you’re respectful to one another and a place for work. Some of them are designed specifically to be the Wild Wild West where anything goes.
Every company wants to be a platform. And they want to be the platform.
A lot of us in the field of VR are very surprised that of the top 10 head-mounted displays that exist, two of the more portable ones, the Oculus Quest 2 and the Pico Neo 2, both have been bought by social media companies—Oculus by Facebook and now TikTok buying Pico. It’s very strange for veterans and pioneers in the field to think about why is a piece of hardware tied to an account. It was never that way before. VR was always hardware. It wasn’t part of a personal account.
I work with a lot of different tech companies in this area. And one of my jobs in working with them is to jump up and down all the time about policy issues and things like privacy. So we’ve got a lot of work to do on that front. But that’s just where we are.
There are about a dozen prominent VR social platforms. The ones we’re using from my class mostly are Engage, which is a small company out of Ireland, and AltspaceVR, which is a startup that I worked with early on, and then Microsoft bought them. Neither of them requires you to have a social media account, but you do have to make an Engage account and an Altspace account. So I don’t think any of them are going to let you just go in there without having a username and password. That certainly hasn’t been the case yet.
Now there is a growing movement around WebVR, which is a more flexible way of entering VR. In the VR scene, there are those that want pure bottom-up stuff that’s not top-down from the big companies and you’re seeing some energy there.
I love that question. I’ve got two answers for you in terms of how to design it. Well, one’s going to be obvious, which is that we should use servers that are green in order to power the metaverse.
Here’s one that’s not too obvious: In the early days of Second Life, if you had some kind of interactive algorithm such that a sun was going around a scene and casting a shadow, it didn’t matter if there were 200 avatars visiting or if no one had visited it for four months—the processing in order to make a sun go around was happening. In other words, the tree in the woods was constantly falling, even if nobody was there.
That sounds like a simple thing [to stop doing], but if you’re going to have a persistent world that’s the same for everyone, it’s actually hard to solve that. The metaverse needs to be the same anytime anyone comes in. And one of the design principles to be green is that we need to make sure that there aren’t things happening when nobody’s there. You don’t need the tree falling if nobody is there.
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Lamina1 Presents Inaugural “Open Metaverse Conference” Connecting the Worlds of Blockchain and the Metaverse for a Next-Gen Internet – Business Wire

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Featuring a keynote from co-founder and futurist Neal Stephenson, the first-of-its-kind event aims to empower creators and coders to build the Open Metaverse together
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lamina1, a Layer 1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse, today announced its role as founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, a first-of-its-kind industry event bringing together the worlds of the Metaverse and Web3 to build a more open and immersive Internet. The two-day conference will take place from February 8-9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California, and will gather experts and builders spanning Metaverse experiences, Web3, and entertainment.

Co-founded by Neal Stephenson, renowned futurist and science fiction author who originally coined the term “Metaverse,” and cryptocurrency pioneer Peter Vessenes, founder of the first VC-backed Bitcoin company, Lamina1 will provide the infrastructure to empower rapid expansion of the Open Metaverse. As the founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, Lamina1 will provide a forum for critical conversations around identity, privacy and interoperability, while exploring how audience engagement, creative storytelling, and the technicalities of blockchain can work hand-in-hand to make the vision of the Open Metaverse a reality.
The Open Metaverse Conference will feature keynotes from renowned technologists and storytellers who are pioneering visions for the next era of the Internet. Attendees will hear from Lamina1 co-founders Neal Stephenson and Peter Vessenes, as well as Philip Rosedale, founder of virtual world Second Life (Linden Lab) and co-founder of virtual platform High Fidelity, John Gaeta, Oscar-winning VFX pioneer (The Matrix) and CCO of character persona company Inworld AI, Cathy Hackl, Metaverse and Web3 strategist and founder of design consultancy Journey, and other industry crossover leaders to be announced. Keynote sessions will be complemented by diverse speakers and side events spanning games, art, entertainment, and commerce. To connect these key areas of culture with the technology that enables them, the Open Metaverse Conference will also facilitate technological deep dives for attendees from leaders in Web3, immersive computing, and technology standards groups. Presenting partners include the Metaverse Standards Forum, the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, and the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 (OMA3), all organizations fostering interoperability.
“We are at a moment in time when developers, creatives, and producers can finally design the seamless and persistent experiences we’ve dreamed about,” said Jamil Moledina, Vice President of Games Partnerships and Media at Lamina1. “The Open Metaverse Conference will serve as the big tent for everyone who’s thinking about creating never-before-possible experiences that allow creators and consumers to enter unique virtual worlds on a level playing field.”
“OMA3 is pleased to collaborate with Lamina1 and the Open Metaverse Conference in promoting interoperability,” said Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands. “OMA3 looks forward to developing talk tracks to encourage the creation of a more open and immersive internet.”
The conference will encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through debates, pitch sessions, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities to help drive new ideas and connections.
“We felt a real sense of urgency to facilitate discussion with our colleagues and creators across the spectrum,” said Rebecca Barkin, President of Lamina1. “We know that the Open Metaverse will be built collaboratively and with a set of shared values, and we’re happy to provide this forum to address the needs of the community and to solve big problems together.”
For more information on the Open Metaverse Conference, visit www.openmetaverseconf.com.
About Open Metaverse Conference 
The Open Metaverse Conference (OMC) is an industry-first event presented by Lamina1 focused on bringing together the Metaverse and blockchain technology. The conference gathers key stakeholders spanning developers, creatives, producers, product owners, and executives to ask and address big questions around the development of a truly Open Metaverse that leverages open-source, collaborative principles and blockchain decentralization.
About Lamina1 
Lamina1 is a Layer1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse. The brainchild of legendary futurist Neal Stephenson (who first conceptualized the term “Metaverse” in his 1992 best-selling novel Snow Crash) and Peter Vessenes, a foundational leader in the crypto space from the early days of Bitcoin – Lamina1 is on a mission to deliver the blockchain technology, interoperating tools, and decentralized services that will establish it as the preferred destination for creators building a more immersive Internet. It is the first provably carbon-negative blockchain in the world.
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K.C. Maas
Wachsman
kc.maas@wachsman.com

