This Week in the Metaverse: VR for surgery patients and Kraken CEO steps down
Things are moving fast in the metaverse, and in the wider world of web3 as a whole. Here’s what you need to know from this past week:
Web3 is poised to revolutionize commerce, gaming, marketing and almost everything in between / Adobe Stock
Zuck has lost 71% of his wealth in 2022 on Meta gamble, report says
Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth has dropped by around 71% thus far in 2022, per Bloomberg. Its new report details just how much Meta founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s recent spending on the metaverse has cost the company – and himself personally. Zuck’s now reportedly the 20th wealthiest person in the world, a position he hasn’t held since 2014. He was the third-wealthiest person in the world in September 2021, according to Bloomberg, when his net worth peaked at $142bn.
Shortly after reaching that peak, in October 2021, Zuckerberg’s company changed its name to Meta and began investing primarily in software and hardware for the metaverse – essentially making a calculated gamble that this was going to be the next major technological frontier. Generally speaking, things have been going downhill for Meta and Zuckerberg since then. Meta’s stock price has dropped by 57% since the beginning of 2022, per the Bloomberg report – much more than the dips experienced by some other industry leaders such as Amazon and Apple (much of the industry has financially suffered this year).
Zuckerberg has made an effort to be transparent with investors that his company’s pivot to the metaverse will require some short-term financial losses in order to be successful in the long term. But time will tell how patient investors are willing to be.
VR may reduce need for anesthetic during surgery, study shows
Who needs an IV when you have VR? Patients who are receiving surgery while immersed in VR are likely to require a lesser amount of anesthesia, per a new study.
The study – published in the scientific journal PLOS One on Wednesday – focused on 34 patients, all of whom were receiving an elective hand surgery. Half of the group went into the surgery behind VR headsets, which were displaying calming nature landscapes or playing guided meditations, while the other half (the control group) went in without a VR headset.
The study organizers then kept track of the amount of propofol (an anesthetic) that was requested by the members of both groups, eventually finding that the VR group requested far less than their non-VR counterparts. “Despite receiving significantly less intraoperative propofol sedation, VR group patients did not have any significant differences compared to usual care group patients in self-reported assessments of pain, relaxation, anxiety or overall satisfaction,” the authors of the study wrote. It was also noted that members of the VR group “were discharged from the PACU [Post-Anesthetic Care Unit] 22 minutes earlier than control patients.”
A recent Meta ad envisioned that VR headsets could eventually help physicians practice surgery on virtual patients, theoretically reducing risk when they go in for the real thing.
Beleaguered Kraken chief executive steps down
Jesse Powell, a co-founder and the chief executive of Kraken, has officially stepped down. Kraken – currently the second-largest crypto exchange platform in the US and the fourth-largest in the world, according to crypto industry tracker CoinMarketCap – published a “leadership succession plan” on its website earlier this week, in which it said that Powell would remain with the company as chairman of the board of directors, to be replaced as chief executive by Dave Ripley, formerly the company’s chief operations officer.
Powell became embroiled in a conflict with some Kraken employees earlier this year over his views about the use of preferred pronouns and differences in intelligence levels between men and women, according to The New York Times. Some employees reportedly opted to leave the company as a result. It was also recently revealed that the Treasury Department has been investigating Kraken for allegedly violating US sanctions.
Twitch cracks down on livestreams of crypto gambling
After being criticized by some viewers and streamers for its unwillingness to take action against crypto gambling livestreams on its platform, Twitch has decided to make a move. On Tuesday, the popular streaming platform announced in a statement published on Twitter that it will ban the livestreaming of gambling sites that use crypto assets from its platform, effective October 18.
The “policy update” will “prohibit streaming of gambling sites that include slots, roulette or dice games that aren’t licensed in the US or other jurisdictions that provide sufficient consumer protection,” according to the statement. Stake.com, Rollbit.com, Roobet.com and Duelbets.com were specifically called out. The statement also said that other platforms are likely to be identified and banned in the future. “We will continue to allow websites that focus on sports betting, fantasy sports and poker,” the statement said.
Dogecoin now the second largest proof-of-work cryptocurrency
For a cryptocurrency that started as something of a joke, Dogecoin has come a long way. After Ethereum wrapped up its historic merge last week – switching from a proof-of-work (PoW) system to the much more eco-friendly proof-of-stake (PoS) system – Dogecoin became the world’s second-largest PoW cryptocurrency by market cap (after Bitcoin), according to data from CoinMarketCap. It currently has the 10th largest market cap of all cryptocurrencies.
Dogecoin was founded in 2013 as a tongue-in-cheek cryptocurrency based on a meme. Beginning in 2019, it became a social media darling of serial entrepreneur and the world’s wealthiest person Elon Musk, causing the coin’s popularity and value to periodically spike. Despite its lofty current rank, the current ‘crypto winter’ has caused Dogecoin’s value to plummet by more than 90% since its last peak in May 2021.
$160m stolen in Wintermute hack
Crypto market maker Wintermute was hacked earlier this week, resulting in the theft of around $160m in crypto assets, according to a tweet from the company’s founder and chief executive Evgeny Gaevoy. “We are solvent with twice over that amount in equity left,” he said in a follow-up tweet. He also reported that the company’s centralized finance and over-the-counter operations had not been affected by the hack.
We’ve been hacked for about $160M in our defi operations. Cefi and OTC operations are not affected
— wishful cynic (@EvgenyGaevoy) September 20, 2022
Gaevoy ended his string of tweets with a request to the hacker (or hackers): “We are (still) open to treat this as a white hat, so if you are the attacker – get in touch.”
The Wintermute hack is the latest in a recent string of cyberattacks targeting the crypto industry. In August, hackers stole millions of dollars of crypto from the Solana network. Earlier that same week, roughly $200m was stolen from crypto bridge platform Nomad.
Ricky Williams’s cannabis brand sets up shop in the metaverse
NFL legend Ricky Williams is bringing his cannabis brand Highsman (a play on ‘Heisman’) into VR. Described by the brand as “the first true virtual reality sports and cannabis experience,” the new virtual space – called the ‘Highsman House’ – will kick off with a Monday Night Football viewing party on September 26. A virtual dispensary will also be available.
Highsman isn’t the only cannabis brand that’s been looking to capitalize on the metaverse recently. In May, for example, Cannaverse Technologies launched Cannaland, a virtual space where customers can both shop for and learn about cannabis.
New NFT provides perks at Bad Bunny, Jack Harlow and Post Malone concerts
Web3 brand Dancing Seahorse Labs announced the minting of the Dancing Seahorse NFT on Tuesday. Legendary token holders will be granted “exclusive suite access and memorable concert experiences” at upcoming Bad Bunny, Jack Harlow and Post Malone concerts.
The minting is one of the latest examples of how web3 and NFTs have been transforming the music industry. In addition to opening the door to exclusive events and perks, NFTs are also being leveraged by some artists as a means of attaining a higher degree of financial autonomy.
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