#1172: “Metaversed: See Beyond the Hype” Book Interview with Luis Bravo Martins and Samantha G. Wolfe

There’s a new book about the future potentials of challenges of the Metaverse called “Metaversed: See Beyond the Hype” by Luis Bravo Martins (CMO Kit AR) and Samantha G. Wolfe (Founder of PitchFWD) that is releasing today, February 7th, 2023. It’s an ambitious look at the broad spectrum of technologies behind the Metaverse that’s split up into five chapters with the first three chapters laying out the technological innovations driving a 3D and immersive Internet, with the fourth chapter laying out some of the open challenges, and a final chapter providing advice for preparing for these technological changes.

For me, the book started to really land in the 8th chapter, which does a comprehensive survey of how XR is being applied to a number of specific market contexts including: art and performance, advertising, PR, marketing, retail, gaming, entertainment, sports and fitness, automotive, aviation, aerospace, military, healthcare, hospitality and tourism, architecture and real estate, manufacturing, and finally training and education. We get to hear from experts in each of these areas, and it gives us a grounded sense of what’s already happening today and how it might continue to develop in the future.

The first seven chapters end up listing many different types of technologies that may play a role in the future of the Metaverse, but are also generally absent a specific cultural, economic, or legal context of how these abstract technology architectures are already or may perhaps in the future combine together. It’s this lack of specificity that makes it difficult to me to know how a more fully realized Metaverse will continue to develop, and it ends up feeling really speculative.

As an example, it’s generally very optimistic for how cryptocurrency architectures will play a role in the future of the Metaverse in a very abstract sense, but when I dig into the specifics of how crypto-based land ownership has played out in a deep dive of Cryptovoxels in Voices of VR podcast episode #1117, then I found that just 8% of accounts own over half of the virtual land with the top 20% owning 68% parcels. Decentraland also showed similar disproportionate ownership dynamics that researchers have found these types of “preferential attachment” power law dynamics are generalizable across the Ethereum and Bitcoin networks, and likely across all of the cryptocurrency markets. It’s one thing to talk about how crypto-based technology architectures in future abstract implementations, but the realities are often a lot different when applied to a specific cultural, legal, and economic context.

This is why I felt like the book started to really land in chapter 8 when looking at these technologies through the lens of these more specific market contexts, because otherwise is started to shift into a more boundless optimism and at times technological solutionism. Both Wolfe and Martins held back some of the more skeptical challenges until the fourth section in chapters 9-12, but this created a fragmented experience for me wanting to see some of these more cautionary perspectives more seamlessly woven into the first part of the book. By the end of reading the entire book, I found that many of my objections were addressed in these later chapters, but there’s still an overall tone of boundless optimism with a number of applications of technological solutionism that are generally unquestioned.

I was able to chat with both Wolfe and Martins on February 3rd in order to dig into journey and process of writing this book, and chat about some of my hesitations with them in real-time. Overall, it’s an ambitious effort that manages to cover an impressive amount of material, and I feel like it’s the strongest when they tether themselves to existing narrow contexts and share insights for a broad range of subject matter experts. Ultimately, the Metaverse is still a speculative aspiration that makes it difficult to completely sift through all the hype as it still largely lives in the realm of potential where no one knows how these cultural, legal, economic, and technological domains will fuse together. Time will help to discern what aspects are ultimately hype and what’s grounded in pragmatic realism, and Martins and Wolfe have provided us with an expansive survey of possibilities that will left up to the reader to navigate and the broader XR community to build this future they imagine.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. Today's episode, I'm going to be covering a book called Metaversed, See Beyond the Hype, which is releasing today, February 7th, 2023. It's by Louise Bravo Martins and Samantha G. Wolfe. And it's a book that does a bit of a survey, looking at the existing technologies, looking at the existing markets, and then some of the challenges as we start to move forward. And so I think when they start to ground what is happening today in the XR immersive or metaverse space, they are doing a lot of different interviews with subject matter experts and a really broad overview of all the different ways that these technologies exist. Now the claim is that they want to see beyond the hype but the inherent nature of the metaverse given that it doesn't fully exist yet There's a degree of speculation that is looking at all these different technologies and trying to understand how they all fuse together So I think that's the part where even I as I read this I don't know how all these things are eventually going to fit together I do know that there will be a plurality of different solutions that they are alluding to. And so I had a chance to talk to both the authors of Louise and Samantha to be able to unpack their book, their process, and even their differences and opinions as they start to hash out a vision of the future in the context of this book. And I'll have a little bit more thoughts as I share some of our reactions to them in real time and then unpack a little bit more here at the end in my takeaways. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of AR podcast. So this interview with Luis and Samantha happened on Friday, February 3rd, 2023. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:45.481] Luis Bravo Martins: So I'm Luis. I started my. journey in XR in 2014. I picked up a job as the marketing responsible for an augmented reality development studio and since then have been in touch continuously with this industry. And besides that, I throughout the years realized that this is much more than A change at an industrial level, at a professional level, it is a change at the societal level. It is a change so foundational to all of us as humans that I started connecting with other communities such as XR Safety Initiative, of which both me and Samantha are advisors, the VRAR Association also. And that's pretty much my journey until now. Right now, I am the CMO of KitAR, which is a startup in industry, well, 5.0 in the sense, we can also talk about that, but we are mainly doing augmented reality for in the industrial space.

[00:02:47.370] Samantha G Wolfe: So I'm Samantha G. Wolfe, also known as Sam Wolfe. I'm the founder of Pitch Forward. I work with emerging tech companies to help market and communicate what they do, because often I've found that Innovative companies can be really great at making things, but not necessarily great at explaining them or figuring out who their target market is and defining the value to them very easily. I am also an adjunct professor at NYU Steinhardt. I'm right now teaching my fourth original class in three years, so I've done business of AR and VR. marketing of emerging technologies, avatars and virtually humans, and now business, the metaverse. And this is my second book that Louie and I have coming out called metaverse beyond the hype. And it's really fun because Louie was a guest in my class and then he asked me to ask me to write a book with him and then we spent a year doing it. So I'm excited to be here.

[00:03:52.746] Kent Bye: Nice. So maybe you could talk a bit about each of your backgrounds and your journey into VR.