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Facebook Founder, Zuckerberg Drops Out Of 10 Richest Men After Losing Half Of Fortunes – SaharaReporters.com

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According to Forbes, the Facebook founder has lost more than half his fortune—a staggering $76.8 billion—since September 2021, dropping him from No. 3 on The Forbes 400 list of the U.S.’ wealthiest people to No. 11. Worth $57.7 billion on this year’s list.
 
Meta chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg has lost his spot in the list as one of the 10 richest people in America.
According to Forbes, the Facebook founder has lost more than half his fortune—a staggering $76.8 billion—since September 2021, dropping him from No. 3 on The Forbes 400 list of the U.S.’ wealthiest people to No. 11. Worth $57.7 billion on this year’s list.
Zuck trails Walmart heir Jim Walton, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and other tech moguls such as ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. No one in America has lost as much money over the past year as Zuckerberg.
He has the cratering stock price of Meta (formerly Facebook) to thank for his exit from the top 10. Shares have plunged 57% since last year’s Forbes 400, which used stock prices from September 3, 2021. Tech stocks are generally in a slump with the market downturn, but Meta’s fall outpaces both the Nasdaq (-9.8%) and the S&P 500 (-13.5%), as well as Microsoft’s 14% decline, Google-parent Alphabet‘s 25% drop and Amazon’s 27% dive.
Investors are spooked by a privacy policy update from Apple last year that made it harder for tech companies to track users across apps, impacting Meta’s ad sales. Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue decline in July–a 1% drop, to $28.8 billion.
“Facebook makes most of its money from advertising, and now it just doesn’t have that data anymore,” says Mark Zgutowicz, an analyst at research and investment banking firm Benchmark.
“All those data signals went away, which basically means that advertisers are having trouble telling whether a campaign was successful or not.”
Compounding the problem for Meta, TikTok is luring away advertisers, along with lucrative Gen Z and millennial users. In February, Meta announced its first-ever quarterly loss of daily active users. A recent internal report showed that Meta’s TikTok clone, Instagram Reels, is struggling to compete, according to Wall Street Journal report.
Under normal circumstances, a slight dip in revenue might be manageable, but Meta is also investing heavily in virtual reality and the metaverse, which is dragging down operating profit. In 2021, the company’s metaverse division, Meta Reality Labs, lost $10 billion. While the metaverse is all Zuckerberg wants to talk about, investors are less enthusiastic so far. “It’s a long tail investment and, for now, it’s kind of a cash suck,” Zgutowicz says.
Zuckerberg first became a billionaire in 2008, just four years after founding Facebook. At 23, he was the youngest self-made billionaire at the time, debuting at No. 321 on The Forbes 400, worth $1.5 billion. By 2011, Zuckerberg’s net worth had increased nearly 12 fold to $17.5 billion.
This year isn’t the first time Zuckerberg’s net worth has taken a dive. After Facebook’s famously disappointing IPO in 2012, Zuckerberg fell from No. 14 to No. 36 on The Forbes 400. But it didn’t last long. The following year, Zuckerberg bounced back and, up until now, his fortune has continued to climb. Despite the litany of controversies and scandals plaguing the company, Facebook’s ad machine had reliably churned out enough money to impress investors, sending Zuckerberg’s net worth soaring to $134.5 billion last year, his highest net worth ever.
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Disney CEO Bob Chapek plotting a metaverse for Disney+ that will recreate their parks online – Daily Mail

