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Cryptovoxels 2020 Milestones

Cryptovoxels project development happens so quickly that we figure it would be helpful to round up all the big points. Please note, this is not a complete list, and all the information is gathered from what was publicly posted on twitter and the Cryptovoxels discord. Without further due, this is what the team is currently working on:

* Performance and bug fixing
* Matrix chat upgrade
* Multiplayer scripting
* Free build mode (Spaces)
* Global illumination
* Babylon native experiment
* VRM avatar experiment

Ben Nolan mentioned to the community that he is getting his head around the fact that Cryptovoxels feels 'feature complete' for now. So instead of making tons of new features, the team's focus is to make what we already have faster, prettier, and improve scripting. Make everything work real good.

Chat is another thing that is on the list to be improved. Ben has been digging into integrating Matrix, an open source project that publishes the Matrix open standard for secure, decentralised, real-time communication.

Matrix will open up some interesting opportunities for interoperability to occur. Using an open standard, Matrix can exchange data and messages with other platforms by bridges.

A proof of concept idea with a Matrix bridge could be having parcels connected to private chat rooms like IRC, Discord, Slack, etc. When a person enters a parcel, the Cryptovoxels chat can automatically be linked to the other chat platform. 

Decentraland has recently integrated Matrix into their main client. If Cryptovoxels integrates Matrix then messages can send back and forth between DCL and CV.

The next feature that has recently shipped is the multiplayer server which runs your parcel scripts on the Cryptovoxels infrastructure. This basically enables multiplayer games and synced events such as doors opening or closing. More APIs are expected to be released in the future, for now the documentation sites at: https://wiki.cryptovoxels.com/en/Scripting/TheGrid.

Ben has also mentioned that he started working on an invite system. How it works is:

* You 'claim' some parcels
* You and friends get to build
* If you build, you 'submit' the build
* And get to buy at a fixed price

So you have:

* Choose your Neighbours
* New builders
* Encourage builds
* Fixed price

However, it might be that this idea could of evolved with the new Spaces feature that was just shipped with Cryptovoxels version 4. Spaces is essentially a free build mode with trimmed down features, such as no multiplayer. The idea behind Spaces for attracting new builders into Origin City goes something like:

1. Create an awesome space
2. Select a parcel on a build island
3. Submit your space as a build for that parcel
4. The submission is approved
5. The parcel is yours (at a discounted price)

Things spaces won't have (compared to Parcels):

* Multiplayer
* Grid Scripting
* Lightmapping

Things spaces won't be:

* Browseable
* Searchable
* Transferrable

Users that log into the website and click their account will see the new Spaces tab and can play around with it now. https://www.cryptovoxels.com/account/spaces

The next feature being worked on is lightmapping and global illumination. Take a sneak peek below:

Babylon native will mean compiling the game into a standalone app that can be distributed through app marketplaces such as steam, windows, and potentiall the apple store. The software will run closer to the metal, giving performance a boost.

Finally, the Cryptovoxels team has been exploring VRM avatar support. VRM is a royalty free file format for handling 3D humanoid avatars. It is the most interoperable avatar format that exists, since there are dozens of applications (mostly Japanese) that already support it. Here's a fan made concept art visualization of what Cryptovoxels might look like with VRM support.

It's extremely impressive how much this small team is accomplishing, especially when you can see it all put together of just the past month!


Genesis City Art Week

Starting in June, there was a week long art festival with an event everyday showcasing a new cryptoart exhibition. The exhibitors included SuperRare, MakersPlace, KnownOrigin, Pixelchain, Mintbase, Josie Bellini, OpenSea, AsyncArt and Chain Guardians.

Majority of the events took place in SoHo plaza, a district that is located North East of the map just left of the massive cyberpunk district Aetheria.

All the galleries are located walking distance from each other, filled with NFTs from their website collections on the walls. It's a interesting experience to walk around the gallery instead of scrolling the website.

The artworks on the wall were interactive as well. Clicking on the cryptoart opened up a menu warning that you were about to open an external website. This is a safety precaution to verify you're going to the correct website and not a phishing scam. If you verify that the URL is correct, a nifty feature that Decentraland implemented is the ability to check a box to 'trust this domain'. Once checked, you can click any artwork on the wall and it will open up a link in a new browser tab for purchasing. After opening up a few links it started to feel like filling up a shopping cart.

