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Mastercard, Pico, and Lamina1 make major moves

VR/AR and metaverse analysis every Wednesday and Sunday // 12 June 2022 

A lot has happened this week, so we will subdivide it into four sections. Feel free to scroll to the area you are most interested in: 

– Pico’s rapid expansion into the US
– Mastercard’s steps into web3
– My trip to a ‘physical’ NFT gallery
– Neal Stephenson and Peter Vessenes launching Lamina1

Launching companies, rapid expansion, and strategic steps

Pico will aggressively expand in the US and compete head-to-head with Meta, according to a scoop from Protocol. 

  • Do not underestimate the spending power of Bytedance, which will likely finance the rapid expansion. 
  • Long story short, the company will expand its small team quickly, and will ‘focus on content licensing as well as marketing its hardware to US consumers.’
  • What I am most interested in is whether Pico can match the price of the Quest 2. The consumer VR market is price-elastic, where general shoppers care more about price than other factors. The Pico is more expensive in Europe than the Quest 2, and the headset needs to match Meta if they wish to expand further. Another factor is having compelling content – which they are focusing on, by the looks of it.

Mastercard is making it easier to make web3 purchases without necessarily buying crypto. 

  • People can buy NFTs without owning crypto for some time. But what the announcement illustrates is that Mastercard wants to take more steps in the area and offer some safety for consumers. 
  • Considering how there are 2.9bn Mastercard cards, this is a major move from one of the biggest payments networks. 
  • It also raises the question if crypto is even necessary, when fiat is more seamless for most people. Time will tell. 

The NFT Gallery had an inaugural launch, and I have mixed feelings.

  • The NFT Gallery is a female-founded and female-first art space in London, and it provides a physical space for art collectors and creators to “purchase, produce and learn about NFTs and digital art.”
  • More widely, I don’t like how blockchain technologies are being abused by bad actors. Yet I recognise how NFTs help artists reach new audiences and, in select cases, make a better living out of their work. In that sense, I am fully supportive.
  • I am just cautious about the role of NFTs in the metaverse. The technology has merit, but the culture and technology needs to evolve a little further.

Lamina1 is a new company launched by Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson and Peter Vessenes.

  • The company wants to build the base-level protocol as the very basis of an open metaverse. The press release describes it as “a new Layer-1 blockchain technology designed for the metaverse with Web3 principles in mind.”
  • Is the blockchain necessary for the metaverse? I argued no in a recent piece. Meanwhile, Lamina1 would give a resounding yes, as it is a contingent part of its (apparently carbon negative) chain. If it works well without intermediaries, then it would be a resounding endorsement of blockchain technologies. The company comes at a time when the technology is also being used by bad actors, so I am interested in seeing how it pokes above the fray.

In any case, interesting times lie ahead of us. June continues to be a juggernaut of a month for immersive tech people. And I thought the Jubilee celebrations were a bit mad…

What do you think of the Mastercard or Pico plays? Join the discussion and meet like-minded professionals on the Immersive Wire discord. 

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Never underestimate anything

Mishi McDuff, CEO and Founder of Blueberry Entertainment

What is your background?
I was born and raised in Turkey. At a pretty young age, I learned technology and found that I could launch and build companies that were heavily focused in the US. I was fortunate to co-found and exit two companies, one of them being 1336 Studios, before the age of 20. So, I grew up as an entrepreneur. I started Blueberry because I believe in the potential for digital fashion to re-define the traditional fashion ecosystem, offering empowering, sustainable and endlessly creative products.

What are you working on, and what’s a key learning that you’ve had from it?
Blueberry’s most recent project was a really exciting collaboration with the multi-award winning Broadway show, Dear Evan Hansen, to bring the lead character’s iconic blue striped polo and arm cast into the metaverse for a digital fndraising event, in honor of May’s Mental Health Awareness month. The distinguished character costume was made available for purchase on Roblox, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Child Mind Institute. It is an amazing, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to transforming the lives of children struggling with mental health disorders and learning disorders. 

If you had to give one piece of advice, what would you give?
Just because something is unheard of or not necessarily a ‘thing’ yet, don’t discount it as a potential venture. There is endless space for you to carve out your own path and sector. When I started exploring the metaverse, 99% of the public had never heard of it let alone had businesses on it! If you’d have told me 10 years ago that in 10 years I’d own one of the metaverse’s leading fashion brands I’d have thought you were crazy! You never know what’s around the corner, so keep your eyes and your minds open!

For more on their work, check them out here. 

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Meditative with the VIVE Flow. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske

Tom Ffiske

Editor, Immersive Wire

Tom Ffiske is the Editor of the Immersive Wire, a weekly newsletter on the immersive industry.