The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

At the beginning of 2022, Microsoft dropped the first blockbuster to the gaming circle. On January 18, Microsoft became the third-largest game developer in the world after announcing that it was buying Blizzard for $95 a share.

The acquisition, which totaled $68.7 billion, used 53% of Microsoft’s book capital. If calculated based on Blizzard’s 2020 fiscal year’s net profit attributable to its parent of $2.197 billion, the acquisition amount is equivalent to Blizzard’s 31-year profit. Rich and staggering.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Of course, it is not limited to games. Behind the inclusion of Blizzard is Microsoft’s ambition to point to the Metaverse.Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was blunt when evaluating the acquisition:

“Games are the most dynamic and exciting category of entertainment on all platforms today, and will play a key role in the development of Metaverse platforms.

2021 is the first year of the “Metaverse” of human society.

In the “2020-2021 Metaverse Development Research Report” released by the @新MediaShenyang team of Tsinghua University in September 2021, economist Zhu Jiaming compared the “clustering effect” experienced by the Internet in 1995, and compared the “swarming effect” experienced by the Internet in 2021. The unimaginable explosive power presented by the “Metaverse” can be attributed to the “cluster effect” of the relevant elements of the “Metaverse”, identifying the arrival of the first year of the “Metaverse”.

Everyone in it has more or less smelled that the storm is about to come – the market has experienced successive impacts of new concepts such as “blockchain”, “bitcoin”, and “non-fungible token”, and business is in “” New fields such as NFT artwork”, “virtual digital human”, and “Metaverse” are making waves, and academic circles have discussed and commented a lot on emerging logics such as “virtual currency”, “XR technology”, and “web 3.0″…

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

“Metaverse” popular related word cloud

Source: Tsinghua University “Metaverse Development Research Report Version 2.0”

A big change is slowly brewing.

However, apart from the relevant practitioners, researchers and technicians, most people are still in the imagination of web 2.0, and have little understanding of this wave that has reached their ankles.

If the foreseeable future is temporarily referred to as “web 3.0”, then it can be simply understood that “blockchain” is the underlying technical logic, “NFT” is the intermediate translation carrier, and “Metaverse” is the surface macroscopic display.

People’s imagination about the prospects of technology in the present is bound to be limited. Just like when 4G was born in 2008, everyone’s imagination was still stuck in watching high-definition online and faster download speeds. Who could have predicted that in just 10 years, a 4G communication would give birth to such a wealth of online shopping, takeaways, and online car-hailing. business format?

Changes happen all the time, and clarifying the core concepts may be able to clear the fog in front of us a little, and only “enter” can see the truth. With the pace of existing practice, we may be able to touch the connotation and extension of “future” more.

Blockchain: Breaking the “barriers” of giants with decentralization and integrating the “interconnected” world 

The previous generation of Internet has been analogized to a well-known concept. “Blockchain” plays a role similar to TCP/IP in the transformation of the next generation of Internet, and can play a role as the basic protocol of the Internet. Different from the basic protocol of the previous generation, the blockchain was born from the practice of “Bitcoin”, and at the beginning of its birth, it shared the underlying value logic with “currency”.

Therefore, some people define blockchain as “data ledger”, which means “ledger recorded with data” and “ledger recorded with data”. Data plays a role in blockchain as both content and means.

Following the idea of ​​”ledger” and further supplementing, the blockchain can be understood as: a method that combines data blocks into a specific data structure in the form of a chain according to time sequence, and uses cryptography to ensure that it cannot be Tamperable and unforgeable decentralized shared ledger.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

A simple blockchain model

Source: Satoshi Nakamoto “Bitcoin White Paper: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”

Every node on the blockchain can fully see and edit this shared ledger, and the algorithm-based credit system becomes the consensus among nodes, making point-to-point communication and transactions possible. Centralized trust institutions are kicked out of the system, and decentralization becomes possible.

Because of the concatenation of timestamps, the traces of each edit will be recorded and retained, so the blockchain has the characteristics of immutability. At the same time, the connection between nodes and the powerful computing power output by nodes make the blockchain resistant to external attacks and have high security.

“Decentralization” and “immutability”, as the most important and transformative technical features of blockchain, have brought the possibility of the transformation of the Internet.

  • The walls of web 2.0 are everywhere, “information” has experienced inflation, and “value” has entered the stage of history

In the era of web 1.0, people used www addresses to locate all corners of the website, and browsing content was the main usage appeal; in the era of web 2.0, people migrated from web pages to social media and various APPs, and interacted and collaborated through social media dialogues.