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By Alex Oliveira For Dailymail.Com
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Disney is plotting a metaverse that would let people experience the most magical place on earth without ever setting foot in the theme park.
CEO Bob Chapek said the media giant’s metaverse would exist on its streaming platform, Disney+, and allow ‘the 90 percent of people that will never ever be able to get to a Disney park,’ to experience it in virtual reality.
‘We call it next-gen storytelling’ Chapek said in an interview with Deadline, noting that he didn’t like use the phrase metaverse ‘because it has a lot of hair on it.’
But regardless of whatever Chapek prefers to call the planned platform, many have responded by calling the move out of touch with Disney’s fanbase, and argued that if the parks stopped hiking prices more people would be able to visit.  
The move comes as Chapek – who took the helm at Disney in 2020 – struggles to make a name for himself in the shadow of his innovative predecessor, Bob Iger, and keep afloat amid controversies ranging from the park’s rising prices, to Disney’s stance on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill. 
Just last week, Chapek broke a months-long silence on an apology he issued in an attempt to quell Disney staff who were outraged by his failure to speak out against the controversial bill last spring, saying he chose to remain mum on the matter because he didn’t want to get Disney caught in a ‘political subterfuge.’ 
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the media giant’s metaverse would exist on its streaming platform, Disney+, and allow people to experience park rides in virtual reality
Disney’s metaverse move comes as Chapek – who took the helm at Disney in 2020 – struggles to make a name for himself in the shadow of his innovative predecessor, Bob Iger
Chapek characterized the Disney metaverse as a way to experience the theme parks for the multitudes of people who are unable to actually make the trip in person.
‘We wish every person would have the opportunity to come to our parks, but we realize that’s not a reality for some people,’ he told Deadline, ‘we have before us an opportunity to turn what was a movie-service platform to an experiential platform and give them the ability to ride Haunted Mansion from a virtual standpoint.’
He said metaverse users would have an experience beyond what regular parkgoers have, and be able to step out of the ride-cars to explore sets and interact with characters. 
‘Maybe we’ll give them the opportunity what every single person in the park wants to do, and unfortunately too many of them do it, just to get off the attraction. See how it works, see how those ghost dancers move,’ he said. 

But many responded to the news by saying if Disney would just stop raising its prices, more of those 90 percent of people who cannot visit the parks would be able to.
‘Damn Disney. Just say it direct like that,’ wrote tech critic Juan Carlos Bagnell on Twitter, ‘90% of the HUMAN POPULATION is too poor to visit our parks, but hopefully some are less-poor-enough to own VR goggles and ride our rides in a metaverse clone…’
Commenters on the Deadline interview were equally unimpressed, with one saying ‘The reason 90% of people may not be able to experience the parks is because you keep hiking the cost of GOING to the parks beyond what most people can actually afford, Bob.’
‘Costs are up at the parks. Moral appears to be down. Iger had imagination and could adapt,’ said another.

Disney park prices have skyrocketed since Chapek was fully given charge at Disney in 2022. At California parks, ticket prices jumped 6 percent to $164 for single-park passes, while the price of getting into more than one park over the course of a day rose 9 percent to $319.
At the Florida parks the price to get into the park after 2pm rose to $169, while before 2pm fans were asked to fork over $194. Those prices could also rise based on an increased demand on any day.
‘If you’re the kind of person that budgets or saves for vacations, Disney Parks aren’t for you any longer,’ wrote a fed-up customer on Reddit, ‘That’s a Premium Physical Experience, and there’s plenty of national and international wealthy families to afford going indefinitely.’
And in August, as inflation scorched the US economy, Chapek warned those prices could continue to rise.
‘It’s all up to the consumer,’ he said, according to The New York Post, ‘If consumer demand keeps up, we’ll act accordingly.’
Disney’s metaverse would allow people to experience park rides like the Haunted Mansion without ever setting foot in Disney World
Chapek noted the virtual reality experience could go beyond simply sitting in the car and experiencing the ride the way park-goers do, but would allow people to step off of the tracks and explore the ride sets up close
Chapek has hardly been the happiest CEO on Earth since he took the reins at Disney.
After beginning his tenure in February, 2020, he was thrust immediately into the chaos of navigating Disney through the perils of the pandemic, which saw the media company’s primary revenue streams – theme park revenue and movie theater tickets – vanish like a pair of glass slippers at midnight.
To help steady the ship, Iger – much to Chapek’s ire, reportedly – was kept on in a leadership position through 2021.
But as soon as Chapek was given full control in 2022 his price hikes had customers raising eyebrows about whether he was up to the same scratch as the visionary Iger.
Those doubts were doubled-down on by Disney staff after Chapek decided to remain quiet on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, a law which barred schools from discussing sexuality or gender with children between kindergarten and third grade.
Many Disney employees viewed the law as homophobic and an affront to the inclusive values of Disney, and publicly voiced their outrage that Chapek did not speak out against it.
Chapek said the metaverse would also work in conjunction with real-world visits to Disney theme parks
Disney is plotting a metaverse that would let people experience the most magical place on earth without ever setting foot in the theme park
He later apologized to staff, publicly decried the bill, and announced Disney had paused all its political donations within Florida.
Last week, Chapek addressed that apology for the first time since he issued it, saying he had struggled to balance the needs and beliefs of every one of his employees and customers.
‘What we try to do is be everything to everybody,’ Chapek told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview, ‘That tends to be very difficult because we’re The Walt Disney Company.’
‘We certainly don’t want to get caught up in any political subterfuge, but at the same time we also realize that we want to represent a brighter tomorrow for families of all types, regardless of how they define themselves,’ he said.

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