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The Metaverse and Digital Avatars: Is This the Future of Band Touring? – The Wire

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Whereas live tours are time-intensive and costly for new artists, a low-cost metaverse “tour” might be a new way for music lovers to see live performances.
A billboard for Abba's virtual concert at the London Stadium. Photo: Matt Brown/Flickr, CC BY 2.0
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It was a technological feat that made history, wowed audiences and brought a dead rapper back to life. In April 2012 at the Coachella festival in California, Tupac Shakur took to the stage with Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre. He’d been dead for 16 years, killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
But this was Tupac the hologram, foul-mouthed and lifelike, performing before a “shocked and then amazed” crowd.

Since humans first delighted in the sound of music, advancements in technology have managed to make musical expression immortal. Throughout history, innovators have strived to create original, accessible and eternal performances.
As engineering knowledge developed, musical instrument design advanced. Many classical composers introduced pioneering instrumentations into their scores, adding depth and colour that broadened the listening experience.
Accurate systems for notation matured, offering music an essence of immortality through printed manuscript. In 1853 Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville’s phonautograph pioneered an audio recording technique.
In 1912, W.C. Handy composed Memphis Blues, a song that took the US by storm and influenced the development of popular music. Published on paper, it was wildly popular in the dance halls and soon every band in America was asked to play it. This public demand was recognised by an fledgling recording industry, which soon flourished.

Technology = creativity
A breakthrough in the quality of music capture came with the advent of hi-fi and stereo introduced by Yamaha. Those who embraced the technology artistically could transport a lifelike performance experience into the homes of the masses. One of the biggest bands of the 1970s and 1980s, Swedish supergroup Abba, embraced this technology pioneering recording techniques, which is still used as standard today.
Behind this technology was the creative genius that produced millions of record sales and performances dominating the 1970s and beyond. After the apparent demise of the group, Benny and Björn expanded into the theatrical genre, composing musicals. Along with their interest in emerging technology, this sowed the seeds to recapture and reinvent the Abba machine 40 years later.
May 2022 sees the latest technological advances in musical immortality when Abba return to the live stage after a 40-year absence. But this time they return as humanoids – the digital hologram “twins” of the original global phenomenon.
George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic has created holographic lookalikes that interact with a live band in a specially designed purpose-built theatre in east London. Benny, Björn, Frida and Agnetha have provided the pre-recorded vocals and motion-captured movement which will then be reproduced by the digital avatars.

The doppelgangers are more youthful in their appearance – around their 30s, when they were at the peak of their fame – raising an interesting conundrum concerning Abba’s human mortality against their new immortality in the metaverse.
Abba’s music is undoubtedly timeless; the simple tunes with incredibly complicated structures appeal to millions. The “Abbatars” are a reinvention for a new audience, but will they continue beyond the lives of their originals, with new creators pulling the strings?
Besides Abba and Tupac, there are other instances where “digital twinning” has been identified as a key money-making strategy. The digital band Gorillaz’s 2006 Grammy performance blended flawlessly with Madonna’s. And Richard Burton’s hologram performed on a global tour of War of the Worlds in another 2006 performance.
Music in the metaverse
Customising 3D avatars has become a unique way for artists to create virtual brands across several digital platforms. They can connect virtually with fans and increase loyalty and engagement, while fans can interact, express themselves and experience new things.
This is now achievable using AI software to make holograms, as researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) demonstrated in an experiment that created holograms fairly instantaneously.
Ziva Dynamics a pioneer in simulation and real-time character creation, employs synthetic AI-powered avatars to create autonomous and complex movement simulations based on real muscle, fat, soft tissue and skin contact.

In April 2021, in a project called Lost Tapes Of The 27 Club, Google’s Magenta AI was even used to compose songs in the styles of musicians who notoriously died at the age of 27, including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse.
These technologies have the potential to create realistic synthetic and AI holographic representations of departed artists, allowing them to continue creating, influencing and performing for future audiences.
Epic Games, creators of the phenomenally successful Fortnite, predicts that digital twins will combine with the metaverse, an emerging network of fully immersive digital worlds.
Disrupting the music business
Whereas live tours are time-intensive and costly for new artists, a low-cost metaverse “tour” might be a new way for music lovers to see live performances. Virtual performances by Justin Bieber, DeadMau5 and The Weeknd have already become popular recently.
In this emerging branch of the music industry, record labels and marketing firms could be replaced by decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs). DAOs are online organisations that operate like cooperatives, making all decisions jointly.
DAOs are already disrupting the music business – along with NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which are a way of transferring property between people online. In October 2021, PleasrDAO – a collective of decentralised finance (DeFi) leaders, early NFT collectors and digital artists – paid US$4 million (£3 million) for Once Upon a Time in Shaolin an album by New York hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan.
While the release of the album predates the rise of NFTs, PleasrDAO now owns the rights and has imposed strict restrictions on duplication, distribution or public exhibition. A music-focused DAO like Pleasr may acquire bulk concert tickets, finance and organise events and manage fan-owned record labels and marketing agencies to secure investable commodities like first-edition LPs, artwork and instruments. This has the potential to benefit fans, new music genres and artists alike.
This creates a new, decentralised route to the market for artists free of corporate interests or interests of individual producers, developing a fairer landscape for the future. With digital avatars likely to be at the centre of this new vanguard, it will be fascinating to see how it develops in the months and years to come – and whether it will be enough for music audiences.The Conversation
Theo Tzanidis, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing, University of the West of Scotland and Stephen Langston, Programme Leader for Performance, University of the West of Scotland.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Metaverse Crypto Index Fund Launched by Matthew Ball, Multicoin, and Bitwise – Decrypt

