Goldrush for the next frontier: Avatars in virtual reality
The modern-day equivalent of the mid-1800’s gold rush is in full swing as virtual reality or the metaverse becomes the next frontier. Land parcels sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars in virtual worlds, while users are presented with ownership over digital avatars and their fashion. Metaverses are growing at frightening speeds and there has arguably never been a better time to stake your claim in one or several of them. Ready player one?
For those that have seen or read Ernest Cline’s interpretation of the future these ideas should not be so alien. If you haven’t, I’d heavily advise reading the book for the full experience. In brief, Ready Player One depicts a time in world history when the majority of people are living inside a computer-generated simulation – The Oasis. Here they perform all their life tasks and ultimately live inside this world as the real world has simply become inhabitable. Additionally, the lure of this vast oasis appears to be too much for anyone to ignore as it is woven into the very fabric and economics of the society depicted.
One key element to participating in such a world is your avatar. Like any good video game, your first port of call is to make your character. A representation of yourself within the digital world, with almost no limits. If you want to be a giant Care Bear – cool. If you want to look like a cybernetically enhanced version of yourself – no problem. The sky’s the limit and imagination is the vessel to get you there.
Several companies are already diving into the metaverse, providing avatar services. These platforms allow users to create their digital selves. Let’s introduce them in no particular order.
Ready Player Me
The aptly named Ready Player Me service allows users to create a personal avatar from a photo, upload it to VRChat, and join the rest of the community on PC or Oculus Quest. VRChat is the world’s leading social VR platform. Accessible with or without a VR headset on PC and Oculus Quest, creators can build and publish custom content to the platform. After uploading their avatar or world, creators can share what they’ve made with the community.
There are over 300,000 worlds already created by the VRChat community. Including hangouts, games, events, performances, and places to visit. As an example, during the 2020 New Year’s Eve event, over 40,000 people logged into VRChat at the same time to usher in 2021.
Last year, developers behind the platform announced a major expansion to their avatar SDK and systems: Avatars 3.0 (or AV3). The new avatar system allows creators to add advanced expressions and save states. Players can access them through the new Action Menu. Importantly, creators can always revisit the website and edit their avatar’s features, like changing the outfit or hairstyle. Additionally, developers can Integrate Ready Player Me into their apps or games quickly and for free, building an interoperable situation where avatars could in the future move between worlds and games.
CryptoAvatars is a platform that allows creators to mint single-edition avatars. Each avatar is tokenized as a unique non-fungible token on the Ethereum blockchain or the Polygon network. Because every avatar on CryptoAvatars is an NFT, or in other words, a digital asset that cannot be repeated. It can be traced to check the original creator and the current owner easily. Providing a way to prove your virtual identity across the metaverse.
The core function of the platform is more one of creation and selling. Users are encouraged to mint one-off NFT avatars and then list them for sale to other members of the metaverse community. Mostly those without the technical skills to create one. Arguably this will really start to occur once mass adoption of the metaverse begins and new users start hunting for the solutions they need to participate.
For creators, this represents an opportunity to stake an early claim in the world of avatar creation. Creators need to apply to join the community of avatar creators. Then an onboarding process will test the creator’s technical skills, making sure they know the basics to create a fully functional avatar. If successful, creators will then be able to list their NFTs on the marketplace. Overall, the platform allows creators to showcase and sell avatars to collectors who are looking to own exclusive creations. Additionally, there are fees to consider and sales occur only in cryptocurrency.
A 10% fee is taken for the first avatar sale on OpenSea. On top of OpenSea’s 2.5% cut. Meaning a 12.5% total fee is applicable and creators receive 87.5% of the sale value for themselves.
Genies are not only one of the world’s most innovative avatar technology companies but are also creating digital identities that can be used across many platforms. Genies have their SDK, which integrates the avatar creator into third-party platforms. Enabling users and celebrities to create their avatars in the platforms they already exist on. Importantly, celebrities are also contributing exclusive NFT drops which in turn is envisaged to pull in more regular users.
The organization is currently securing influential SDK properties that uniquely position avatars and will soon be rolling them out. Additionally, you’ll see GIPHY being involved. Having these two entities create Genies’ first celebrity and then Genies for consumers will add greatly to the digital goods economy. Despite its 5-year history, it is now that the platform has really come to the fore. Spurred by Dapper Labs (creators of NBA Top Shot, the FLOW blockchain, and CryptoKitties) announcement of a partnership with the celebrity-driven avatar technology company to build a new marketplace on the Flow blockchain.
The new platform will be called the Genies marketplace and has ambitions of becoming the Amazon of Digital Wearable NFTs” where celebrities and, ultimately, all platform users can create and sell digital wearable NFT collections for their avatars. They are aiming high and from the outside, it appears they have the backing, partnerships, and business acumen to make it happen. An opportunity to get in at what is still arguably a grassroots level is seemingly on offer for creators here.
These options represent at some level an opportunity for those willing to learn how to create and develop avatars and digital wearables an investment opportunity. Looking at the ambitions of organizations such as Genie and seeing how much market penetration they have already achieved is a good indicator of what’s to come in the future. Most people probably looked at Ready Player One as science fiction – Arguably, the moment is approaching where it will become reality and as with all new things opportunities are there for those with the foresight and determination to act.
The above does not constitute investment advice. The information given here is purely for informational purposes only. Please exercise due diligence and do your research. The writer holds positions in ETH, BTC, ADA, NIOX, AGIX, SAFEMOON, SDAO, CAIT, CAKE, LINK, GRT, CRO, SHIBA INU, AND OCEAN.