Wiser! #46: deepfakes in the Metaverse; Substack lose the plot, Tarantino sued over NFTs; Nigeria launch CBDC and Xbox hits 20.
In this issue of Wiser!;
- deepfake influencer marketing in the Metaverse
- what's going on at Substack
- Tarantino gets sued over NFTs
- MetaFacebook's prototype haptic gloves
- 150 fastest-growing startups
- Nigeria's CBDC
- Apple opens up to self-repairing devices
- Microsoft Xbox is 20 years old
The rise of deepfake influencer marketing in the Metaverse
Did you know of the growing trend where influencers are not actually wearing the clothes they are modelling?
According to a recent Vogue article, an increasing number of influencers promote clothing without actually wearing it in real life. Instead, they are wearing digital versions of physical clothing. For e-commerce brands and influencers, this is a win-win. Say you're a business looking for an influencer on the other side of the world to promote your cool-looking t-shirt. Instead of sending them physical samples, you could send them a "digital sample."
But it's not just social media influencers who can use this tech. This week Snap announced that it's testing a new integration that will allow users to try on branded t-shirts and hoodies virtually.
By 2025, 90% of visual content could be deepfake
This is according to Nina Schick, the author of "Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse". She interviewed experts on the topics and many of them predicted that "within the next 5 to 7 years, 90% of video content online is going to be synthetic", ie., they will be deepfake technology.
That timeframe is likely to be even shorter for images. Virtual clothing app Dressx provides an Augmented Reality experience for users to try on clothes virtually using their "Meta app for the Metaverse" (clearly wanting to hit two buzzwords in the same tag line!).
Farfetch has become one of the first large retailers to test the practice of digital sampling by digitally dressing influencers to promote the launch of its new pre-order offering from brands including Balenciaga, Palm Angels, Khaite, Off-White, Oscar de la Renta, Dolce & Gabbana, Nanushka, Casablanca and Nicholas Kirkwood.
Wiser! Take: This is yet a further example of how the Internet is evolving into its next generation. Whether you want to call it Web3 or the Metaverse or just the Internet is frankly irrelevant. Because the point is that it is happening and it's immersive. Immersive being the key word that defines this next generation of the Internet.
And it is happening across all forms of media. In text, we have a plethora of AI tools (often powered by GPT-3) that can write copy, generate advertising and product descriptions, and some even claim to write entire blog content. I use one myself in Genie.io, an AI-powered reading and writing tool that I use to summarise articles to create Twitter threads. In a previous issue of Wiser! I covered the OpenAI tool called DALL·E. This technology will let you create images from text (you just describe what you want and it gives you images in return). It is not unreasonable to expect that this will eventually automatically create videos too from words.
Of course, the downside is that eventually the tech will become good enough that you won't have people like me doing what I do. Or High Street shops with actual real clothes in them for people to try on. Or film sets on location to make movies.
Or maybe it won't. Yesterday I listened to the Sway podcast when Kara Swisher spoke with the godfather of VR, Jaron Lanier. It's a great listen with a chap who was at the forefront of virtual reality before Mark Zuckerberg was born. He said, and I paraphrase:
"the best thing about VR is when you take your headset off and see the world as it really is."
Sources: Indie Hackers, Vogue
Further Wiser! reading on the Metaverse. 👇
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What's going on at Substack
Substack was meant to be the antidote to the misinformation and fake news of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Instead, it has become a haven for anyone to say anything, however nuts it is, without any checks or balances.
This much-hyped newsletter platform was founded in 2017 as an alternative to the (struggling) ad-driven media industry. Recently valued at $650 million, Substack positioned itself as the anti-Facebook, a place where quality and thoughtfulness triumphed over engagement algorithms. But some of its most feted writers are considered by many to push harmful content.
Take Chris Berenson, an ex-New York Times writer who was banned from Twitter in August 2021 for pushing false claims about Covid19 vaccines. But that has not stopped him from continuing to spread his nonsense.
One of Berenson’s most recent posts on Substack claims incorrectly that mRNA vaccines have contributed to, rather than stopped the spread of Covid19. (And if you are thinking, does anyone actually believe this claptrap, let me remind you that there are more people on the planet today who believe the world is flat than at any time in the history of humankind.)
BTW, Berenson earns an estimated $270k from his Substack newsletter!
The question is: is Substack repeating the mistakes it set out to solve?
To find out what's going on at Substack 👉 go here.
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Miramax sues Quentin Tarantino over Pulp Fiction NFTs
Movie studio Miramax has sued director Quentin Tarantino over his non-fungible token or NFT collection based on the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction. Miramax argues that he doesn't have the rights and Tarantino says he does. Whilst this is amusing to watch this kind of dispute play out from the sideline, there is a serious side to this. Because NFTs are all about confirming ownership and assigning rights accordingly. Tarantino’s NFTs will add a layer of “privacy and access control features” that will open previously unknown secrets about his work to the owner of the NFT.
Think of it this way; you take a famous scene from a movie and you turn it into a unique digital code that you store in a place that everyone can see but they can't touch. This is what an NFT is when it is stored on a blockchain. Now, you've gone and bought the movie scene and it is yours and yours alone. Inside this unique digital code is a set of privileges, for example, you get to have dinner every year with Tarantino. That makes owning the image valuable, right? Who wouldn't want to have dinner with Tarantino? And pay a premium for it!
Now, I hear you say, couldn't you do that anyway? Yes, but no but! Because with the blockchain, everyone can see it, there is only ever one unique digital code, and it's impossible to fake. That's why NFTs are super interesting because they prevent a repeat of John Myatt's "biggest art fraud of the 20th century".
