Match XR is an annual Slush pre-event that brings together start-ups, investors and tech enthusiasts making it a great opportunity to network with Finnish XR and emerging tech professionals. As always, Varjo was the most eagerly anticipated showcase as they presented their new mixed reality platform publicly for the first time. Users were able to inspect the new Ford Mustang Mach-E in mixed reality with extreme accuracy, thanks to the Varjo XR3.
Getting on the virtual stage
The Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s tech team attended the event to discuss our ongoing HomeOpera project. The Opera is keen to utilize their XR Stage tool, a photorealistic digital twin of the opera house beyond it’s main purpose as a stage production tool. The idea is to make people appear on a virtual stage and perform opera or ballet digitally.
The Opera and Aalto University have done some preliminary testing with a ballet dancer wearing a motion capture suit to perform on the virtual stage. HomeOpera’s role is to develop this concept further by extending it to non-professional audiences. We are at XR technology crossroads, with headsets finally getting smaller, and enabling three-point motion detection. Body movements can thus, be tracked without the awkward motion capture suit.
There is also a need to make a light version of the Opera’s professional XR Stage tool, to run it on Meta Quest headsets and make it more accessible. We are hoping to solve this with Teatime Research. Their Vrifier software is a free 3D model viewer for large models and datasets that has a built-in mesh simplification, which enables viewing complex models in VR. Thanks to our successful match at the event, we can now take this further.
Slush 2022 promoted creator economy
In many ways Slush 2022 felt like a gap year in innovation. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis affected the flagship tech event. Last year metaverse, web3, decentralization and nft:s were the main topics. This year it was more of the same, except that the topics were gaining maturity and the idealistic visions were replaced by concrete business cases.
In their talk Sebastien Borget, Co-founder and COO of The Sandbox, and Timmu Tõke, Co-founder and CEO of Ready Player Me, discussed their view of building the metaverse. Sandbox is the pioneer in blockchain gaming and one of the most popular metaverse platforms where anyone can create an avatar and play games or collect NFTs, even buy land. Ready Player Me are the avatar experts, whose custom-built avatars can be used on any platforms.
Both Sandbox and Ready Player Me are pioneers of the creator economy, giving the users ownership of their digital assets. Borget sees digital asset ownership as a fundamental right. Also, brands are eagerly looking for new ways to connect with consumers. Both Sandbox and Ready Player Me want to push the boundaries of how avatars move and emote. Virtual fashion is becoming a major part of the virtual economy and a real business case.
Avatars are an important research topic when creating social cultural experiences in virtual reality, as we do in HomeOpera. Having a common avatar, a digital self, helps to navigate in multiple platforms of the open web3 and the metaverse. It is important to approach avatars as tools of delivering virtual social experiences and a part of digital self-representation.
Decentralizing social media
Web3 was also discussed in terms of the future of social media. Stani Kulechov, the SEO of Aave, and a Slush veteran, presented the Lens protocol, a set of tools to build better social media applications. A created social media profile is secured by blockchain, but it is not platform specific and thus, anyone can build applications and NFT collections on it. This is one example of web3 trying to solve things as a community; the development work takes place on open and public discussion forums.
Another big social media player is Twitch, a global community of millions of live streamers. Over 29 million Twitch channels went live in 2021 alone. Twitch focuses on gaming, where the most important creators are the streamers. Emmett Shear, Co-founder & CEO of the Amazon owned Twitch discussed the growth and future of the creator economy. Shopping on live streaming channels will become huge, as seeing something live on stream makes people believe it.
HomeOpera can be a prime example of creator economy if we give the audience tools to create experiences and interact with them. Perhaps one day we will have opera streamers and digital ballet fashion collections ready to purchase.
The final Slush takeaway was a shiny digital NFT, minted by HyperMint. We’ll see if my Slush 2022 NFT will be worth anything in the future.
The HomeOpera project is funded as part of the European Union’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic by the European Regional Development Fund (REACT-EU), and conducted by Haaga-Helia’s Service Experience Laboratory LAB8.