[00:03:57.354] Samantha G Wolfe: Yeah. So I actually worked in the TV industry for quite a long time and had jobs primarily in sort of marketing and brand management. And I actually wrote a media post about this once. I was like, oh, let's see. I've been in this for a while. Maybe I could do something a little bit different. I went to the Tribeca Film Festival and tried a 360 video. not even VR, not even Sixth Off, and went, wait a second, this is what happens to me when I watch TV shows, I get a little too excited, and I feel like I'm part of it, I feel like I've jumped in, and I actually thought that I'm like, I could write a creative brief for this, I could give feedback on this, I mean, there were still good pieces, but I was sort of like, maybe this cuts a little long, and just, was sort of fascinated by all of it and decided I would just treat it like the television industry and go out and network and learn about it. and then didn't expect people within emerging tech to really dislike marketing and advertising and branding so much. I thought that they would. I was like, hey, I have this skill set. I'm like, here, let's work together. And so that actually drove me more to be like, wait a second, what's going on here? What's happening in this ecosystem? And then people were like, oh, you're the marketing person. After a little while, I started working with different companies. just learning more and more and constantly networking enough that somebody called me a networker-in-chief of all of AR and VR, and that I'm fun to go to a trade show with because we're like, oh, this person, have you met this person? You should really meet that person. Then I started connecting the dots between technologies as well. Then in the teaching, I just was like, this would be fun to teach some students. how to do it and then I just like went out there and did that and I actually did my first keynote a couple months back because it was like oh it doesn't have the only students that can understand this maybe I can get some executives to understand it as well and that's been good with the book and I just I don't know I do a ton of judging and hosting and talking I have lots of words as I like to and always lots of ideas. So I've had such an amazing past, you know, like five, six years, and I'm excited to see where the next ones take me. And especially when people read the book, it'll be awesome. There, that's my story.

[00:06:31.753] Luis Bravo Martins: Well, I started working in the past century, in this moment in time when the internet was being launched. And today, I feel the privilege of actually looking back and seeing how so many things that were being said at that time about the internet are now being said with some nuances about the metaverse. So yeah, I started working in one of the training companies that talked about e-commerce and m-commerce, mind you, before 1999. I also started to work in afterwards, I went to work to one of those e-commerce dot coms that unfortunately went belly up when the bubble burst. And then I decided to make my own company. At that time, there were no startups, but I did something like that. Then afterwards, I sold it. There were no exits again, but I did sell it. And then I thought I was a genius, tried to do it two times more, crashed and burnt. And again, then we arrive at 2014 when I started then interacting a bit more with the XR and discovering how it can fundamentally change our lives.

[00:07:44.114] Kent Bye: Yeah. So I guess this concept of the metaverse is something that has been after meta changed their name in 2001, it really exploded and you saw lots of different entities from crypto based folks using metaverse to, you know, it was just basically everywhere that I think the meaning of the word metaverse got diffused during this time as to what exactly folks meant by it. So I think in this book you're trying to, in some ways, get beyond that hype and trying to connect to what you see as in this five different sections, you have get ready, understanding opportunities, challenges and preparation. So maybe talk about your own strategy for how you're cutting through this hype and how you laid this book out into these different chapters and how you make sense of each of these sections.

[00:08:32.478] Samantha G Wolfe: Well, I love doing that in general. I love sort of making sense of things. And so I guess I've learned that that comes pretty naturally to me is to take something super, super complicated, whether it be like a big, huge concept like the Metaverse or, you know, a company or a product of a company or even like what somebody wants to do in their career. And I'm like, OK, let me take this and sort of organize it. So I was definitely, you know, prior to even reaching out, I was getting confused. I was like, everybody's telling me what this metaphor says. And I was like, this just doesn't make sense. And so I decided that I was like, you know what, I'm going to try to make sense of it. Maybe I'll just post something on Medium or LinkedIn and just help people. Because if you're trying to get a world-shifting concept to the world, you have to make it make sense to people. And for me, the way I've thought of it is really from what the World Economic Forum had called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And I've sort of taken that, there's actually at one point, I think there are many, many theories about what is happening. Just the fact that there are so many new technologies, all advancing, all at the same time. and in rapid succession and like on top of one another it seems like and so it just helps to think of it as just like it's like the steam engine and how that changed everything and you know and computers change everything and you go okay now we're at this next one and what does that mean And because all these technologies are sort of a little bit interwoven right now, but are about to be even more so, that if you understand each of those individual technologies and then think, how do they all come together? How does that change our world? That's where you get that sort of new interactive dimension kind of talk, and what happens over and over again is people are like, oh, metaverse, VR. And I'm like, this person thinks it's just VR. I'm like, okay, pause, let them talk about just VR, and then I will explain what augmented reality is, and some of these other technologies, or somebody else will be like, consumer, like a consumer-oriented product, whatever it is. and I'm like, oh, this is a consumer, and then I have to explain all the rest of the parts of it, or gaming, like a gaming platform, when somebody will talk about Fortnite, or even Sandbox, or Decentraland, or just somebody said World of Warcraft, and I'm like, oh, they think it's just a gaming platform, 2D, and if I try to explain that, no, it's actually all those together, and interwoven, and interconnected in a way that is as seamless and easy to use, I mean, this is later, eventually, hopefully, that changes things. And I usually can do that and then get it enough to where somebody can become almost speechless, where they go, oh, wait, that, like, it's like their brain starts moving faster than their mouth does. So that means, wait so that i'm like oh i got him and so to be able to do that and do that on a broader scale and with louis and we have a great I mean, it was a lot of time together, considering he's in Portugal and I'm in New York, about as much time as you can with somebody with that distance, and just going through and thinking, like, what does somebody need to know to really get it, to really make decisions for whatever company they have, whatever kind of industry they have, and not just to hear Meta say, this is the Metaverse, and this is the way things are, even though that's great. It's great that they have the idea, or Niantic, this is the Metaverse, this is the way things are. Like, love them all, but it's much more about how they all interweave and come together.

