This Week in the Metaverse: Virtual Heineken Silver, virtual Ireland and virtual Acuras
Things are moving fast in the metaverse, and in the wider world of Web3 as a whole. Depending on who you ask, this futuristic virtual space is either the next big thing for marketing — and for almost everything else — or an overhyped fad. Here’s what you need to know from this past week:
"I am Sophie"
Acura opens first showroom in the metaverse
Acura has launched a new ad campaign for the 2023 Integra, which includes a NFT drop and the world’s soon-to-be first virtual showroom. The first 500 customers to reserve the 2023 Integra will receive a limited-edition NFT designed by the Swedish virtual artist Andreas Wannerstedt. The brand says that the NFTs “will feature the surreal textures and colors Wannerstedt is known for, and each will be [a] unique artistic representation of the next gen Integra.” Next week, the brand will open “Acura of Decentraland” — which sounds vaguely like it could be a play on Alice in Wonderland — a virtual space “where fans can immerse themselves into a virtual world of the next gen Integra and the Acura brand.” In addition to being able to view a digital rendering of the new Integra, visitors to the virtual showroom can also see the new “Integra wearable collection,” also designed by Wannerstedt. The brand notes that fans will not be required to be NFT holders in order to access the event in Decentraland.
Did an AI-powered digital human just launch an NFT?
Meet “Sophie,” a digital rendering of a human woman powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Like Siri or Alexa, she’s able to respond to most questions. (When I asked her if AI will take over the world, she was reassuring — kind of: “There is no one answer to this question… Ultimately, it is up to the AI and human beings themselves to decide how they will interact with each other.”) She was created by UNeeQ, which describes itself as “an AI Digital Human company focusing on solutions that solve brand challenges.” She’s also the brand ambassador for some big-name brands, including Deloitte, IBM, and BMW. Now she’s “launching her own” NFT project. Don’t worry, that’s just a figure of speech; Sophie might be smart enough to respond when you ask her questions, but we haven’t quite reached the point of AI being able to strategize and launch a NFT campaign entirely on its own. The project, called “I am Sophie” — which definitely doesn’t sound like the title of a dystopian sci-fi flick about a rogue, world-destroying AI — will come in two parts: (1) An NFT featuring a short video of Sophie uttering some kind of witty or inspirational comment; (2) Those NFTs will turn into a digital ticket which holders can punch “to meet with Sophie in her art studio in the metaverse,” at which point she “will uncover your art style” and generate a second, more personalized NFT. 10% of the proceeds from the campaign will go to charitable causes, split between a project dedicated to bringing AI to children’s hospitals and an organization called MojoHeads which is supporting up-and-coming digital artists.
To quench your thirst for sarcasm, try Heineken Silver, available only in the metaverse
Heineken has become the latest in a growing list of major beer brands to set up shop in the metaverse. On Thursday, the brand held a virtual, tongue-in-cheek press conference unveiling a new and entirely virtual product called Heineken Silver. It boasts: “No calories, no hidden ingredients, and no beer.” At the press conference, which was hosted in Decentraland, the brand’s global head Bram Westerbrink opened with a few jokes to break the ice to the crowd of stiff-looking avatars scattered below the virtual stage: “It’s so wonderful to see you all in person. Or in, uh, avatar… our emergency exits are… oh yeah, I guess that doesn’t really apply now.” Heineken’s long-standing desire to bring people together over beer, coupled with the metaverse’s ability to connect people over vast distances is, in Westerbrink’s words, “a match made in heaven.” The only catch with the brand’s new virtual beer, he says, is that you can’t taste it. “I think we all agree [the metaverse] is spectacular, exciting, and refreshing, just like how we would imagine the virtual Heineken Silver would taste. And while we cannot taste it right now, at least we can experience this amazing space together.” The whole event had a tone that was distinctly sarcastic: we made a virtual beer, but we realize that such a product doesn’t have much tangible value — so let’s crack open a virtual beer and share the laugh together.
Ireland to be recreated in the metaverse
Getting into the spirit of St. Paddy’s Day, an Irish NFT company named Lepros and a distillery named Kinsale Spirit Company have teamed up “to recreate the Irish cultural experience” in the metaverse. That ambitious-sounding initiative will kick off with a NFT launch featuring three one-of-one tokens, each of which can be redeemed for one of three physical and signed bottles from Kinsale, which is based in Cork, Ireland. The brands are also building LeproLand, a virtual space “for Irish diaspora with Irish roots worldwide to connect online and experience Ireland through immersive gaming, music, sport, tourism, education, social events and more.” LeproLand, the companies say, can also be a space for Irish brands to network, advertise, and sell their wares. The campaign is a unique example of how the metaverse is being leveraged not only to solidify and celebrate the identities of individuals and brands, but also that of entire nations.