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Saturday, June 24, 2023

A New Metaverse Network plots an Escape from Meta’s ‘walled gardens’

Walling it off, or not?  Not sure.   Our own experiment was clearly walled.

A new metaverse network plots an escape from Meta’s ‘walled gardens’

STORY BY   Thomas Macaulay  In  TheNextWeb

Improbable wants open borders between virtual worlds

June 21, 2023 - 11:54 am

Two years after Mark Zuckerberg launched it into orbit, the metaverse is crashing back to Earth. As the hype sparked by Facebook’s rebrand fades amid jaw-dropping losses, risible selfies, and the generative AI boom, reality is setting in — which is when things start getting interesting.

Metaverse stalwarts are now fighting for competing visions.

On one side are the centralised platforms owned by the likes of Meta and Roblox. Under the control of all-powerful tech giants, these virtual worlds exist in siloes.

On the other side stand advocates for open, interconnected, and decentralised metaverses. In these utopian realms, users can freely traverse spaces and take ownership of their experiences.

Crystals, jets, and magnets — is this how to make cooling greener?

Improbable has firmly planted its flag in the latter camp. The company spent a decade building immersive virtual worlds, from military simulations to K-pop parties, before pivoting to building metaverse infrastructure. While the unicorn’s focus (and fortunes) have fluctuated, Improbable’s faith in open spaces has persisted.

“We have seen how walled gardens and closed networks exploit the people that spend time on the services for the benefit of few,” Herman Narula, the company’s co-founder and CEO, said last year '

More recently, Narula has been pitching an alternative.

“We want to contribute to ensuring the metaverse holds its promise of being a network of meaning that unlocks creativity, social interaction, and economic opportunities, free from gatekeepers,” he said last month.  To bring this vision to (virtual) life, Improbable has launched a new venture: MSquared, a network of metaverses.

The lay of the land

Today’s virtual worlds are ringfenced. In Roblox, for instance, you can use build games, buy weapons, and spend the Robux currency. But you can’t take any of that into Fortnite.

MSquared hopes to dismantle these barriers. Using a suite of technologies, services, and standards — as well as $150m (€138m) in funding — the project promises to power a nexus of interlinked worlds. 

If all goes to plan, the virtual experiences will extend across multiple platforms and an interoperable economy.

“I’m going to get shouted at for calling it this, but one way to describe it is a ‘meta-metaverse’,” Rob Whitehead, Improbable’s co-founder and chief product officer, told TNW.

Whitehead compares the concept to international travel. In this analogy, virtual worlds are akin to individual nations with open borders. If you want to visit a new country, you just bring your wallet and possessions with you. 

Upon arrival, your digital assets could be accessed through blockchain-enabled decentralised identities and cryptocurrencies, or traditional Web2 log-ins and digital goods, like Fortnite outfits and tools.

“We’re the layer that connects those different worlds together,” said Whitehead. “And it’s agnostic as to whether that metaverse is using crypto or non-crypto stuff.”   ... ' 

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