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NAB 2023: How a Sense of Community and Interactivity Will Impact Virtual Reality, Web3, and the Metaverse

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A group of tech experts described a group of “new production modalities” ranging from digital art to metaverse experiences during a NAB panel moderated by Jess Loren, the CEO of To Whom It May Concern.

Verified Labs‘ founder/CEO Justin Trevor Winters described the explosive growth of one project that began as digital art. He encouraged Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder to create a generative NFT set based on the Tigons, and “it became a crazy big community,” said Winters. “The community felt like it was part of Jon’s world.”

With the rise of fan involvement, Winters’ company created a full experience in the Sandbox Metaverse that was gamified and readied for release on 4/20. “The community is a huge part of the creativity and we think they’ll be very engaged in the content,” he said, adding that they are currently in the process of developing the Web3 series.

Toon Star, which creates anime series, allows its communities to be part of the storytelling, added Winters. “Any person who owns one of the images of the character can create a backstory for that character. Then the community would vote on which backstory they liked and whoever won got to influence the storyline,” he said.

Naturally, there are downsides to some of these new platforms, which were pointed out by NSA technologist Alan Lasky. “The body dysmorphia on social media and the rise of the incels — we have to be very careful about these trends,” he said. “But if you watch the TikTok videos of U.S. senators asking if TikTok is evil — these are not the right people policing this. The ethical concerns of the metaverse have to be very well thought out, and the big companies are not going to police themselves.”

Erick Geisler
Erick Geisler image via IMDb

To Whom It May Concern Creative Director Erick Geisler pointed out that Web3, as a decentralized platform run on blockchain technology, promises an environment in which “your vote actually counts.” “The decentralization means you’re cutting Big Tech off at the knees,” he said. “That’s the hope. But somebody has to pay for the golden road to Web3. Do we all pay for it together? I don’t know the answer and I’m curious how it will play out.”

At Metastage, founder/CEO Christina Heller agreed that these are issues that need consideration. “If we decentralize everything, won’t it just centralize authority in new places?” she asked. “Maybe Web3 will just create more bosses. But will they be more ethical than the ones that are already here?”

Heller said she believes that “people don’t want to wander in the desert alone. People don’t want to go to a festival where they don’t know anybody, and the same is true for metaverse experiences,” she said. “You need a host, a time, and a place. Then there’s some accountability. When I see the future of the metaverse, it’ll be meeting up with your friends and playing pickleball in VR.”

Winters stressed that “there has to be a hybrid model” of existing entertainment entities and new production modalities. “For us, with a Web3 animated show, without the help of a traditional distribution model, there won’t be a way to monetize it,” he said. In other words, the new media won’t be a Hollywood slayer. “We have to find a way to work with the distribution models that are already working,” he said.

Daniel Urbach
Daniel Urbach image via NAB

Loren used her last question to ask the panelists where we’ll be 10 years from now.

“We’re about to see something really amazing happen — it’ll be a hybrid of centralized and decentralized,” said Daniel Urbach, the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Immersive Enterprise Labs. “We’ll have all kinds of creators developing all kinds of immersive experiences. Just like we used to say ‘That’s CG!’ when we saw something wild, now we’ll be saying, ‘That’s AI!'”

Lasky said that, for him, the real potential of the metaverse is to be able to travel through time and space to, for example, visit a Roman coliseum and see a gladiator fight. “It’ll be hard to do without veering into the horrifying,” he admitted. “You talk about moderation, but where does censorship start? It’s a tough nut to crack.”

Geisler noted that in 10 years, we’ll be able to recreate things in such high quality that “living in a matrix won’t be that impossible.” “Interactivity will become part of the commonplace,” he said. “We’ll be in a different era of storytelling.”

For Winters, that future could include sitting in the front row of the Oscars and having that experience in real-time, or going to the Super Bowl “in a very immersive way” in your living room.

According to Heller, the new technologies will enable us to “learn things in a new way and become even more curious than you are now.” “It’s never been easier to learn how to [do] new things via new modalities, either visually or through experience,” she said. “We’ll have everything at our fingertips in a very realistic 3D world. How can it make your life more joyful and healthy?”

That’s a question we’ll leave to you to ponder.

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