[00:12:36.118] Luis Bravo Martins: Absolutely. The purpose of doing something that is more, let's say, relatable to people, Because at the end of the day, that's what we want to do. We want to connect the metaverse vision, the metaverse concept with people in a way that they find it relatable and that they have a different attitude than the one that right now they are having towards it. If you ask around, most of the people are afraid of the metaverse. And this happens not just because, well, again, as you said, Sam, meta is promoting this vision of everyone going around with OPEC glasses. People have that, but alongside with that, they have all the other definitions that you referred, Kent. And the problem is, when you have so many things, so many definitions for the same thing, you don't understand it. But when you don't understand something, but you acknowledge that it's going to have a huge impact in your lives, you start being afraid, and rightly so. So what we try to do on our side is to not well, maybe to build on top of other work already being done. For instance, Matthew Ball, it's wonderful. For instance, for me, it was a very structured exercise that allowed me to set so many parts in place. But again, for an accountant, for a lawyer, it's a hefty exercise to try and understand just the definition itself and the full the full meaning of it. So yeah what we tried was to like focus on the opportunities then afterwards try and focus also on the challenges that this vision of the metaverse that is being shared of again a persistent we can go through it but a persistent multiplayer a real-time 3d internet can bring to us and discuss that in a way that people can try and understand, but more than understand, can feel driven then afterwards to explore a bit more. And that's the purpose of the final two chapters, to try and bring real people in to the discussion. Because at the end of the day, if they're not going to be part of the discussion, this is a real issue that we try to promote in the book. We are all going to end up with a metaverse that is only going to be built by technologists, such as ourselves. And we need to have more people.

[00:15:03.366] Samantha G Wolfe: Everybody is going to get involved. I mean, that's where, if you think about technology today, the internet, mobile computing, that yes, there are definitely the front-end and the back-end developers and the people coming up with some of the concepts, but there are still people in marketing, branding, strategy, there's still the CMO who if you, you know, the CEO, if you said, can you build us a website, said CEO, they'll be like, I have no idea. I'm going to hand that off to somebody else. Like everybody is involved in some way. And because it's, I guess, that vision of being sort of interconnected technologies and that theme of understanding and learning how to apply it across any department, across any industry, and then live, and then live that, and not just say, oh, it's all going to be amazing, like sunshine rainbows, and like there's never going to be any legal issues. We're never going to have any, none of the issues that social media are going to have. Like, no. Like, of course some of those issues are going to happen. And so we wanted to take that vision of, you know, the sort of the CEO from an outside tech industry, picking up the book, and being able to understand enough to make informed decisions or ask the right kind of questions to be able to plan. as opposed to being sort of told what it is, that they can look through it and choose and decide for themselves so that they can make the, like, right kind of decision for themselves and sift through some of that, the noise that's definitely out there. I mean, like, I hear it and I have to sift through it. And, you know, I'm in the middle of it. It's not just sort of one part of my day. And I like to do that and help people go, figure out how their lives are going to change, figure out how their jobs are going to change, figure out how their companies are going to change. And that's really why we sort of grouped it also to make it easier reference as well.

[00:17:08.448] Kent Bye: Yeah, as I was reading through it, I feel like we know what's happening today and there's always a degree of speculation as to what's going to be happening in the future and how all of these exponential technologies are going to be combining together in a unique and novel way with different economic forces that are going to be driving it. For me, when the book really started to land was in chapter eight, when you're doing a survey of all of these different existing markets for what's happening today. The first parts of the book, I'm even me, I'm sort of like, well, I'm a bit of a crypto skeptic. And I don't know how all these things are going to come together. So maybe we could start with this different markets because you are doing this process of like a survey of the ecosystems and getting quotes for individual people and what's happening. And so for me, let's maybe start there. Cause that's a common baseline where we can agree upon like what is already happening in these realms. And then we can get into the more speculative aspects and some of my thoughts on those other aspects, but maybe let's start on the metaverse markets where you start to do this. from art performance, advertising and PR, retail, gaming, entertainment, production, sports and fitness, automotive, aviation, aerospace, military, healthcare, hospitality and tourism and architecture and real estate, manufacturing and training education. For me, that's sort of like a really comprehensive survey. I'd love to hear a bit of your process of mapping that out and trying to pick the companies and quotes to be able to show what's happening in these different markets right now.

[00:18:39.262] Samantha G Wolfe: Well, chapter eight, I've referred to, at least between Louie and me, and Wiley, who's our publisher, as my opus. This was like, I'm going to do this. Partially, I'd done it in the Business of Air and VR class that I taught a couple years back, getting the books at the time to try to teach students. And I'm just like, How does this all play out, really? And I just took the second half of the class and went through industry by industry and then got experts in the field to come and talk. I think I've had probably like 150 plus experts to come in my classes and only my third year of teaching. All that networking paid off. And so I was like, OK, well, what if I took that and then applied that to a chapter of just trying to like knock it out and Lou was on board with that as a concept and an idea and it was definitely the longest one to write because I put as many sort of industries as I could put within my business affair and VR class and then I wanted to sort of take that and apply it and put it in the book and Lou is on board and so really what I did is try to take that information, update it, put in more information, and then also think about every single person from any industry looking at those sections and going, oh, that's not in fact the case. So there was a lot of pressure on writing that section. So one way we thought we could do it is that we put in like the companies that inspired us particularly because you know or the examples that inspired us because we thought that that at least would be helpful some of the trends that we had already seen and then I used that network and we used our networks to just go and say you know what if we're not the expert in each and every one of the industries, like in depth, like every single day, let's get people who do this and ask them, what do they think of the future? And then integrate that in the book. And so we got over 60 different people to give us quotes to be in the book. And some of it, like the chapter eight in itself is, I think it's like 40 some pages long. And then there's also references to those same industries later in the book as well. So it's not just, there in and of itself. But I do believe It's a good overview of everything, but I also do believe that sometimes innovation can happen by taking one industry example and applying it to your own industry. So not only would somebody who's an executive go and read that particular chapter, understand what's going on, but maybe they'll say, wait, architecture does that? Like, oh, I didn't know architecture does that. We could totally apply it to our industry. So it was sort of this other layer of potential helpfulness to add to reading that big, long hashtag chapter eight in the middle of the book. Louis, I don't know if you have more to add to that particular.

