The metaverse has taken a financial toll on Meta—the tech titan is down 65% on the year, partly due to its metaverse project costing several billion dollars per year without hope of profitability anytime soon.
Third-quarter results show the company lost $9 billion so far this year on Reality Labs, the arm of Facebook which handles everything meta—including $4 billion in the most recent quarter alone. This comes on top of $10 billion lost in 2021.
Yet Mark Zuckerberg informed investors recently that he intends to ramp up investment in the metaverse next year. And this mindset is common in the web3 space, where innovation still forges on at the startup level and beyond. Perhaps this is because the entirety of the combined metaverse is approaching $1 trillion in value, some estimates report, with this figure expected to climb to anywhere from $5 trillion to $30 trillion within the next decade, depending on which crypto wizard’s crystal ball you gaze into.
Techcouver decided it was time to highlight some of the BC-based startups and programs aimed at advancing the metaverse in Canada.
Web3 agency House of Kibaa this month opened the virtual doors to its fully immersive and hyper-realistic metaverse. Called “Pocket Dimension,” this metaverse has been designed to provide the highest resolution and most realistic metaverse experience technically possible today, according to a statement from HoK.
“Giving our landholders the first glimpse inside Pocket Dimension is undoubtedly a major milestone which we’re thrilled to have reached,” Ryan Lassi, Senior Vice President of Marketing for House of Kibaa, stated earlier this month. “We believe we’ve created a virtual environment that lives up to the metaverse hype, and delivers the hyper-realism that people want to experience.”
Pocket Dimension is a private space representing an area size of approximately four acres in which owners can visit, invite friends, display NFTs, create settings, collaborate with others or facilitate experiences through various utilities and uses. Specific goals of Pocket’s Alpha release include allowing holders for the first time to explore the environments, stress-test multiplayer capabilities, and evaluate early features of each of the 11 Dimension lands.
HoK intends to collect feedback from users to continue building additional features, with the goal of releasing the full-featured Pocket Dimension to users in 2023, where participants can begin building their own virtual worlds.
The BC startup has successfully released digital assets such as GenZeroes, which sold out in 37 minutes for total proceeds of $6.2 million.
Alpha is a publicly traded company holding a portfolio of assets in gaming, Metaverse technology, and studio services which focuses on emerging industries such as e-sports, mobile gaming, and e-commerce. Vancouver-based Alpha Metaverse Technologies announced over the summer that its wholly owned subsidiary Shape Immersive partnered with SPACE Metaverse on a new development in—you guessed it—the metaverse.
Founded in Vancouver 2018 by Alex Chuang and Dan Burgar, Shape is a full service metaverse studio “building the future of web3 gaming and virtual retail experiences for Fortune 500 companies and beyond” through non-fungible tokens, extended reality, and game production. The startup was acquired by Alpha earlier this year.
SPACE, founded in 2021, aims to provide a platform that allows users to design custom virtual rooms in addition to buying and selling their products and services. SPACE’s goal is to create a metaverse that provides consumers with a “seamless and straightforward virtual experience for shopping, events, gamification, and other fun social activities without physical borders.”
Shape CEO James Basnett believes the partnership will “take digital commerce to the next level.”
SPACE’s investors include a number of web3 technologies including Vancouver’s own DapperLabs, which recently laid off nearly a quarter of staff. Dapper Labs was founded in Vancouver in 2018 and is one of BC’s crypto startups to watch with a robust roster of current partners including the NFL, NBPA, LaLiga, Warner Music Group, Ubisoft, and UFC.
Departure Lounge this year entered into a strategic partnership with Orderinbox.
Departure, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based AMPD Technologies, offers a range of Metaverse-related technologies and creative services. The new partnership will see Vancouver neighbour Orderinbox, a social commerce platform and NFT marketplace, work with Departure Lounge as its preferred Metaverse Development Partner, complimenting Orderinbox’s platform with “enhanced 3D environment development and other creative and Web3-related services,” according to a statement.
Orderinbox was founded in March 2020 by Mehmet and Dogu Taskiran, who say their multi-chain, multi-lingual NFT marketplace differentiates itself from others in the field. Creators can build their fan bases, explore collaborative opportunities, and build peer relationships within the platform.
