I was always quite sceptical of the idea of existing in a virtual world. My bugbear with it was the fact that you might be in an expansive environment, but you’re shut off to the real world around you.
And for that reason, I was firmly in the camp that augmented reality held far greater commercial promise in the near-term than virtual reality (VR).
I’m now starting to rethink that position.
It really started a couple years back when I had the fortune to test out a virtual reality application. This wasn’t my first foray into VR, but it was certainly my best.
If you want to trace back my first foray into VR, it would have been at The Glen Shopping Centre back in the 90s at some point.
There was a large demonstration VR machine where you could strap in to the machine and have a play around in a cool VR game. This game in particular was ski jumping. The world was red and black, and it was primitive VR — but it was still pretty mind-bending.
That was the 90s though. And game development and computer power has come a long way since then. Today a VR world can be near indistinguishable from the real world. And we’re starting to see more and more application in the world of gaming and entertainment.
Which is why my more recent foray into VR worlds has me thinking about it all quite differently now.
Not that long ago I was testing out a VR world that put me trackside at a Formula E race. The world was fully virtual, but was an exact virtual replica of the real-life race track where the race was being held. Furthermore, there was a constant stream of live data flowing from the cars and the track itself to enable the recreation of this virtual world.
That meant what I was seeing in the virtual world was exactly what was happening in the real world. But as the real world race was in Buenos Aires, I had no way of getting there. But in the VR world, I was right there as soon as I put on the VR headset.
Of course, you could tell this was still a VR world. The rendering was incredible, but you still knew it wasn’t the real thing. So, no ‘Matrix’ style existence yet folks…
But what this did give me some insight into was the ability to create engaging VR worlds. And if that’s what is possible today, then what does the future for VR worlds look like in another five or 10 years’ time?
When I look at my son (who’s coming up to three weeks old), will spending time in VR worlds be as common place to him when he’s 18 as it is for me to be at a pub watching the football? Will his mates and he head down to the game together virtually if they all can’t make it in real life? Will I be joining him? Will we be able to go on adventures in VR worlds together experiencing things that maybe we simply couldn’t in the real one?
The answer I keep coming to is, sure, why not?
As technology gets better, faster, cheaper and more ubiquitous, it opens up these kinds of possibilities. If Samsung is going to make a $2,000 folding phone, that people will buy en masse, then what’s stopping people from spending $400 on some VR hardware?
Of course like any form of gaming or entertainment or digital experience, it’s all about content. It’s about the worlds you can go to and get an engaging, enthralling user experience.
And there’s one new virtual world that has recently caught my attention. And it’s made me think that perhaps there’s value in the idea of owning virtual land.
The Viking Sports Bar
There’s a crypto project called Decentraland. The premise is quite simple, it’s a virtual world which consists of 10s of thousands of parcels of virtual land. There are some large districts where groups own huge gatherings of land and these districts will contain virtual places like casinos and gambling outlets (the Vegas district), retail fashion and clothing shops (the shopping district), education services and applications (the University district) and other similar district style areas.
There are also plots of land that anyone can buy. You or I can go in there and just buy up a plot of land for ourselves. These plots are 10 metres by 10 metres in size, and effectively once you own that plot, you’ll be able to build anything you like on it.
Now these plots of land are limited. That makes the LAND in Decentraland scarce. And the project did two auctions in 2018 selling off all the parcels. They all sold in both auctions. That means the LAND in Decentraland is 100% owned by people already.
But once you own LAND you can sell it. And there are lots of parcels for sale. Some are reasonably affordable, some are extortionately expensive. But there is LAND available.
What you’ll end up with is a sprawling VR land where you can go and chill on your own land, go to someone else’s land, go and use a particular service or buy and sell goods. You might pop into Decentraland to take an online university lecture. And then afterwards meet your mates in a virtual pub to watch a footy game.
Now you might find that some of the things in this virtual land are free, some you might need to pay for. And within Decentraland the native crypto token is MANA. That’s what you use to buy land, and it’s likely what you’ll use to buy goods and services within it as well. Although there’s nothing stopping anyone from accepting other crypto as payment either.
This got me thinking. You see things change, technology changes and to be at the forefront of it you’ve got to be willing to adapt and expand your thinking.
So I have. And I’ve decided that maybe the idea of owning some virtual land is something to do. Maybe it will be a massive waste of time and value. Maybe not.
But rather than just being one of those trying to buy and flip parcels of virtual land I intend to use my plots. I’m going to build a virtual pub on my LAND. And I’m calling it the Viking Falcon (long story, won’t explain).
I’m going to create a place where my friends and I and then their kids when they’re old enough can all meet in VR. Maybe we can watch some sport, have a virtual drink, or just chew the fat for a while.
Most of us live on all corners of the globe, so meeting up together in person isn’t regular or easy. But perhaps in the VR world we can be more connected, more social and be better for it. I might not create insane wealth from my LAND holdings (maybe I will). But in terms of value, well if it can do what I hope it can, then value wise…it becomes invaluable.