[00:21:49.081] Luis Bravo Martins: No, that's exactly it. Just correcting that the full chapter is 64 pages. So it's, yeah, undoubtedly the longest chapter in the book.

[00:22:00.652] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I guess part of as we're getting up to that phase, you're talking about other aspects of these ideas and these infrastructures. And I think part of my take, at least, I'm really inspired by Laurence Lessig, who he has this pathetic dot theory where he talks about how there's elements of culture, there's elements of the laws that are being passed, and there's elements of the economy. And then there's the technological architecture and the code. And that, for me, this like this larger aspect of the culture, and then we have the laws and we have the economic aspect. And then we have the tech architecture, but it's in the context of the larger economic issues and the larger legal issues and larger cultural issues. And what I don't know is what you get to it later, which is these dynamics of walled gardens and not walled gardens. And if we are talking about an interoperable metaverse, then a lot of these other ideas that are being spoken about in the beginning are kind of contingent upon whether or not there's even going to be an open marketplace. I mean, there was the lawsuit between Tim Sweeney and Epic against Apple to try to get rid of the 30% tax that is happening on these platforms. And I think there's still the same, to what degree are we going to have open marketplaces on these platforms? And how much power is a company like Meta going to have if it's XR technologies, the fact that there's virtual and augmented reality platforms, how much are they going to be able to tax everything that happens on that? And are they going to just outlaw different types of decentralized systems for how economic exchange can happen. But there is this more crypto optimistic take that is in this book that is very optimistic about the future and potentials for how that crypto type of economic exchange is going to happen in the future of these online spaces. And I'm personally a little bit more of a crypto skeptic, mostly because of you know, not only the fraud and abuse, but also the preferential attachment, meaning that the people who get in early end up owning so much of the stuff. And so if you look at, say, decentral land or crypto voxels, where you have the selling and buying of land, you have like over half the land being owned by like 8% of the people. So you have this fundamental inequity that I think is almost like a non-starter for relying upon these different types of economic exchanges. that's not to say that capitalism doesn't already have those inequities, but I'm not sure that the crypto decentralization is going to necessarily like solve those. So I think that what we have now with these immersive spaces and then how they're going to potentially go out and are we going to have a centralized or a decentralized metaverse? For me, it's a bit of an open question, but as I read the first chapters of this book, it seems to be more of an optimistic take of that. So I'd love to hear an explication on how you see all that playing out.

[00:24:47.896] Luis Bravo Martins: I'll pick this one. So to start, I'd say that we in the beginning of the book, we try and detail a bit more about the possibilities and the opportunities that these technologies bring. And I think that until like Chapter nine, we have an optimistic take on pretty much everything, but then we start analyzing the challenges and we even go, I think it's on the regulation chapter, we even go down to describing the kinds of frauds, so the several types of frauds and the several types of scams that cryptocurrencies do have. So, the issue is, as they're a tool, as for instance, again, NFTs are a tool, saying that we can structure a full market economy based on trading profile pictures, that does not make sense. And we already said that in the book, it was like written some months ago, but still already at that time, it didn't make sense. And it's part of the hype that was built. Now the issue is that it remains that we still have good tools in there. If you ask me right now, are NFTs going to be structural in our future? This is just me saying, but I do believe that they will be. most probably in not in the same form as they are being treated right now, or at least being promoted. They have a ton of opportunities, or they provide a ton of opportunities for business transactions, and we covered that in the book. They can also help solve other issues. But the problem is, are they the best tool? And this is where, again, and you referred it, like the backdrop, technological backdrop that we need to take care of most of the times is not controlled by one person, by one government, neither by governments. It's like a kaleidoscope of several organizations that need to interact. So when, and I do believe that this is going to happen, when suddenly we realize that WebXR has evolved so much that it will allow for interoperability to be much more feasible than right now it is. When we have spatial protocols that will enable the interactions that right now happen through HTTP to also happen with spatialized content and enable the navigation between this content to happen, then maybe we won't be talking about like, okay, so can we connect this environment with that environment? We will be talking about, okay, so let's publish all of this content that already exists inside the internet. And that's pretty much our vision. So again, how that is going to pan out, how things are going to go, I think it's a road that we will have to take and we will see. But to begin right now in the moment where we are, I would say that yes, we have the tools. but we will see if these tools, and I'm specifically talking about blockchain tools, will be the most important ones. That said, it's great to see how so many people are really, really enthusiastic with small, small DAOs, with groups, with communities about the technology, are doing a lot of stuff, still now when the market is down on the crypto side and when NFTs are like something that It's 2022, so people don't really talk about CRAN-FT so much. So it's great to see that. I think that, again, Web3 is having kind of a Napster moment, but maybe, just maybe, it will come out stronger afterwards. We'll see.

[00:28:28.537] Samantha G Wolfe: It's interesting just to, you know, Louie and I had so many debates and discussions about all of these topics. So it's sort of fun to see when you read the book of like, well, there's this, like you sort of bring another perspective to it. Because we both I mean, we're coming from different countries and like different skill sets, although we do, you know, overlap. and just even to have like the US versus European perspective on the solutions here. And then we tried to bring it even we're like, okay, well, we can't just be US and European centric, like we have to be global. So not only are we trying to cover as many industries as possible, but we are also trying to figure out how does this work in a more global fashion. So that even if we're like, okay, well, maybe this is a solution, then there's this other layer of complexity, and this other layer of complexity. And so, you know, I think that that's where, you know, sometimes when I've talked to people that are, especially people outside of the industry, who are trying to learn and understand this, that just feeling okay not knowing everything, and knowing that it's gonna change, but being as sort of informed and as aware as you can along the way is helpful, because then you just start looking back and you realize that there are some examples that are, like if you're a US-based company that you look at and there's some examples from Europe or Asia or Africa, wherever it might be, and say, oh wait, okay, I guess this is another thing we need to be thinking about as our company makes such and such a decision. you know, their implications of making choices. Like some of the simplified one that I do is just sort of the deciding whether you're going to do eye tracking toggle, like sort of the toggle yes or no toggle. Like you might think as a CEO that that's a very simple decision. Yes, of course we're going to do it. But you have to go and look at like what kind of data information does that bring? And how does that change the rules and rights and regulations? Whereas in the first half of the book, we might have been like, isn't this really cool? Look at all these opportunities. The second half of the book is very much like, wait a second. There probably needs to be rules and regulations around this because of all these things could maybe go wrong. And not to say that it's bad and don't do it and not have a moral, ethical judgment, but going like, there needs to be laws and regulations. Yes. Let's pay attention. and let's not ignore it because I do feel like some of it it's like oh this is all too complicated like somebody else figure it out like that's sort of the worst case scenario for me but it's interesting that you're like you're really positive about this that and the other thing I'm like oh gosh if you just listened in to some of Louise and my conversations of writing the book and how like our differences of opinions. And it's interesting that we come out of that and when reading it as sort of a positive way, I'm like, I don't know if we got in an even longer debate whether you would have that same feeling or not.

