4 things you need to know about the metaverse this week

Lego is investing $1 billion to help build a child-friendly metaverse.

Lego is investing $1 billion to help build a child-friendly metaverse. Image: Unsplash/Jessica Lewis

Ian Shine
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • This regular roundup brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the development of the metaverse.
  • Below you'll find insights and opinions on how this emerging technology could transform the way we work, make purchases and spend our leisure time.

1. Metaverse virtual currency under consideration at Meta

Facebook’s financial arm, Meta Financial Technologies, is looking into the creation of a virtual currency for the metaverse, the Financial Times reports. It is considering launching in-app tokens similar to the Robux currency used in the online game Roblox, rather than a cryptocurrency based on the blockchain, according to people familiar with the plans.

This means Meta would have centralized control over the currency. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized, meaning they are distributed across a large number of computers, allowing them to exist outside the control of governments and central authorities.

There is much talk in tech circles about how the metaverse should be decentralized because of concerns about data and privacy on today’s internet. The name of prominent metaverse platform Decentraland derives from the concept.

2. Lego invests $1 billion in “child-friendly metaverse”

Lego House Masterpiece Gallery featuring large Lego dinosaurs
Lego wants to help build a metaverse that is safe for children. Image: Lego

Hopes that the metaverse will learn from and remedy some of the problems of the internet are also being taken up in the area of child safety. Lego parent company Kirkbi is investing $1 billion into Epic Games – the creator of online game Fortnite – to help build a kid-friendly metaverse.

“Kids enjoy playing in digital and physical worlds and move seamlessly between the two,” says Lego Group CEO Niels B Christiansen. “We believe there is huge potential for them to develop life-long skills such as creativity, collaboration and communication through digital experiences. But we have a responsibility to make them safe, inspiring and beneficial for all.”

Playstation maker Sony is also investing $1 billion in Epic Games to “accelerate our various efforts such as the development of new digital fan experiences in sports and our virtual production initiatives”, Sony Group President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida says. Gaming appears likely to be central to the metaverse – a trend signalled by Microsoft’s recent $75 billion deal for developer Activision Blizzard.

3. Mastercard files for metaverse trademarks

Card payment, coffee shop
Mastercard has made trademark filings related to digital goods and payment processing in the metaverse. Image: Mastercard

Payments company Mastercard has made 15 US trademark filings related to the metaverse and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – digital units representing anything from commodities and shares to art and gaming items.

The applications cover marketplaces for digital goods and payment processing in the metaverse. One is seeking to add Mastercard branding to events taking place in the metaverse, such as concerts and awards shows.

Mastercard’s move follows virtual real-estate purchases by banks HSBC and JP Morgan. HSBC has also this month launched a fund for metaverse opportunities for its private banking clients in Singapore and Hong Kong, Bloomberg reports.

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4. Cities are exploring digital twins

Cities and companies are increasingly experimenting with “digital twins” – virtual, 3D replications of real-world places and objects. Officials in Orlando, in the US state of Florida, are looking to use a digital twin not only to offer virtual tours to people in the metaverse, but to preview how various investments – such as new transport systems – might impact the city and those who live there.

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Several other US cities are creating digital twins to test out traffic congestion strategies, while Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix want to use the virtual replicas to help them reduce building emissions, according to Bloomberg. Elsewhere in the world, Singapore, Helsinki and Dubai are looking at using advanced 3D models to boost sustainability.

Digital twins are essentially ways of easily visualizing huge amounts of data. For example, Vail Ski Resort in the US state of Colorado is putting years of snowfall and weather data into a digital twin and using this alongside investments in remote monitoring and automatic snow machines to help it increase the predictability of skiing conditions.

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