However, there is a flip side to the booming NFT market with many seeing it as little more than a super hyped frenzy driven by FOMO with an unhealthy sprinkling of ignorance. As a buddy of mine put to me this morning that "the market is going to eat itself". His point is scarcity.
There is an economic theory called ‘Positional Goods’, i.e., stuff that can only exist in scarcity, such as Mayfair apartments, Jaguar E Types etc. Here the price is always higher than the ‘utility' value of a roof over one’s head or transportation, because the ownership of 'the thing' gives a certain cache to the owner. That's why someone would pay $48.4 million for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. His point is that the price of a collectable is correlated to its scarcity. In the NFT space, scarcity will soon be replaced by oversupply and for many, the cache will be fleeting. As my buddy put it "the pratt wasted his money on a digital Monet". Time of course will tell, but I find myself agreeing with him.
Here's Tom Bilyeu explaining NFTs to Quentin Tarantino (via TikTok).
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Snippets of Insight and Information
Facebook show off their Virtual Reality haptic glove
Facebook, now known as Meta, will forever be known as MetaFacebook in Wiser! They're in the news this week after their Reality Labs R&D group unveiled a sci-fi haptic glove prototype that "lets you feel" virtual reality objects. The haptic glove reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. Imagine having the tactile sensation of petting your dog even though they are before your eyes in a virtual reality world (welcome to the Metaverse!).
In a move to further establish its land grab for the Metaverse, MetaFacebook is poised to mass-market haptic gloves in a way other companies can’t. Most haptic device makers sell specialized products for military, industrial, or academic institutions. By contrast, MetaFacebook produces the dominant consumer-oriented Quest VR system and is putting billions of dollars toward building a Metaverse that integrates VR and AR. If it launches a haptic glove system, MetaFacebook can guarantee the system will work on the Quest and encourage app developers to use it. Source: The Verge
Rocket List 2021
Recruitment company Otta has published a list of the top 150 fastest-growing startups. The 150 startups and scale-ups featured on the list have raised $30 billion between them in 2021 alone. This easily searchable list is a great research and reference tool for anyone wanting to find up and coming innovative startups.
Top 10 Companies: Most Funds Raised
- Databricks — $3,512,925,000
- Klarna — $3,374,540,000
- Chime — $2,053,090,000
- Revolut — $1,715,750,000
- Articulate — $1,500,000,000
- Thrasio — $1,217,060,000
- Hopin — $1,026,285,000
- Getir — $1,025,700,00
- Varo Money — $996,970,000
- Perch — $910,650,00
Meta and Microsoft announce workplace partnership
MetaFacebook and Microsoft have announced a partnership that will allow customers to integrate Workplace with Microsoft Teams. This brings together competing rivals in a move that appears to benefit MetaFacebook more than it does Microsoft. MetaFacebook's Workplace (only) has 7 million paid subscribers whereas Microsoft Teams has 250 million monthly active users. Source: CNBC
Cryptocurrency company pays $700 million to rename LA's iconic Staples Center
In one of the biggest renaming deals in sports history, the iconic Staples Center in Los Angeles will become the Crypto.com Arena. The Singapore based crypto exchange has bought the naming rights for a reported $700+ million. It's a name change that has not had universal approval from sports fans, although it is seen as another move that brings cryptocurrencies into the mainstream. As for names, it could be worse. There's the Tony Macaroni Arena for Scottish football club Livingston FC, and the KFC Yum! Center is the home to the University of Louisville. Source: New York Magazine
Apple to offer self-repair service to users
Apple has buckled to pressure and announced that its devices’ parts, tools and manuals will soon be available to all, starting with the iPhones 12 and 13. Up until now, repairs could only be done by authorised retailers or at an Apple genius bar.
This is a big move as it promises to reduce the amount of tech waste caused when consumers decide to throw away rather than repair their devices. Apple have definitely jumped before being pushed on this one. Only last July, the FTC unanimously agreed to increase enforcement against tech companies that impede consumers’ ability to repair their devices. Sources: Morning Brew, Axios
Nigeria becomes first African nation to roll out digital currency
Nigeria is the first African country to introduce a digital currency. It follows China and the Bahamas in being among the first jurisdictions in the world to roll out national digital currencies. Nigeria’s central-bank-backed digital currency is called the eNaira and it rolled out at the end of October. Since then, nearly 500,000 people have downloaded the digital wallet required to use it, out of a population of 109 million internet users in the country. Sources: Bloomberg, Aljazeera
Klarna create 75 millionaires
Working for a startup is not for everyone. It can be a challenging environment for the staff, which is putting it mildly. But every now and again I see an example of payback for the trust and commitment that employees give in an entrepreneur's ability to execute on their vision. The story of Klarna caught my eye in Sifted over the weekend as I was sifting through the long pile of tech journals.
Klarna is a Swedish fintech company that provides online financial services such as payments for online storefronts and direct payments along with post-purchase payments. When they secured a $45.6 billion valuation back in June, at least 75 past and present employees of the fintech startup became paper millionaires. A small handful of staff even hold over $10 million worth of shares. When Klarna eventually gets its public listing, which is anticipated sometime over the next year, these staff will be rewarded with life-changing sums. An IPO would also create a huge payday for Klarna's cofounders, who own about 7% of the company, worth over $3bn. Source: Sifted
Xbox is 20 years old
Launched on November 15th, 2001, the Microsoft Xbox celebrated its 20 year anniversary this week. Described by Microsoft as "one of the most successful in video game history" at the time, the Xbox shipped 1.5 million units in North America between the Nov. 15 launch and the end of the year. But far from being long in the tooth and past it's sell by date (which seems to be the fate of most gadgets), the Xbox is going through a renaissance. In this interview with GQ Magazine, head of Xbox Phil Spector talks about the plans for the future of the gaming console. Source: GQ
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