From 1.0 to 2.0, the public’s sense of participation in the Internet in various circles has further deepened, but the problem that follows is that the Internet is divided by these circles. Each platform and community establishes their own common standards to delineate users and draw the ground as prisons.

With accounts as avatars, people split into different social identities. In instant messaging software represented by WeChat, blog platforms represented by Weibo, video sharing sites represented by Douyin, and tool-based apps represented by Taobao Switching back and forth between …, through information exchange and transmission, to solve various needs.

There is no doubt that this runs counter to the design logic of Internet decentralization and interconnection, and iterative upgrades are inevitable. From this perspective, what the blockchain wants to do and is doing is to go through the process of web 1.0 again in a new way.

Platforms have grown into trust companies in the Internet domain, and each has built a high wall with a centralized structure design. And inside the walls, the value provided by the platform has been minimal. UGC has become the norm, and giants have seized the opportunity with platform casting, turning users into digital laborers, and transferring the value attached to them while outputting information.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

FTC files antitrust lawsuit against Facebook in 2020

A flood of information floods the Internet. On the one hand, as the “information” of web 2.0 transmission flux, it has exploded in the entire network, functions and utility are constantly diluted, and ordinary information is becoming more and more useless; on the other hand, the attention economy has been repeatedly verified, from The transformation path from information to value is becoming clearer, and useful information is becoming more and more valuable.

Now that information is no longer scarce, what if the transmission content of the Internet is changed from “information” to “value”? – This is the organizational logic of the blockchain.

  • From information interconnection to value interconnection, creating a world where reality and reality are intertwined

It’s “value” not “price”, not currency. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, blockchain extends “value” from “satisfaction of physiological needs, safety needs, and social needs” at the bottom to “satisfaction of respect needs and self-actualization needs” at the upper level. The price is set for the content to meet the needs of people in all aspects.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Source: Gao Reconstruction “Blockchain Sociology: Reimagining Money, Media and Democracy”

With “Proof of Work” as the basis for direct currency exchange, “Token” is used as the currency in the blockchain community and is also the value standard within the community. So far, nodes are connected by consensus on “value”, and a real community is established.

In “Blockchain: A Blueprint for a New Economy” written in 2015, the author once made a prediction about the future of the blockchain:

“According to the current development of blockchain technology, blockchain technology will experience the blockchain 1.0 model with programmable digital encryption system as the main feature, the blockchain 2.0 model with programmable financial system as the main feature, and The blockchain 3.0 model featuring a programmable society.

Looking back today, it’s largely fulfilled. From the Bitcoin and Ethereum mining wave with individuals as the main body, to the implementation of digital RMB, NFT, supply chain finance and other projects with countries and organizations as the main body, to today’s DAO (decentralized autonomous organization, distributed autonomous organization), Organizational forms such as the Metaverse emerge in an endless stream. As a universal underlying technical framework, blockchain has shown its transformative value in technical practice time and time again.

NFT: The direct conversion of content to value, the initial test of the transfer from the Internet world to the blockchain world 

The currencies in the blockchain world are collectively referred to as “Tokens”, and cryptocurrencies and NFTs constitute two forms of tokens.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, etc., are close to traditional currencies in form, function, and calculation method, except that they have no entity and are issued with algorithmic credit as the endorsement (traditional currency issuance is endorsed by the national government/central bank credit. ), the perception is not much different from fiat currencies such as the US dollar, Japanese yen, and Chinese yuan.

According to the statistics of CoinMarketCap, a crypto asset price tracking website, as of January 28, 2022, the global market value of cryptocurrencies is ¥10.53T, of which Bitcoin has the largest market value.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Top 10 cryptocurrencies with the largest market capitalization today

Source: CoinMarketCap

As a non-homogeneous token, NFT corresponds to the homogenized token represented by cryptocurrency.Although it is now mentioned that NFT is always reminiscent of works of art, games, movies and other forms, but because of its own three characteristics of value storage, value circulation, and exchange medium, NFT is a real currency.

It may be difficult for the public who grew up in the context of homogenized currency to understand the concept of non-fungible currency, but it may be understood as a blank check in the digital world. Regardless of the form, each NFT has a unique code that can be circulated and identified among blockchain nodes. This makes it not only an asset container for a homogeneous currency, but also a currency that directly marks the ownership of digital assets.

Content and value are fully connected here in NFT, and content is value.