[00:31:38.789] Kent Bye: Yeah, I feel like like by the end of reading the book I felt like you're able to cover all the things that I'd want to see I would just maybe read the book backwards because There's a there's certain elements.

[00:31:50.076] Samantha G Wolfe: Oh, this was my decision on this this I will say I was like you can't like okay, so this is Logic here Yes, to people within the technology industry, the back of the book is something that is sort of like, wait a second, we don't talk about these things very much. That part is super interesting and helpful. The front half of the book is for anyone to just get ramped up and get excited. And so it's like, let's get you excited, and then you can figure out later, oh my goodness, these things could go wrong. That tends to happen also in the discussions that I have with somebody who's like, oh, I don't know anything about this, like AI, AR, VR. And I have the discussion. And as soon as I have that discussion, like that one-on-one discussion, which is this is theoretically, you know, a book where Louie and I are having a discussion through words to whoever the reader is, that you get excited, you start to understand, you start to think of the possibilities, start whatever, and then the more and more you know, then you start, well, what's going to happen if? Well, what's going to happen if? Well, do I have to worry about that? And so that is sort of why that second half of the book. It's like, get your vegetables later. Start with the possibilities. Get hyped up. Get excited. Sorry, not hyped. But after, get excited about it. Word, okay, then Then you go like oh, what is this really like? What is this actually? How does this all apply to my industry? How does this all apply? You know, how does this all like what I need to worry about like I do any decision anybody I mean, it's like I went like any business executive any CEO needs to not just think you know if we're gonna sell this product and They're not going to think, what if we sell out? That's not going to be the only thing that they're thinking about. They have to stress test it. They have to go, OK, well, what if we can't do this? What if this happens? What if they have to go sort of both sides of the spectrum of understanding and have that perspective? And that is where this book ideally comes in as being sort of that helpful information to make those kinds of decisions.

[00:34:12.493] Kent Bye: Yeah. Part of the reason why I also say that is just because as you start to talk about surveillance and privacy and surveillance capitalism, I think in some ways the heart of what is driving meta is this kind of underlying surveillance capitalism model. So all the things that are in the first sections of the book are kind of like, we've escaped that we're beyond that. We're kind of in this whole decentralized utopia. And I feel like there's a big gap between where we are now and how we get to that potential future. That for me is still like, even when I read it, I'm like, well, I don't know, like I look at crypto voxels and the experience isn't like anywhere near the experience I have in say VRChat Rec Room, which is totally centralized and totally walled garden. And like, in fact, right now, VRChat doesn't actually have an economy within it. It has just this. more utopic creative sharing and people have to struggle to figure out how to even sustain themselves. But yet, Metcalfe's law of having the network of people there is actually what's driving people to be there is because that's where the network is. That's where the hottest innovations of this immersive social VR is happening is in a place like VRChat. But yet, as I read the book, it's like maybe a few offhand mentions, but not like a big focus of what's happening in that ecosystem. And they still have to figure out what their economy is. And Second life's economy is totally centralized and has a totally different way of like one of the most vibrant economies is a centralized system that is doing UBI and other things. Phillip Rosedale has talked about the way that they've really structured that. So when I look at successful economic ecosystems, there is second life and then rec room has an economy. So I think the economic aspect is like, when I look at the more decentralized models, it's like. I don't know how we get from where we're at now into this utopic future that is the vast realms of possibility. But as I read it, I feel like I'm not grounded or tethered into something that is real, that I'm excited about where things are at now with say, crypto voxels or Decentraland, which to me, feels like some of the worst parts of the crypto land without having the best parts of what I see, the social VR of what I see in, say, Rickroom and VRChat. That's part of the reason why I say that is just because it's more speculative and it's more of like, I'm sure there will be economic exchange in the future. I just don't know if it's going to be centralized or decentralized and if crypto is even going to be a part of it.

[00:36:30.005] Luis Bravo Martins: Yeah, fully agree. And what I believe, even more, I believe that we'll have several flavors in the several economies that are going to be set. And if we look, for instance, to, again, DAOs, and DAOs have this issue that you referred. So the fact that suddenly the person that creates the DAO, or in many ways, it can become something that is very, very centralized. But at the end of the day, I believe that communities, and we talk a bit about that in the book, will drive and create their own ways of working together and will create their own economies. That, of course, will create also several other challenges because the fact that communities are able to create their own spaces, where they interact, where they can be represented in different ways, where they have their own economy, where they can work, where they can connect with other people. Suddenly they're creating, well, their own culture. And we're not just talking about like this VR culture, because right now we are all part of the same culture, us three, and well, most probably the people that are listening to us. But we will have most probably in the not so near future, but at the end of the decade maybe, we will start seeing like different kinds of cultures popping up. I guess, again, that with these tools and maybe most probably others that will appear throughout the road to the metaverse, there will be several different ways of solving the issue. So again, I wouldn't say at this time that the cryptoverse is a great solution. Myself, on the crypto side, on the DAO side, the way that things are being done like that today, I don't think that they are being structured or curated the best possible way. But at the same time, I see a lot of enthusiastic people from several communities. I think that we mentioned that it's like 900,000. decentralized autonomous organizations that were listed that are available and people again push for that and then they are really really enthusiastic about the whole cooperative concept that it brings. So clearly that's an energy that I think will most probably transform into something else. But all of this is going to be mashed up with so many other technologies that are going to converge. So yeah, most probably we will get like in one year time, we will be having a whole different conversation and discussion about this.

