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This Week in the Metaverse: The ‘Pixar of web3’ and Reddit’s collectible avatars

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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

July 7, 2022 | 6 min read

Things are moving fast in the metaverse, and in the wider world of web3 as a whole. Depending on who you ask, this futuristic, blockchain-based 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:

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Reddit has introduced ‘blockchain-backed collectible avatars’ / Reddit

Catalonia aims to become metaverse hub

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Catalonia, a region in northeastern Spain, has plans to become an epicenter of development for the burgeoning metaverse, according to a recent report from Cointelegraph.

In an interview during the European Blockchain Convention (EBC), Daniel Marco, Catalonian director-general of innovation, told Cointelegraph that the Catalonian government is at work building what it calls ‘Cataverse,’ a blockchain-based digital space designed to strengthen the region’s position and standing in the web3 era. “Cataverse will be linked to the Catalan language and the Catalan culture,” Marco told Cointelegraph. “That is what we want to have in this metaverse, that Catalan entities that are doing things for the culture can do that in the metaverse.”

Catalonia isn’t the first polity to unveil plans for its own metaverse. In late 2021, for example, the Caribbean island Barbados announced that it would open an embassy in Decentraland.

Blockchain gaming company Cauldron raises funds to become ‘Pixar of web3’

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Cauldron, a blockchain-based gaming company, has just wrapped a seed funding round and has become $6.6m closer to achieving its goal of becoming “the Pixar of web3,” according to TechCrunch. A growing number of video game companies have been gravitating toward web3 recently, attracted by the sector’s huge audience and expansive opportunities for innovation.

But Mark Warrick, Cauldron’s founder and chief executive, notes that many of these companies – in their rush to capitalize on the blockchain – have been overlooking the element of storytelling, which then as now is typically regarded as an essential ingredient for video games. “A big bit missing from web3 gaming is storytelling,” Warrick told TechCrunch. “People aren’t really coming back because there isn’t a reason to come back.”

Warrick’s goal for Cauldron, he says, is to develop blockchain-based video games that incorporate a Pixar-esque mode of engaging storytelling. “If you close your eyes and are listening to a Pixar film, you can’t see the art or technology, but the story is still gripping you,” he told TechCrunch. “Storytelling is what matters.”

Reddit unveils ‘blockchain-backed collectible avatars’

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Reddit announced that it will introduce the option for users to build and sell their own customized avatars. The new feature, which Reddit says is an extension of its preexisting Avatar Builder, appears to closely resemble NFTs, which have in recent years enabled many digital artists to monetize their work and build communities.

“About two years ago, we launched a new and improved Avatar Builder, allowing anyone to generate and customize their own personal avatar – a unique way to display identity on Reddit,” the company wrote in a blog post published earlier today. “Seeing avatars take off got us thinking – what would happen if we gave artists on Reddit license to make any style of avatar they wanted? And what if we could help these artists showcase their art to the entire Reddit community and make it easy for them to earn money for their work? Our new Collectible Avatars storefront does just that.”

Mark Zuckerberg describes his vision for a ‘massive’ metaverse market

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Meta Platforms founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is continuing to emphasize his faith in the idea that the metaverse, currently in its earliest developmental stages, will soon blossom into an enormous and prosperous economy. In an interview earlier this week with CNBC, Zuckerberg said that his company will continue in its efforts to develop the metaverse, which he seems to envision transforming virtually every sector of commercial and social life as we’ve come to know it.

“We hope to basically get to around a billion people in the metaverse doing hundreds of dollars of commerce, each buying digital goods, digital content, different things to express themselves, so whether that’s clothing for their avatar or different digital goods for their virtual home or things to decorate their virtual conference room, utilities to be able to be more productive in virtual and augmented reality and across the metaverse overall,” he told CNBC.

Zuckerberg’s interview arrives on the heels of a recent online presentation in which he unveiled four new virtual reality (VR) headset prototypes from his company.

Meta unveils AI-powered translation tool

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VR headsets aren’t the only tools that Meta has been pouring time, talent and money into lately in its efforts to bring its vision for the metaverse to fruition. In a blog post published on Wednesday, the company announced NLLB-200, a new language model powered by artificial intelligence (AI), which “can translate 200 different languages and [improve] the quality of translations across our technologies by an average of 44%.” (For context, there are more than 7,000 languages currently being spoken around the world.) The effort is being driven in an effort “to help people connect better today and be part of the metaverse of tomorrow,” according to the company.

Meta says that it will also be “awarding up to $200,000 of grants for impactful uses of NLLB-200 to researchers and nonprofit organizations with initiatives focused on sustainability, food security, gender-based violence, education or other areas in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

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