  • The influx of capital uses NFT to complete the transfer of brand cultural assets to the blockchain

The concept of NFT has gradually entered the public eye as early as 2017 after the explosion of a game “Crypto Kitties” on Ethereum. Players earn virtual currency by buying and selling kittens in the game, and these kittens are the original NFTs.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Trading interface in the game Crypto Kitties

The popularity of NFTs will not happen until 2021. In March, Christie’s auction house auctioned the NFT artwork “Every Day: The First 5,000 Days” at a price of US$69.34 million (about 450 million RMB), setting a new record for digital artwork transactions. into the public eye.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Then came the running entry of this wave of capital in the second half of 2021——

Gucci first launched the NFT digital shoe Virtual 25 in April, which was sold at a price of $8.99. Netizens joked that this may be the first Gucci for young people. In May, the NFT digital short film “Aria, 2020” was launched at Christie’s with a starting price of $20,000;

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

LV made NFT games, buried 30 Louis 200 NFTs designed in cooperation with NFT artist Beeple as game eggs, and distributed NFT postcards to game users;

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

LV’s NFT game “Louis: The Game”

Burberry has partnered with gaming platform Mythical Games to launch the “Blankos Block Party” series of limited-time NFT merchandise, including the “Burberry Blanko” avatar, NFT jacket accessories and NFT shoes.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Burberry’s NFT avatar “Burberry Blanko”

Balenciaga has teamed up with the gaming platform Fortnite to design a series of NFT costumes for the game character Doggo.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

The crazy bets of luxury brands are well understood. Luxury itself is a super-value commodity in the transition stage between art and durable goods. Its value calibration is more affected by social, psychological, emotional and other added value. The “scarcity” and “exclusivity” of similar commodities coincides with the function of NFT’s “uniqueness calibration”.

From the perspective of the monetary attribute of NFT’s “content is value”, NFT provides brands with the possibility to directly realize cultural assets . In August 2021, after purchasing and collecting the popular NFT artwork CryptoPunks, Visa released an NFT white paper entitled “NFT – Engaging Today’s Fans in Cryptocurrency and Business”. Turning “users/consumers” into “fans”, the brand’s business insights into NFT are ready to come out.

To transfer the cultural assets of the brand to the blockchain, NFT is the best carrier. First, its form is changeable, it can become the carrier of any content, and it is directly bound to the tangible and intangible assets of the brand image; second, it has a clear value confirmation, is directly related to currency, and can be directly transformed into a part of the brand’s financial assets. No matter from which point of view, using NFT as the starting point of asset blockchain digitization is always a profitable business for brands.

  • In the bubble NFT market, the export may be in the Metaverse

Seeing that the NFT outlet is wide open, in addition to opportunities, there are also concerns about its bubble. With the foreshadowing of the explosion in the currency circle, in the face of NFTs that are in the limelight, many people suspect that the carnival in front of them may be a historical repeat of a burst of bubbles.

The beneficiaries, such as rural villagers in the Philippines in the summer of 2021, fight in the game, breed pets and sell them through an NFT game called “Axie Infinity”, and the money earned from playing the game can afford the life of the whole family;

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

The interface for selling Axie in the game

The losers are like netizens in the Ant Chain NFT Torch Collection Group who spent five figures to buy a digital torch with an original price of 39 yuan. After the hype carnival, the drums stopped, and the flower that passed the flower by drumming finally fell into his hand.

In the final analysis, the value of NFT lies in marking and identifying, not in possession and hype. As a digital asset, NFT can mark the uniqueness of digital creations and identify the value attribution to digital creations, but don’t forget that digital creations themselves have a use value that is different from physical objects.

Owning a piece of NFT artwork is a non-exclusive collection, it is still open to the public for exhibition, and can still be used and circulated by others in a non-possessive manner.

The current hype carnival is just due to the temporary scarcity of NFT as a new thing. Judging from the current development situation, the longer-term function of NFT is to distinguish identical digital creations and determine unique existence attributes and value attributions. And that would point directly to the “digital twins” that make up the blueprint for the world of the Metaverse.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Production process digital twin

Source: Deloitte China, Industry 4.0 and Digital Twins

Many brands have clearly discerned the value of this path. Based on the long-term idea of ​​building a brand Metaverse, it is not uncommon to use NFT as a part of the layout-

Coca-Cola explores beyond the beverage industry, and cooperates with Tafi, an avatar and digital wearable device design platform, to create an NFT friendship gift box for World Friendship Day, which will be auctioned on the NFT trading platform OpenSea for a limited time;