Users got a free Proof-of-Attendance-Protocol (POAP) NFT for every event they attend. This basically means they showed up on time for the event. Collecting 10 of the POAPs gives all the collectors an exclusive NFT designed by Shibu, the art director of Decentraland, and a chance to win LAND in a prize draw.

The machines to claim a POAP were located around locations of the events. Since users are already logged in via their Ethereum wallet, all one needed to do was click the button and pay some gas for the transaction.

Now that the dust has settled, there were some good and bad things about Art Week worth mentioning.

Starting with the bad, it mostly came down to performance. During the launch of one of the galleries, we recorded <5 FPS at times. Wasn't the whole switch to Unity because of performance? Granted it's much better than how things were 1 year ago, but it's probably going to be a long time until DCL is ready for VR where any amount of lag can make a person quickly feel sick. 

Based on the roadmap and past interviews it seems like the native client is what is deemed to solve many of the speed issues, but will be at the expense of introducing more hurdles for people to jump into the world. This strategy might prove to be costly in terms of user acquisition, so hopefully the web client will continue to be maintained.

For the good, the galleries themselves looked fantastic. One of the nice traits about Decentraland is that it encourages people to design the facade of their virtual world. In many virtual worlds like VRChat, creators mostly concern themselves with only what's visible to the users like interior spaces since their world is isolated. In the case of Decentraland, worlds are connected to each other on the grid, so designing the outside of your building to be attractive for people to check out the inside is very important.

Looking forward to the next one!


Surfing the Web in Somnium Space

Somnium Space has been showing off another cool new feature that brings the whole web to your hands in VR, the web browser. The team announced the feature in a tweet with a video showing Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Mozilla Hubs running in a massive web browser that's front of a user who is fully in VR.

It's nifty how there's a navigation bar at the top, giving users freedom to surf the entire web with just one websurface. This feature has enabled the team to quickly show the world some possibilities for when you bring the flat web into an immersive virtual world.

For example, browsing Amazon.com from a Somnium Space parcel to shop for a new VR headset.

How about browsing Opensea and purchasing a NFT with Ethereum while being fully in VR? The Somnium team has shown that it is indeed possible with a video that goes from start to finish of completing a transaction for some cryptoart.

There's also productivity apps, such as attending a video conference while you're in VR. Not sure how productive that is, but it looks fun.

The browser is also able to load webgl games, turning your wall into a giant display screen. It would be awesome to see how Google Stadia performs in Somnium Space.

The WWW is an infinite source of content. It opens up access to productivity, ecommerce, and gaming. From wherever you are in the virtual world, whether in outer space or chilling at your friends parcel, having access to the world wide web makes it feel like home. This is the type of feature that will keep on giving. Great work Somnium team!


VR Meetup To Discuss VR Meetups

NIFTIES had our first public livestream from our new virtual reality studio during the biggest blockchain event of the year, Consensus Distributed!

Guests included @joonian and @aaronwstanley from Coindesk, Ethereal Summit organizer @DeFi_Dad, crypto artist @josiebellini, host of Reckless VR @udiWertheimer, founding partner of CryptoMondays @LouKerner, and our own @dankvr.

1:55 - What is this studio about?
3:39 - What is Reckless VR?
6:25 - Difference between physical / virtual? (Lou)
7:47 - Difference between physical / virtual? (Josie)
10:15 - Interaction compared to online
14:00 - Post-covid, will people still come?
17:34 - Accessibility and adoption 
19:41 - Is there any crypto wallets for VR?
21:28 - Biggest hurdles to adoption
24:50 - Difference between Zoom
26:40 - How much would you pay to attend a crypto conference?

Behind the scenes

The event came together very organically. Earlier in May, Wong Joon Ian from Coindesk [tweeted] that he's organizing a VR meetup to talk about VR meetups and reached out to the crypto community to ask who does crypto VR meetups. Many voices in the community tagged us (thank you!), so we began chatting to plan it out. 

Godfrey Meyer worked quickly to redesign our VR studio to better match the event branding and we began to invite the guests for a rehearsal on how the production will be ran.

There were some interesting points made as we had a meta discussion about VR meetups vs physical meetups, here's a couple:

Joon: "Post-covid, are people still going to be coming to our VR meetups?"

