The idea of spending millions on a land that only exists on the Internet may sound ridiculous, but the rage awakened by metovers, a future of virtual reality, is encouraging some investors to buy digital real estate.
This week, the New York Republic Company Realm announced an operation of 4.3 million dollars to buy digital land in The Sandbox, one of several “virtual worlds” websites where people can socialize, play or go to concerts.
At the end of November, the Canadian Tokens.com cryptocurrency firm had acquired for 2.4 million dollars some land on the rival platform, Dentcentrand.Days before, Barbados had announced a plan to open an "metovers Embassy" in Decentraland.
These types of portals are promoted as prototypes of metaverso, an internet of the future where current online experiences, such as talking with other people, will feel as if they were face to face thanks to virtual reality devices.
The word "metaverso" has been very in vogue in Silicon Valley for months, but the interest multiplied in October when the Facebook parent company was renamed "goal" in its strategy of betting on virtual reality.
Facebook's name change "introduced the term 'metaverso' to millions of people much faster than I would never have imagined," said Cathy Hackl, a technology consultant who advises businesses to enter metovers.
Precisely, this parent company of Facebook, opened its Horizon Worlds virtual reality platform on Thursday in the United States and Canada, one more step in the construction of its metoverso vision for the future.
Horizon Worlds is far from being a completely finished metaverso, a kind of the Internet of the future where online experiences such as talking with friends could simulate face to face thanks to virtual reality devices.
However, users can already meet in Horizon to speak, play and build their own virtual worlds, provided they are over 18 years old and the appropriate team.
Since last year a test version of the platform was made available to a limited number of users.
"We want Horizon Worlds to be a safe environment in which everyone can follow our virtual behavior policy," according to the company's announcement at the inauguration.
"There are several security options that allow pause and then block, silence or report to other users," he added.
The impulse to the company's metavers also includes tools for remote work, which increased from the beginning of the pandemic.
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In August, he presented a “work rooms” technology, allowing remote collaboration among users with access to the virtual reality oculus device.
On the other hand, the DAPP data website collects that, in the last week, virtual land valued at more than 100 million dollars in the four main metaversus sites were sold: The Sandbox, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels and Somnium Space.
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Hackl is not surprised by this boom, which is accompanied by the development of a whole digital real estate ecosystem, from promoters to rentals."We try to transfer the way we understand physical goods to the virtual world," he told AFP.
And although it will spend time until these websites operate as true metavers, their digital terrain already works as an asset of real life.
"It can be built on it, you can rent, it can be sold," Hackl said.
"The fifth Avenue"
Tokens.com bought an excellent plot in the District's Fashion Street district, which the platform wants to promote as the vegetable stores of luxury brands.
"If I had not investigated and understood that this is a valuable property, this would seem absolutely crazy," admitted the CEO of Tokens.com, Andrew Kiguel.
For him, who worked 20 years in the investment bank focused on the real estate, the Operation in Decentraland is governed by the same criteria as in real life: it is a fashionable and very busy area.
"It is an advertising space and events where people are going to congregate," he said, putting as an example a recent music festival on that platform that attracted 50 thousand spectators.
Luxury brands begin to enter this parallel world: a Virtual Gucci bag was sold on the Roblox platform in May for a higher price than the real version.
Kiguel trusts that Fashion Street becomes a kind of Fifth Avenue in New York.
Your land can generate money as an advertising space or even "having a store with a real employee," he explains.
"You can enter with your avatar and have 3D digital representations of a shoe that you can hold, and ask questions" to the dependent, he told.
"A little absurd"
Already in 2006, a real estate promoter copied headlines after having won a million dollars with virtual land sold in the famous Second Life.But there is a key difference between that still active platform and those of the new generation.
In Decentraland, everything from the land to virtual works of art, arrives in the form of non -fungible tokens (NFT).Some people have spent tens of thousands of dollars on these digital elements that have generated skepticism and excitation.
Kiguel foresees that this form of digital property is very expanded in coming years, because the “blockchain” technology behind it creates trust and transparency when making transactions.
"I can see the property history, how much has been paid for it and how it has been transferred," he says.
But it is not an investment without risk, particularly due to the volatility of the cryptocurrencies used to buy NFT and because the value of these investments depends on the number of users of these platforms, for now far from Facebook or Instagram.
"Everything sounds a bit absurd," Kiguel acknowledged."But there is a vision behind."