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Tmall and virtual digital human AYAYI launched digital moon cakes and held NFT art exhibitions… From artworks to food to people, digital cloning is used to enrich the overall layout of the Metaverse step by step.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Oreo hides the big world in its own products, casts a thousand miles of rivers and mountains in a small digital biscuit, and sells it to consumers in the form of blind boxes;

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Nayuki’s tea set foot in digital collections, and strung up Nayuki’s universe with virtual tide play NAYUKI “Nayuki Girl”;

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Red Star Macalline tested the Metaverse of home, and released the first NFT artwork in the home furnishing industry, “The Ferris Wheel of Love”, and built the audience’s imagination of “home” with 9 life scenes;

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

From consumer brands to community platforms, these NFTs are strongly bound to brand culture and become the forerunners of brand cloning virtual entities, and the picture of the Metaverse is slowly unfolding.

Metaverse: Human-machine coexistence, virtual and real symbiosis, the future of cyberpunk may be imminent 

Since Facebook announced its name change to Meta in October 2021, the concept of a “Metaverse” has been rampant.

With a little understanding of blockchain thinking, it is not difficult to find that what Meta is currently depicting is nothing more than a unit universe based on Facebook, a social media. The same goes for the Metaverse that other brands refer to.And the near future of the multiverse, trans-Metaverse, and even the super-Metaverse may not have the name of a super trust like Meta.

What is the Metaverse? Does it point to a cyberpunk future?

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

An imagination about the Metaverse: the virtual human in the game awakens consciousness and interacts with the biological human in the formal world

Picture source movie “Out of Control Player”

In the “Metaverse Development Research Report Version 2.0” released by the Tsinghua University@新MediaShenyang team on January 22, 2022, the Metaverse is defined as: “The next generation of Internet applications and social forms generated by the integration of multiple new technologies. “The Metaverse is the comprehensive connection between the Internet and reality, and it is a three-dimensional Internet.

The report summarizes the attributes of the Metaverse into three points: the expansion of time and space, the integration of human and machine, and the value-added of economy, which respectively point to the three common dilemmas faced by human beings today: the limitation of time and space under the wave of globalization, and the recognition after the increasingly fusion of reality and reality. The economic slowdown before the knowledge of contradictions and the gradual depletion of resources.

When the problems accumulate and converge, the global outbreak of the new crown epidemic intensifies the above dilemma. History pushes mankind one step forward, and the idea of ​​symbiosis between reality and reality emerges. The trapped generation of humans chose to use the Metaverse to break the game.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

  • The first Metaverse: an industrial ecology composed of multiple unit universes

Divide the technical practice leading to the Metaverse—blockchain is the cognitive mechanism of the Metaverse; 5G is its communication basis and constitutes the network environment of the Metaverse; cloud computing is its computing power basis, and artificial intelligence is its Generating logic to upgrade the data processing capabilities of the Metaverse; expanding reality, robots, and brain-computer interfaces are the virtual-real interfaces of the Metaverse; the digital twin is the world blueprint of the Metaverse and the guarantee of its content output.

After sorting out the whole set, the perception of “universe” emerges more and more. Technology has been in place one after another with development and breakthroughs, but the Metaverse is still a big project that requires the joint efforts of all human beings.

That’s right, the Metaverse is such a grand concept that changes in almost all related industries can be explained by the “Metaverse”. Different brands run in a roughly unified direction on different tracks, and only the main purpose of “symbiosis between virtual and real” is consistent.

So you can know-

When Meta of social media attributes talks about the Metaverse, they are working on social systems and expanding reality, pointing to the transformation of the virtual-real interface of the Metaverse;

When the basic hardware giant Nvidia talked about the Metaverse, they were upgrading hardware and software, aiming at the change in the data processing capability of the Metaverse;

When the game company EPIC talked about the Metaverse, they said that they were making changes in the graphics engine and interactive games, aiming at the transformation of the content output of the Metaverse.

When other car brands, clothing brands, and fast-moving consumer brands talk about Metaverse, they are doing their homework in brand marketing, and they are just taking a wave.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Different focus directions of major Metaverse companies

Source: Metaverse Development Research Report Version 2.0

When technology has not yet united the entire society, the Metaverse is destined to be a mirage, and the foreseeable first-generation Metaverse will most likely only be the combined industry of each unit universe. There is still a long way to go before the day when we truly reach the Metaverse.