Udi: "A very interesting thing I think in this community is that a lot of people kind of want to keep their privacy. This is something amazing you can do in VR. You can an avatar that doesn't look like you, you can pick whatever name you want. You still get to interact with people face to face without video or showing your face."

The last question came from Aaron Stanley who asked the speakers how much they might pay to attend a well planned fully virtual Consensus next year. Aaron made an interesting point about having skin in the game to maximize productivity. If a digital event is free and if 25,000 people show up, how many of them will be engaged the entire time?

In physical meetups, anchoring yourself outside your home for the duration of an event incentivizes people to make the most out of their time. With VR meetups we can skip all that and teleport from the comfort of your own home. The time and money saved on airlines, transportation, hotels for the attendees plus the event venue rental, logistics, physical setup and teardown can all be put into creating an amazing experience that can last forever.

Perhaps one could get away with charging a couple of thousand dollars for a VR ticket if at the same time it also onboards someone into VR. Throw in a VR headset with the deal can go towards solving the chicken and egg problem. If people paid more, they would care more about the event and those resources could go towards making an exceptional digital experience. With that, it was a good time to wrap things up and drop a portal into a relaxing beach.

Lastly, we want to reminder you that you do not need a VR headset to access majority of the virtual worlds. Platforms like Decentraland and Cryptovoxels have web browser based clients and most of the popular social VR platforms like the one we were using (VRChat) have 2D desktop support for PC users.


Consensus Distributed and Virtual

Where were we celebrating the great Bitcoin halvening of 2020? Staying home and exploring virtual worlds of course! During Consensus Distributed we teleported to the Crypto Valley Convention Center in Decentraland and picked up some sweet digital swag from DCG!

The entrance of the convention center greets guests with a story about the global events leading up to this years conference. From record breaking money printing to working from home, we are seeing a perfect storm playing out for both blockchain and virtual worlds.

"The very fabric of our financial system is being put to the ultimate stress test. Central banks are operating with the belief that there is "an infinite amount of cash." Is this true? Can central banks continue to prop up the system? What does this mean for the future of money? Will cryptocurrencies find their moment or will the future be ruled by central bank digital currencies like China's new digital yuan? Will we see a rise in decentralized governance solutions to fill the void left by waning confidence in major instituions?"

Inside there is a wide stage and giant screen playing the livestream from Consensus this year. A small crowd of avatars gathered together waiting for the DCL tour with DCLBlogger and Barry Silbert. Unfortunately technical issues got in the way. I guess streaming live demos in a fully digital conference requires extra blessings from the demo gods.

Next there was an after party event on the roof of the convention center. An elevator outside took you up to the rooftop lounge area where a spinning consensus logo can be seen above the bar where other avatars gathered.

Although the experience looked visually interesting, the interaction with other players only through a public text chat felt very limited. VOIP support to talk, spatial audio, and ability to chat privately seem like key ingredients for those serendipitous hallway experiences to naturally occur.

Right after the DCL event was a social money art walk through Cryptovoxels, hosted by Roll and Coindesk. The timing was tight so we missed it, but the art walk can still be explored. Follow the arrow signs by moving around with your mouse and WASD after visiting this url: https://www.cryptovoxels.com/play?coords=W@317E,67S

Conferences that take a full year of planning have been forced to translate that into a fully digital experience within a matter of months. Although video conferencing has exploded as a result of working from home, they still fall short of the ability to walk into the hallway and have a chat with someone. Luckily, this is the type of scenario that avatar embodied communication platforms can deliver. The year 2020 marks the beginning of a great experiment.

Humans are social creatures, but are unable to gather in large groups due to the pandemic. Now that WHO is saying that we may have to live with this virus forever, virtual worlds are being taken very seriously as the future of socializing and work (see: virtual studios). As we learn to live and work online we hope that people who migrate to these digital spaces will desire ownership or a stake in its future by becoming collectors of nifties.

