Martha Stewart in the Metaverse, AltspaceVR out
Crypto continues its rise, more states move to adopt Bitcoin and ban TikTok, big banks exploring blockchain, Microsoft sunsets AltspaceVR, and news in brief from Croquet, Meta, AWE, the Poly Awards, Emperia and … Martha Stewart?
An Eye on the Markets
Major cryptocurrencies recovered from a downward dip late last week that temporarily marred their multi-week climb. While the trend is still looking up for BTC, that green line has plateaued somewhat just over $23k — up over 10% on the week. Around the middle of the week, ETH prices plunged and plateaued, but are now showing signs of recovering. The value is up almost 5% since last week.
The love extends to altcoins as well. A number of other crypto projects are up in double-digit percentages. APT, the token of Aptos Labs, has gone up over 130% this week. The token launched this fall and is the native currency of the Aptos blockchain from an organization “committed to developing products and applications … that redefine the Web3 User Experience.”
An Eye on the Fed
In cryptocurrency legislative news, Arizona has a bill on the floor that would make Bitcoin a legally recognized currency in the state. Texas recently launched a similar bill that would legally recognize Bitcoin as an investment asset. I’ll point out here as I pointed out then that these are interesting developments, but such bills, if passed, could be superseded by subsequent federal rulings.
In immersive spaces regulatory news, a senator from Missouri is planning to introduce a bill that would ban TikTok nationwide. This would be the third such bill to be proposed in recent months. Were it to pass, the immediate impact on AR would be relatively small. However, if it extends to parent company ByteDance, which also owns Pico Interactive, it could prevent their VR headsets from entering the U.S.
An Eye on Institutions
Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and J.P. Morgan Chase are reportedly leading a pack of big banks to launch digital wallets. So far, the conversation seems to be framed around competition with the tech industry (Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, &c.) rather than competition with cryptocurrencies. Though, Visa reportedly has “a number of stablecoin initiatives underway.”
Digital wallets for digital dollars and stablecoins that don’t directly accumulate value are safe from a lot of the legal challenges to cryptocurrencies because they don’t constitute “securities” which have to be regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, any conspiracy theorists among us might be wondering whether these initiatives are testing grounds for a central bank digital currency.
The VR world was shocked to learn that AltspaceVR is shutting down in March. The company is owned by Microsoft, which has had its troubles in the XR space — perhaps most recently with the departure of XR lead Alex Kipman. However, AltspaceVR had been home to a sizable community of regular users, a wide array of events, and seemed to have a growing place in Microsoft’s larger XR strategy.
Organizers that utilized AltspaceVR for their events are now planning for their last meetups in the platform and searching for new immersive venues. Meanwhile, other immersive platforms are trying to fill the gap by inviting AltspaceVR worldbuilders to port their worlds to other systems.
News in Brief
- Croquet released a free tool for embedding virtual spaces directly into websites.
- Meta Quest v49 includes new parental controls, a do-not-disturb mode, and other features.
- Meta also announced a slew of new experiences including an immersive exploration of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, a home design app, and a spatial math learning game.
- 150 entrants are moving to the next round in the XR Prize Challenge.
- The honorees and finalists have been announced for the Poly Awards, which return March 5.
- Virtual eCommerce platform Emperia secured a $10M funding round.
Martha Stewart is reportedly entering the metaverse with Oreo. I wonder if she’ll see Snoop Dogg’s Bored Ape there.