[00:39:08.194] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's a lot of, a lot of speculative dimensions of how this is all going to play out. So I think once I got to chapter eight, I was like, okay, this is where this is really landing for me, where I know where things are existing now and doing a really great survey there. And Sam, I'd love to have you maybe comment on some of the more marketing aspects. Cause there are some sections here that get into the marketing. I don't know if you're like a skeptic of surveillance capitalism or okay with all the data that's there and it's going to be beneficial to advertising and marketing, but yeah, I'd love to get some take on that.

[00:39:38.141] Samantha G Wolfe: Well, this is where I said that in coming into the industry that, you know, I think only one time did I have somebody come over to me, like start shaking my hand and start yelling at me for just being in marketing. And it was just sort of like, oh, okay. And then I walked away and then he like came over all embarrassed. He was like, I'm so sorry to have yelled at you. I don't know you. I just hate marketing and advertising. And then he proceeded to yell at me again. And so, I do feel like, just like the people outside of the industry where I have to defend all that Mark Zuckerberg and Meta does, I have to defend all of advertising and marketing of people inside the tech industry. So, I'm not looking for that future Metaverse, you know, so that, what is it, the hyper real kind of experience where all the data can be monetized for advertising gain. Like, No, I have in my prior tech career loved what they call branded content. So it was like relevant, valuable content that is helpful that somebody doesn't read and go or experience or whatever and have like, the equivalent of that uncanny valley feeling for avatars of like this i'm getting sold this feels terrible like no i think that the amount of data that's going to be gathered is tremendous i mean that was in the writing of the book there was one point in time where i think we're like it's all about data It's all about data. Some of it is potentially for advertising use. How are we going to monetize this? It's easy. We'll do advertising, which I don't think is the right, necessary answer. But some of it, you need the data if you're going to do anything in the medical field, if you can do anything in architecture. if you're going to do automotive, that you're going to want to trace and understand that data. But let's just use automotive. Do you really want the census in your car, which there are a lot already, to send you, and this is probably some terrible idea that some automotive company is going to do within the next year, but send you information about you need an oil change. Buy our oil for your next oil change. the data will be there, but you're like, it's so creepy to get, like, I didn't want such and such oil company or whatever, Babylon or whatever, to know that my oil is low in my car and then to ask for me to change it. Like, I wrote an A.R. and Brands chapter in Charlie Fink's book a long time ago, and we refer to it in the book, but there was one section where, because I've come from, like, television, it was like advertising used to be it's like billboards outside in the world and then there would be like movie advertising which would be a certain distance away and then television advertising you know in your room and then there's mobile advertising it's like in your hand and then like and then now it's on your face and then now it's actually even in your personal space and so it has to shift and just because it is it has literally entered your personal space and so you only want a certain amount it's going to be a different kind of information and vocabulary and ways of interacting in your personal and there's going to be ways to mess it up like Remember when there was the model avatars wearing clothes and it's like, you can have a model walking in your hallway and then people were using it for not so great things. It's like that lesson learned. So we're going to have to understand a new way of business of using that data information. Yes, in terms of like second half of the book of rules, rights, regulations, but also in terms of consumer behavior and engagement and ways to advertise. And I think that that, you know, I do think about this a lot, but it's just like trying to picture yourself just even in your living room. And you go, what kind of ads would you want to see in your living? Well, not that many, probably nothing. Like, what kind of ads would you really want to see in your kitchen? It's like, not that many or specific things, maybe branded content of like, oh, we see that you have carrots. Do you want to make a carrot cake tonight or something like that? Like, brought to you by, you know, Philadelphia cream cheese or like, That's like, okay, that's helpful, that's interesting, that could work, but you don't want to be like bombarded at all times. All of that has to be figured out and understood and planned for and we're going to mess it up and the advertising industry is going to get beaten down again, or at least I am within the tech community. I'll get more people yelling at me for representing all of it. But I think that that's where there is so much to think about whenever it's like user experience, right? So I always feel like a kinship with people who are in that user experience role within tech, because that really is what this is going to be about. And people debate the term user. But like a personal experience in this future Metaverse, whether it be virtual reality experience kind of Metaverse and augmented reality kind of Metaverse, gaming kind of experience. Like, what do you feel personally as a person? How would you feel if you were in that? That's sometimes what's missing, actually. I think that in the work that I do is just putting people into other people's shoes. Like, literally go, okay, so you're the real estate agent and you're about to be sold some technology. You know, what are you interested in this or that? And people can do that. They just need a little coaching to get there. And don't just sort of assume that everybody wants more and more and more. It has to be curated. And I think I had a whole bunch of lists in that book. I wish, you know, I have the book, I can pull it up. But it does have to be like, considerate of that person's experience and relevant and useful and helpful and not invasive. How's that for my rant there, Kent?

[00:46:01.615] Kent Bye: That was good, yeah. I think in the entirety of your book, I think you're giving these visions. In each section, you're saying, here's some higher level qualities that we want to see or insights for how the spatial computing metaverse type of dynamic is starting to give new insights into all these different domains. I think you do a pretty comprehensive categorization and trying to summarize those things. But yeah, as we start to wrap up, I'd love to hear what each of you think is the ultimate potential of VR and what it might be able to enable. I mean, I think your book is a distillation of so many different of those potentials, but as you just start to think about how you make sense of where this is all going and the ultimate potentials of it all.