In the meantime, CoinDesk has partnered with Gitcoin, The Giving Block, and Ethereal Summit to raise money for a handful of nonprofits to provide relief to communities that need it most. Some accept cryptocurrency payments, visit here if you want to help: https://www.coindesk.com/consensus-2020/NYBWGIVES


The Virtual Reality of Connie Digital

As part of this year's CoinDesk Consensus: Distributed conference, several Cryptovoxels art galleries will be featured during the Social Money Art Walk hosted by Roll. Come join Connie Digital, Matt Kane and several artists on Monday, May 11th beginning at 3:30PM EDT. The event will take place inside of Cryptovoxels until 4:00PM EDT with the following schedule:

3:30 - 3:35pm EDT - Roll HQ

3:35 - 3:40pm EDT - Mlibty's Gallery

3:40 - 3:45pm EDT - Skeenee's Gallery

3:45 - 3:50pm EDT - Matt Kane's Gallery

3:50 - 3:55pm EDT - Connie Digital’s Gallery

3:55 - 4:00pm EDT - Nissla's Gallery

4:00 - 4:05pm EDT - Roll HQ

CoinDesk Consensus: Distributed is free to attend and registration is available at coindesk.com/events/consensus-2020.

Additionally, you can check out more of Connie’s artwork on display in VR during the Bitcoin Halvening (also happening around May 11-12). In celebration of this rare event that only happens every 4 years, there will be a Countdown Party going on inside the Bitcoin Citadel world of VRChat! You do not need a VR headset to join the party, but you will need Windows. To learn more about the event details, be sure to follow @AlienTreeHouse on Twitter for the latest.

Connie also recently made a guest appearance on the popular Cent Podcast where he discussed many happenings in the crypto world, including: NFTs, social money, decentralized virtual worlds, NFT.NYC and more. You can listen to that episode here.

Subscribe to receive Connie’s updates at tinyletter.com/conniedigital.



Behind the scenes: NIFTIES VR STUDIOS

We created NIFTIES with the aim of promoting the best projects in the NFTs space. Apart from traditional content we knew we should do something new and unique, which is why we think top quality VR content is the answer. 

Construction of our virtual soundstage has finished and in this video Boomboxhead guides you inside. See all the work that goes behind a fully digital virtual production with professional cameras, lighting, and cinematography. 

We already started producing artist interviews and will announce some new show formats in the near future. If you want to promote your project, company, or event, and need our help to produce cool CG content for the 3.0 collectors just reach us out at vr@nifties.com. ENJOY the video!


Artist Interview: JOY

Check out BoomBoxHead interviewing JOY and talking about VR, CryptoArt, and JOYWORLD. The entire production was filmed in a virtual reality studio that both artists collaborated on building. Perhaps there will be a behind the scenes look in the future if people are interested. For now, get comfy and enjoy the show!



NFTs in Somnium Space

The Somnium Space team has been integrating third party NFTs like Cryptokitties in next level ways. For example, check out this Cryptokitty being imported into the builder then playing in VR.


The day before the big launch, Somnium Space and Cryptomotors showed off the results of an amazing collaboration. A limited run of the model Abyssus were auctioned on Opensea, with some being bought for 16 ETH ($2100 USD at the time).

See the full video here: https://twitter.com/SomniumSpace/status/1230196128450256897


Third Party Cryptovoxels Clients

Did you know there are multiple other programs to view Origin City with? One of the earliest examples is Substrata developed by Nick from Glare technologies. Nick, whom is close friends with Ben Nolan in real life, designed Substrata as a multi-user cyberspace written in C++. It can render the entire Cryptovoxels city on a machine with atleast 32gb of RAM.

Another way to view Origin City is with VRChat, currently the most popular social VR platform in the world. You can download VRChat for free on Steam, note that VR headsets aren't required because it works on desktop mode as well. If you want to visit, search "blockchain" in the world menu or click this link if you've launched VRChat before: https://vrchat.com/home/launch?worldId=wrld_deef02ee-ed4f-47f4-9a93-fae9b9ea573c

There's also NeosVR, a free to download Metaverse engine that many describe as "multiplayer Unity" because of how people build and script worlds from inside the program instead of uploading content with a SDK. NeosVR is more complicated to use than VRChat and the desktop experience isn't fully realized yet, but the graphics are next level since the rendering engine is using the newer Unity 2019 and you can edit worlds live inside the client. To visit, download NeosVR from Steam and then search "Origin City" in the worlds menu or click this link to launch the world directly: http://cloudx.azurewebsites.net/open/world/U-jin/R-fec6fe2f-d6e9-43de-af37-31068a7ebcd9