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This week in the metaverse: CES gadgets galore, Barbie NFTs and the threat of terrorism

The metaverse is being built before our eyes

Things are moving fast in the metaverse. Depending on who you speak to, this futuristic virtual world is either the next big thing in marketing or an overhyped fad. No matter which camp you reside in, the fact is that marketers are experimenting at a rapid clip. There will be successes and failures. The Drum will curate the biggest things happening in the metaverse every Friday in this new series: “This week in the metaverse.” And so, without further adieu, here’s what you need to know from this past week.

Are they or aren’t they? Meta says it's continuing to lay the groundwork for new operating system. Meta (previously Facebook) announced earlier this week that it’s pushing forward with the development of a new operating system, which will ultimately support its AR and VR technology used to access the metaverse. According to Bloomberg.com, the announcement was made to refute a previous claim — published by The Information — that Meta had in fact halted production of its new operating system.

Samsung channels its inner Sims. Samsung launched its own virtual store, modeled after its brick-and-mortar flagship store in New York City’s Meatpacking District. The new store is based in Decentraland, a VR world where individuals and organizations can use cryptocurrency to purchase virtual real estate. The tech company also introduced “My House,” a virtual domestic experience — akin to The Sims or Animal Crossing — wherein users’ avatars kind of just wander about their customizable home, giving people in the real world a quick taste of what life might look and feel like in the metaverse.

Barbie collaborates with luxury fashion company Balmain to launch a series of NFTs. Barbie will never, apparently, go out of style. Since her debut in 1959, she’s demonstrated a remarkable ability to evolve with the times. This week, the French luxury fashion label Balmain announced that it had partnered with Barbie to launch a new collection of apparel and accessories – as well as three exclusive NFTs. The tokens will feature Barbie and Ken avatars bedecked in gear from the Barbie-Balmain collab. Mattel Creations will host the bidding for the NFTs between January 11 and 14.

Let there be gadgets: talk of the metaverse dominates the 2022 CES. Time to stock up on your metaverse gear! The latest and greatest in VR technology was on full display at this year's CES. Panasonic, for example, unveiled MeganeX, a portable VR headset that reportedly weighs around eight ounces; far less than the average model. It also became clear during the event that the metaverse will very soon become be a full-body experience: HaritoraX showcased a $270 “motion tracking device,” which will allow users to map their physical movements onto their avatars' in the metaverse. Next up: the 360-degree treadmills used by gamers in "Ready Player One"? We wouldn't be surprised.

Terrorism researchers warn of “potential dark side to the metaverse.” No one ever said it’s going to be good vibes only in the metaverse. While CES attendees giddily demoed new gear and generally bubbled over with enthusiasm about the virtual future of humanity, a team of researchers published a grim warning in Yahoo News about how the metaverse might be leveraged by bad actors in the future. “Although it is still under construction, [the evolution of the metaverse] promises new ways for extremists to exert influence through fear, threat and coercion,” the team of terrorism researchers claim. “Considering our research on malevolent creativity and innovation, there is potential for the metaverse to become a new domain for terrorist activity.” The authors note that the metaverse could potentially serve as a valuable resource for future terrorists seeking to recruit new members ot coordinate with comrades. We may also find ourselves in a world in which terrorists aspire to inflict damage on virtual targets (which, according to the authors, could “take a psychological toll and result in real-world harm”).

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