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There's a wide array of crypto builders working to bring the metaverse to life, whether it's via platforms, tools, assets, or infrastructure. Now one of the leading voices around the metaverse has launched an index fund focused on crypto assets tied to the next-generation internet.
Today, writer and venture capitalist Matthew Ball announced a partnership with Multicoin Capital and Bitwise Asset Management to launch the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index. Bitwise has also made an associated fund available to qualified purchasers.
"We developed the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index Fund because, prior to today, there was no easy, expert, and methodologically diversified way for investors to have broad-based exposure to bona fide metaverse-focused crypto assets," Ball told Decrypt.
"To this end, the Index doesn't exist to time Event A or Market Conditions B. It exists so that investors can participate in what we believe is a multi-trillion dollar transformation, which will unfold over the coming decade," he continued. "If blockchain is relevant to the future of the metaverse, and our approach is sound, we believe the opportunity is significant—today, tomorrow, next month, and so forth."
The index will feature up to 40 crypto assets chosen by the partners, but a list of included assets was not provided to Decrypt by the time of publication. Bitwise's associated fund is available to qualified purchasers with a $100,000 minimum investment.
Ball described the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index as a "rules-driven index that combines the best of institutional indexing approaches with special adaptations to the crypto and metaverse spaces. That includes various risk screens, such as analyzing liquidity, developer activity, tech and regulatory risk, and "relevancy to the metaverse," said Ball.
"The ultimate goal is to curate the crypto assets that will be outsized contributors to the creation and success of an open metaverse," he added.
The metaverse refers to a future version of the internet that many believe will be built on blockchain technology. It's expected to be a more immersive and interactive experience that people navigate via 3D avatars and use for work, play, shopping, and socializing. It may also use NFT assets for user-owned items like avatars, apparel, and virtual land.
Ethereum-based games like Decentraland and The Sandbox are seen as early examples of the metaverse.
Facebook also showcased its own vision for the space and even rebranded its parent company to Meta last fall. However, it's not entirely clear whether Facebook's plan is for an open platform that is interoperable with others.
Ball is a leading writer on the metaverse whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Economist, and Bloomberg. His book, "The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything," is due out from W.W. Norton in July.
He's also a managing partner at EpyllionCo, which has invested in crypto startups such as Dapper Labs and Mirror, as well as a venture partner at Makers Fund. Ball is also behind the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF, which focuses on metaverse-centric stocks and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.
"Our objective was the creation of a diversified, balanced, and expertly-designed crypto Metaverse Index," explained Multicoin Capital co-founder and managing partner, Kyle Samani.
"This required a similarly capable team," he continued. "Matthew Ball is the definitive thought-leader in metaverse strategy and investing. We specialize in crypto assets and are one of the preeminent crypto investment firms. And Bitwise Asset Management is the proven leader in crypto indexes and index funds."

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Meta's losses show the metaverse's costly risk – Insider Intelligence

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Facebook parent Meta launches startup accelerator with India’s IT ministry in metaverse push – TechCrunch

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Meta Platforms is looking at India’s burgeoning startup ecosystem as it bolsters its bet on the metaverse. The social juggernaut has partnered with the Indian IT Ministry’s startup hub to launch an accelerator in the country to broaden innovation in emerging technologies, including augmented reality and virtual reality, officials said Tuesday.
MeitY Startup Hub and Meta’s effort, called XR Startup Program, will work with 40 early-stage startups and help them in research and development and developing workable products and services. Each startup will also receive a grant of over $25,000, the American giant said.
The program, supported by Meta’s $50 million XR Programs and Research Fund, will initially hand pick 80 startups to attend a bootcamp. It will also help startups with finding customers, inking relationships and raising funds, Meta said.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said the program is especially aimed at helping encourage technology innovation in smaller cities and towns.
The XR Startup Program is the latest of Meta’s growing participation in the South Asian market’s upskilling efforts. The firm, whose Facebook and WhatsApp services identify India as their largest market by users, partnered with Central Board of Secondary Education, a government body that oversees education in private and public schools in the country, to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.
The program — to be implemented by four Indian institutions, including IIT Delhi — will also host a “grand challenge” for innovation in categories including education, healthcare, entertainment, agritech, climate action, sustainability and tourism, the American giant said.
“India will play a pivotal role in defining future technologies. Decisions and investments made here in India now shape global discussions on how technology can deliver more economic opportunity and better outcomes for people. It is critical that we help to create an ecosystem that will enable India’s tech startups and innovators to build the foundations of the metaverse,” said Joel Kaplan, VP of Global Policy at Meta, in a statement.
Meta’s interest with working with startups in India is also not newly found. The company has backed three startups in the country, including social commerce platform Meesho and online education group Unacademy.
3 views: Is the metaverse for work or play?

“India’s rapid tech adoption combined with a vast pool of tech talent puts the country in a vantage position for shaping the future of the internet,” said Ajit Mohan, VP and MD of Facebook India, in a statement.
“For this future to be equitable, it will require active participation from all stakeholders, including developers, businesses, creators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs. We are excited to collaborate with MeitY Startup Hub and hope that the XR Startup Program will act as a catalyst to unlock the use of immersive technology across sectors like education, healthcare, agritech and tourism, not only in India but across the globe.”

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