“Our goal with Orderinbox was to remove the barrier to entry for NFT curious creators and brands,” Taskiran said. “We also wanted to offer those who had already established themselves in the space an easier way to connect with their communities.”
The facility is expected to be used as a catalyst for a range of work-integrated learning and research opportunities including students, faculty, and the community of digital content creators across the province.
Located in East Vancouver on the False Creek Flats, the CDM was established in 2007 through a ground-breaking education consortium of four leading academic institutions: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia Institute of Technology and Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
“Our founding team has enjoyed working with CDM students, alumni, and faculty on many collaborative projects over the years, and I am pleased that we have been able to establish our Departure Lounge Vancouver HQ at the heart of such a thriving digital media community,” said James Hursthouse, CEO at Departure Lounge, stated this year. “Departure Lounge and our partners will take an active role in promoting industry academic partnerships and helping to develop the next generation of digital creative talent here in BC as we embrace the opportunity represented by the Metaverse and new frontiers in immersive content development.”
TerraZero creates innovative commercial Metaverse experiences and virtual reality-based business solutions for brands and enterprises, such as Jason Derulo’s music video premier of his latest single. Media company VentureBeat tapped Vancouver-based TerraZero to help it build in the metaverse.
TerraZero was founded in 2021 in Vancouver by Dan Reitzik, founder and former CEO of DMG Blockchain Solutions, one of Canada’s largest Bitcoin miners.
TerraZero describes itself as a vertically integrated development group and web3 firm with a vision “to develop, acquire, and finance the metaverse’s most promising companies, entrepreneurs, and developers”—creating solutions that enhance the usability of the metaverse while also connecting it to the real world.
“Almost anything we can do in the real world, we will be able to do in the Metaverse,” affirms the BC startup. “This includes shopping, live concerts, new businesses, generating incomes, socializing, gaming, casinos and even attending our virtual offices with our real world coworkers.”
The metaverse—a tangled combination of virtual and augmented realities woven into blockchain technology—represents chaos but also potential. To help convert chaotic potential into something tangible and positive, Meta issued millions of dollars in grants to a total of 17 computer science labs across 11 Canadian universities to support research that “advances innovations needed to build for the metaverse.”
Whether the metaverse can live up to its tremendous hype “will largely depend on how thoughtfully we design and develop its infrastructure, features and services,” writes believes Sharon Aschaiek for University Affairs.
Important factors to consider include mental and physical wellbeing, which is the area of focus where Dr. Joanna McGrenere intends to spent the resources of her Meta grant. The UBC computer science professor warns that the met averse could amplify the worst of digital technology trends: a blurring of work and personal lives that diminishes wellbeing.
“I can imagine that in the intended immersiveness of the metaverse, that it is going to be very easy to lose track of time, and for it to kind of take over in a way that has the potential to be unhealthy,” Dr. McGrenere, head of the University of British Columbia’s eDAPT research group, told UA.
A 2020 research paper co-authored by Dr. McGrenere looked at the increasing demands of operating in the digital age. It concluded that our new digital system requires a rethink of productivity measures. In talking to Christine Thompson for UBC, the professor praised Meta for “involving researchers in the early stages” of the metaverse’s creation.
“It will be paramount to design for wellbeing right from the outset, rather than trying to retrofit, as is all too common with information technologies today,” she said.
Active Replica brought together two dozen BC technology firms for a new event through its proprietary web-based ecosystem called Constellation. The inaugural XR Opportunity Fair took place in August 25 and connected local companies with talent across virtual worlds.
Through Constellation, companies are able to link their virtual spaces to form a single explorable network, making it easier for users to discover and engage with different organizations.
“There’s been a lot of changes to the BC tech industry with recent layoff news and it’s become a tough, transitional period for many,” stated Jacob Ervin, co-founder of Active Replica. “We created the XR Opportunity Fair as we knew our Constellation platform could provide much-needed connections with companies that are hiring in the emerging tech space.”
Companies hosting booths on Constellation for the Opportunity Fair included Vancouver Film School, Ethos Labs, XR Terra, Brainswitch Labs, Mozilla, and more. Mozilla handed out Virtual World Building Grants, while OWL 3D Academy issued scholarships for their Blender 3D bootcamp.
Active Replica was founded in Vancouver in 2020 to “rebuild a global community through technology.”