[00:46:45.387] Luis Bravo Martins: Okay. I'll start. Um, so the issue, as I see it, The stakes are at the level of our reality and how we perceive it. So this is what we're talking about. This means that most of the times we tend to try and define what's real by what's physical. I kind of left that discussion and I actually started to take everything that is real as something that I remember as being real. And I also think that that's what's meaningfully real for other people. So everything that they can remember, because that's everything that makes them relate to something and keep on relating to something. And that's also something that they can share with others. Like, I've been there. Like, for instance, right now, I am with Sam. We wrote a book. I am here next to the book, but I've never been next to Sam. And we are good friends. I can flat out say that we are good friends. So the issue is, how much of the digital side of my life and of our relationship, which is like 100%, is real? Well, for me, it is really real, is very real. And talking about the metaverse, I think, and talking about, again, immersive technologies, is talking about changing the perception, and more than that, editing the perception of what's real. The issue is that as we walk more and more to a more edited side of our reality, clearly we have an issue that the rift between people keeps on growing because more and more people will tend to see things through their own lenses and will try to see things in their own private worlds with their own private filters. Now this is an issue and if it's an issue right now with algorithms that influence the way we see the world through social networks, murals, with the opportunity for these algorithms not just to edit reality to what we desire, but also to be able to influence the perception that we have of our reality through AI, through, well, again, so many converging technologies. That is such a different animal and such a different kind of reality than the one that we right now are used to. This is such a different kind of platform that it's really, really important for us to get down to work and try to establish tools or try to create tools for us to deal with it. Or else, it will not be escapism. It will be all around us. And it will be really, really hard to escape a post-reality society after the post-true society that we are right now going through. So yeah, I'd say that Fundamentally, it's not about changing what is true, because that already changed. It's an even deeper philosophical transformation. And unfortunately, I said the word philosophical, sorry. But it has to do, I'm saying this because sometimes people are turned off when I say philosophical, when I say, when I use this term, but that's the level where we are. We're talking about reality. We're talking about that concept. And again, I think it's really important to have more pitches into this space, especially starting with philosophers. But Sam, please. Yes.

[00:50:25.992] Samantha G Wolfe: So you get a sense as to where our conversations would go when we would talk about this. And then then you get like my total opposite end of the spectrum kind of conversation and answer to this. For me, what is the potential? The thing that I love the most about all of this is that moment where either, you know, it could be like a consumer experience of VR or it could be, you know, to me it always ends up being the business executive, I'm sorry, it's like the MBA and my sort of business take on things, but so the executive or consumer puts on a headset, experiences this, like all that kind of stuff, and then that sort of moment of that like, wow, or whoa, or like that excitement that can happen at the beginning about what is possible. Like, wow. And I do know that eventually they get to Louis, like, and then Louis takes them even further, and even further and further. And that's okay. But it's like, for me, it's that You mean this can change or that can change? Or, oh, I can tell a story in a different way. Oh, this will change the way that I create something. Oh, this will change the way I teach something. This will change the way we design. This is going to change the way that we do our customer service. Anything that somebody is passionate about, if they realize that it's going to shift and And help them, that's where I have literally been known to jump up and down and clap my hands when they get to that point. And that's what I like, want more and more of that. I mean, that little burst of excitement, for me, that's what drives me, because I just see that shift in what is possible. That's what happened to me with VR, of putting on that headset and having that true, like there was the Facebook Oculus ad of the Whoa! ad, which is still my favorite ad in the space, of like all throughout the ad was Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! And it was Beat Saber and those kind of things, like it was gaming. So I take that and sort of extrapolate into like business environments of the, whoa, we could do this for, I think there's like even like a Qualcomm ad at one point that was like that, like equivalent. It's like getting to more of that sort of excitement around the potential, understanding the realistic, what could happen, what could go wrong, the end of reality. Thank you, Louie. I love thinking about that stuff, too. But it's like, just get there and then see where it takes you. And it will take you down, like, sort of good and bad potential roads. And as long as you're aware of both, then you're going to be better off than somebody who's sort of ignoring that this is happening. At least that's my mantra, I guess, or my thoughts there.

[00:53:36.788] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:53:41.914] Samantha G Wolfe: Gosh, this has been such an honor, Kent. I mean, I am just, you know, I'm still like, I'm probably like six years into this industry and you were one of the people, it's like you and, you know, AWE and New York AR and all that. It's just, it's one of those ways that you can sort of start listening to what you've done and now to be on is really an honor. And I hope that there are more people that get to read the book, listen to some of your podcasts, get a better understanding of what is possible and then have those woe moments.

[00:54:24.512] Luis Bravo Martins: I'll just echo what Sam said. Thanks for all your contributions. They've been really, really impactful throughout time, but not just throughout time, also in writing our book. Also, besides that, I think that one of the big messages that we have with the book is join us. We need to step out of our bubble. We need to bring in more people from other areas. And we need to be working together side by side, because we do have a huge technology. We already have really experienced people that are able to provide and to create these huge experiences, these magnificent tools. But we need to more and more have people from other areas to come and to become interested, not to just understand us as technologists, they need to participate in building the ecosystems, in building the worlds. Because at the end of the day, the technology might be there, but we're the ones using it. And technology can evolve rather quickly, but our usage of it needs to be responsible and also evolves. And sometimes we are just not knowledgeable of that. So we really need to. Um, yeah, those are my last two cents.

[00:55:43.056] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Luis and Samantha, thanks so much for joining me here on the podcast to talk about your book, metaversed CB on the hype, which is released by Wiley February 7th. And so you can check it out there and yeah, I really enjoyed reading through it and hearing from the different perspectives. Uh, like I said, there's still moments of speculation where I even don't know how things are going to play out, but I think you're trying to lay out all the different. influences that are going to be playing a part of these future technologies. And it'll give people a really great primer for where things are at and where they might be going. So thanks again for joining me here on the podcast.

[00:56:18.002] Luis Bravo Martins: Thank you.