  • How does the narrative of the Metaverse change how we imagine the future?

Although reaching the Metaverse is a long-term obstacle in reality, the current exploration of the Metaverse by various countries and organizations and the Metaverse narratives passed on have truly changed our imagination of the future. A future of virtual-real integration, decentralized transactions, free creation, and social collaboration is unfolding in front of us.

VR, AR, and MR technologies make the integration of virtual and real more and more, and the continuous and bundled time and space continue to be separated and disassembled, and reorganized with data and algorithms. The separation between virtual space and real space is deepening, and the embodied states in the two spaces are further superimposed and combined to create a variety of possibilities.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

A brief look at the concept of consumer brand first:

The Disney CEO called the Metaverse the future of Disney, developing the Metaverse for the purpose of “virtual reality” and trying to bring a complete Disneyland online. Through the follow-up of patented technologies such as “Virtual World Simulator”, it crosses the boundary between reality and virtuality, and creates more IP stories with the audience.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Schematic diagram of Disney’s patented virtual reality simulator that can track tourists using mobile phones, generate personalized 3D effects and project them onto nearby objects

Adidas launched the “Into the Metaverse” project, Nike and Vans have successively reached cooperation with the game platform Roblox, launched the “NIKELAND” virtual world, the skateboard theme world “Vans World”, and digitized their respective classic clothing NFTs for players in the brand’s Metaverse medium wear.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

NIKELAND

Baidu launched the star digital person Gong Jun and Ali to create the virtual spokesperson of Yi Yang Qianxi Qianmiao, starting from the digital image, to strengthen the public’s three-dimensional perception of the brand’s Metaverse;

There is also a popular beauty blogger Liu Yexi, virtual idols Ling, AYAYI, Axi… As the protagonists of the Metaverse, virtual digital people have appeared successively, and they have exploded their influence in various fields, opening up the public’s awareness of the Metaverse. a layer of imagination

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

The virtual idol Axi incarnates Zhong Xuegao’s specially invited product supervisor

Of course, social networking is also a key layout area. In the past, Dating APP Soul stood out with the concept of the Metaverse, and then Baidu launched the social APP Xiyang to create a parallel world.

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Further in-depth technical exploration in various countries:

Tencent uses its complete industrial ecology to explore all aspects; ByteDance is based on the active UGC ecology and passes the initiative to users; Mihayou cooperates with Ruijin Hospital affiliated to Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine to establish the “Mihayou Joint Experiment of Ruijin Hospital Encephalopathy Center” Room”, to study the development and clinical application of brain interface technology…

The past and present of the Metaverse: the bubble subsides, the trend emerges

Looking out, Japan uses the influence of its own AGC culture to project animation characters into reality, hold offline activities for virtual characters, and virtualize offline concerts. Before, there was Biden soliciting votes in “Animal Forest Friends”, and then ACAI, the world’s top AI academic conference, held a seminar in “Animal Forest”.

South Korea established the Metaverse Alliance to explore with the advantages of the idol industry. ZEPETO held a virtual autograph session of Korean idol “BLACKPINK”, Hodoo Labs created an education Metaverse, and Seoul National University Hospital used the XR platform to share the surgical content in real time with thoracic surgery medical teams from Manchester University Hospital in the United Kingdom, National University Hospital in Singapore and many Asian countries. .

These seemingly distant technological explorations and direction attempts have provided us with references and materials for imagining the Metaverse and imagining the future.

As for whether the future is a cyberpunk of “high tech, low life”, or a digital utopia where the virtual and the real coexist?Talking about the consequences before the results have been implemented seems vague. However, after thinking about the entire logic of blockchain, NFT, and the Metaverse, keywords such as “decentralization”, “value”, and “non-homogenization” appear repeatedly, while annotating emerging technologies and reclaiming waste for the human mind.

This narrative is opening up, perhaps superimposed on the current materially rich society, and the spiritually rich future.

Data reference:

[1] 2020-2021 Metaverse Development Research Report. @新MediaShenyang Team, edited by Dr. Wang Ruxi.

[2] Blockchain Sociology: Reimagining Money, Media and Democracy. High Reconstruction.

[3] Bitcoin White Paper: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. Satoshi Nakamoto.

[4] Metaverse Development Research Report Version 2.0. New Media Research Center, School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University@New Media Shenyang Team.

[5] The current situation and prospect of blockchain technology development. Yuan Yong.

[6] China Metaverse White Paper. Editor-in-chief of Gong Caichun.

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