[00:56:20.694] Kent Bye: So that was Luis Bravo Martins and Samantha G Wolf on a book, which is releasing on February 7th, 2023 called Metaverse to see beyond the hype. So I have a number of front takeaways, but this interview is that first of all, well, this is a very ambitious book that is covering a lot of different ideas, a lot of different technologies. And I feel like for me, like I said in the interview, it really started to land in chapter eight, when this is what Samantha said is her magnus opus, where she's doing a broad survey of all the different applications of these immersive technologies within very specific existing markets. The challenge that I have is as we start to think about how all these things combine together and have all these new capabilities and capacities, you know, to get from where we're at today into this vision of the fully realized metaverse, there's still a lot of things that I think are unanswered and you know, what are the major technologies going to be a part of how all these things fuse together. So one of my critiques is that it's very optimistic for the cryptocurrency. And I actually don't know to what degree the cryptocurrency as a technology is going to be a part of the future of these virtual spaces. The reason why I say that is just as I look at something like in episode 1117, I did a deep dive into crypto voxels. When I looked at the idea of buying and selling virtual land plots, you have this carryover of this concept called preferential attachment, meaning that people that get in early end up owning lots of the cryptocurrency. the same type of replication of existing economic inequities, but amplified in some ways. And just to kind of bear that out, I said that there was about 8% of owners that own over half of the parcels. And this is back when I did an audit of all the different parcels back in August of 2022. The top 5% of all the different owners own 44%. The top 10% own 56%. And the top 20% of all the landowners own over 68% of all the parcels. So you basically have two thirds of all the land owned by the top 20% of the people. And so when you start to think about even like decentralized autonomous organizations, they're often based upon that ownership. And so you have these decisions that are made that implements the worst parts of utilitarian arguments, meaning that what is going to be the interest of the most people. But in this case, the most people are the most land that's owned. And then you basically have these economic inequities amplified for the types of decisions that you have. Now, when I hear Philip Rosedale talk about the virtual economy within Second Life, that's totally centralized. They have the ability to do things like universal basic income or to find a way to balance their economy in a way that's really vibrant and robust and really works for people in terms of making a business there. So I do think that the cryptocurrencies are going to be some part of a potential future. And one of the things that Luis said is that there's going to be a large mix of different types of metaverse structures, whether it's centralized walled gardens versus the best and worst parts of the decentralized and interoperable internet. And there's going to be many takes on that. I feel like there's lots of experiments and we're able to get a sense of the trade-offs between what is good and what's bad. I'm not advocating that we should all have old gardens. It's just, there's a lot of things that would have to still be overcome at a deeper level in the context of these things. And so that's what I mean that there's a kind of overview of these technologies and kind of a context list. idea of like, here's a principle, but when you actually apply it to a context, that's where I think it starts to, for me at least, become a little bit more speculative than, you know, I have no idea how things can continue to evolve or how some of these different challenges that I see are going to be overcome. Another critique that I have that I didn't unfortunately have a chance to dig in too much, but I did have the ability to say, generally, the first part is very optimistic. And then in the last part, you start to dig into the challenges. In some ways, I would have liked to see a little bit more balance just because there does seem to be like an unbounded, overly optimistic technological solutionism in some of the different sections in the first part. I'm going to read just one example of that. There's multiple different times where I felt that, but this is just one example of what I mean. In chapter five, there's looking at the 17 sustainable development goals and what ways can the metaverse start to address some of these issues. And they take the issue of gender equality and say, as avatars begin to be used more often, gender will start to play a lesser role. An avatar does not have to have a gender and increasingly users' digital representation will become more widely accepted. So I think this is an example of technological solutionism because gender equality actually goes way beyond what happens in these virtual worlds. It actually is at a much deeper level. of how the laws are being set within different countries. Even within the United States, with the Dobbs decision revoking Roe v. Wade, you're taking away women's rights to choose around their bodily autonomy. And so I'm going to read this United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls, which was formed in 2010. says the working group reminds readers of women's human rights, which include the rights without discrimination to equality, dignity, autonomy, information, bodily integrity, respect for private life, the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health, the freedom from torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. The right of a woman or girl to make autonomous decisions about her or their own body and reproductive functions is at the core of basic human rights to equality, privacy, and bodily integrity. So the reason why I'm reading all this is that, you know, the issue of gender equality actually goes way beyond whatever the metaverse can do. It actually is at the level of the laws and how there's certain laws that are actually revoking the right to bodily integrity. And so gender equality is an issue that transcends what digital representation that you can have within your avatar within a virtual space. So the material conditions of our lives in which some of these inequities are enshrined, any type of technological solution isn't actually going to address some of these different sustainable development goals. So that's what I mean in that if you start to apply this type of boundless optimism and technological solutionism, then I think it starts to kind of go beyond what I think the metaverse is actually even suited to be able to handle. This is just one example, but this is a part where I would have preferred to have a little bit more of the challenges that come later in chapter 10. Like, as an example, women within these XR virtual spaces are disproportionately receiving harassment, and this is something that goes beyond avatar representation. this is something that is a part of a misogynistic and sexist culture. And beyond gender, there's racial inequities as well in terms of racism and other aspects. So the issue of safety in the metaverse goes beyond just like a superficial virtual representation of an avatar. And to suggest that avatar representation is going to somehow make gender play a lesser role, I think is an example of how this kind of boundless technological solutionism and optimism pervades some of the first parts of this book. And later they get into some of those challenges and a little bit of those reality checks. But I feel like to kind of put those types of statements out there without being hedged with the limits of the technology, for me, I felt like it was frustrating to see that type of boundless technological optimism. That's kind of what I meant when I was saying that during the interview. And I didn't have time to sort of dig into the very specific details, unfortunately, to get their response to some of that. But this was a deliberate decision on their end to show the possibilities and then at the end kind of hedge their bets. That's part of the reason why I said, you know, in some ways, maybe start in chapter eight and then look at some of those challenges and then look at some of those other aspects. That all said, I think there's still a lot of really interesting interviews and surveys and they are getting a sense of where things are at. It's just as we start to think about how all these things to come together, there's a little bit more nuance that I was able to come across later in some of those chapters. I just would have liked to see it a little bit more seamlessly integrated. So this is a book called Metaverse to See Beyond the Hype, releasing today by Luis Bravo Martins and Samantha G. Wolfe. So check it out if you want to dig into more information and you know, like I said, there's a lot of really great interviews and quotes from people from across the industry. So I think that's worth to get another take on where things are at now. Now where things go in the future, I think it starts to get into a little bit more of that speculation. And that's all to be determined how some of these deeper economic drivers of these big major companies are going to be dictating a lot of how also this plays out in the future. And also things like the metaverse standards form, which they mentioned. And, you know, I do hope to see a balance between this decentralized and centralized metaverse. And they do start to map out some of the different players and potential technologies that could be key to unlock this in the future. I guess the thing that I would like to emphasize is that the type of technological architecture is always within the context of this broader cultural and legal and economic context. And so to only look at the technological aspects in the absence of that deeper context is part of my hesitation for some of the different aspects of the book. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a music support podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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