What is the metaverse? The word conjures up the idea of a single space in which users can log onto and experience its robust virtual worlds. In practice, so far at least, it is multiple spaces, centralized or decentralized, where users can access multiple different metaverse experiences, each siloed away from the other without interoperability.
A Web3 ethos points towards breaking down “walled gardens,” or data silos, allowing users to take full ownership of their digital experiences that they can carry from metaverse to metaverse. While most are built atop Ethereum, other platforms are seeking alternative strategies to leverage blockchain technology to power their visions. The problem is how to create a cross-dimensional user experience that makes the metaverse a singular noun.
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The idea: Lamina1
Lamina1 is a layer one blockchain ecosystem that’s set on providing the infrastructure for Web3 developers to build the “Open Metaverse.” With its user-friendly tooling, onboarding strategies and environmentally friendly approach, Lamina1 aims to help the metaverse hold true to a Web3 ethos.
The project was founded in June 2022 by Neal Stephenson, author of the famed science fiction novel “Snow Crash,” for which he coined the word “metaverse,” and Peter Vessenes, an early cryptocurrency adopter and experienced Web3 venture capitalist. The two metaverse architects wrote a white paper that sets out to solve the interoperability issue of the decentralized virtual world.
“For the trillion-dollar economy of the metaverse to materialize, we must first focus on fundamental infrastructure, enablement and usability,” reads the Lamina1 white paper. “Lamina1 will host and power the economic and social transactions of the Open Metaverse, solving technical hurdles to accelerate adoption and unlock capability.”
However, for Stephenson and Vessenes, the Open Metaverse is not just about interoperability, it’s about propelling the Web3 ethos of digital ownership, fairly compensating artists and creators, and making the metaverse an accessible space – traits which many popular projects have yet to prioritize.
“In brief, I think of it as the base layer for the Open Metaverse, a place to build something a bit closer to Neal’s vision – one that privileges creators, technical and artistic, one that provides support, spatial-computing tech and a community to support those who are building out the Metaverse,” Vessenes said in a blog post announcing Lamina1.
Lamina1 has raised an undisclosed amount of capital from prominent investors including ConsenSys CEO Joseph Lubin, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and other blockchain angels. It has garnered attention from many builders for its vision to build an interoperable metaverse, starting with the infrastructure.
Imagining the Open Metaverse
In January, Lamina1 named Rebecca Barkin its CEO. Barkin spent much of her career in entertainment and technology and was an early adopter of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). She spent five years at technology company Magic Leap, four of them leading Magic Leap Studios and one focused on the design of the operating system for Magic Leap 2, an award-winning artificial reality device. After Magic Leap, Barkin stepped into the role as vice president of partnerships and creative strategy at software company MSG Sphere, helping to build out the company’s immersive content strategy.
Barkin met Stephenson at Magic Leap, where she shared his vision of powering a future where creators and consumers were fueled by the war chest of technologies surrounding them, rather than diminished. These sentiments prompted her to join Lamina1 in August 2022.
Barkin spoke with CoinDesk about her vision to build out Lamina1 to be the base layer for the next iteration of the metaverse.
“It’s a ‘batteries included’ approach to enable people to make high quality experiences and deliver them in the Open Metaverse,” said Barkin. “In short, we want to create a thriving economy similar to what we experienced in the early days of Web2.”
Barkin defines the Open Metaverse as a framework for the internet in which users can facilitate direct transactions, carry their personal data across platforms, and fairly monetize their intellectual property.
“There's interoperability between those experiences – think of it kind of like having a passport that belongs to you, where you can easily and fluidly travel between experiences in a way where you don't have to give all of your data to some third party that exploits it or siphons it for their own gain,” said Barkin. “We believe in a version of the Internet where you don't have to do that.”
Barkin noted that although this may be a goal, there are difficulties in achieving this reality. As Web3 has begun to mature, priorities are shifting away from consumers and back to the producers. The result is decentralized projects sacrificing the tenets of their strategies they set out to achieve in the beginning.
“It’s gonna take a real movement because, essentially, the centralized players in this system that exists today are not incentivized to change anything,” said Barkin. “They will only come around if there is a cultural movement that demands it, … and you cannot inspire a cultural movement if you do not have authenticity.”
The first steps to building
Lamina1 is targeting early industries that have been quick to adopt the metaverse in their strategies, such as gaming, which has become the largest market in the metaverse. Barkin wants to bring Web2 game design and usability to Web3 gaming.
“There are some shorter, more casual Web3 game experiences, and there's us trying to bring along really talented Web2 game designers and storytellers, so we'll go at it from both sides,” said Barkin, “because we need that drumbeat of diverse experiences and regular cadence of high quality content to make a point.”
Barkin told CoinDesk Lamina1 is also targeting industries such as fashion, music and entertainment that may not be as metaverse ready in their own target markets, but are gearing up to embrace blockchain technologies through various projects and initiatives.
Across all these target markets, Barkin emphasizes, Lamina1 is putting creators first.
“Our real focus is on how we can better serve a specific community that we know really well, both from an IP standpoint, a creator standpoint and a technology development side of things to mature the solution for them and protect the quality of their creative brand,” said Barkin.
In order to help onboard more projects to its early ecosystem, Lamina1 rolled out the Lamina1 Ecosystem Fund in December, a rolling grants program to empower early Web3 projects to access metaverse resources and tap into the Lamina1 ecosystem.
While projects can apply for grants, Barkin specified that Lamina1 intends to remain hands off, simply providing the capital necessary for projects to deepen their roots in the metaverse.
“The point is not for us to become a moderator, that is a very slippery slope and we're not gonna try to do that,” said Barkin. “The Lamina1 Ecosystem Fund was a chance for us to really act on our values and our beliefs and what the diversity we wanted to see in the ecosystem, the types of projects we wanted to see.”
Lamina1 will soon reveal the first investments it has made in its ecosystem fund. The company recently announced its Early Access Program – a cohort of projects chosen to help shape the future of the ecosystem. Among these projects are gaming studio Dubit, music platform Patch XR, and Web3 intellectual property (IP) studio 0.xyz.
Since the chain launched its testnet in January it has completed over 300,000 transactions and amassed 37,000 wallet addresses. Projects are flocking to the ecosystem because in order to build the Open Metaverse, it's necessary to focus on blockchain technology.
In doing so, Barkin said Lamina1 aims to foster strong communities along the way who can help each other tap into Web3.
“When you're early-on as an entrepreneur and you're trying to get into Web3, it's so helpful to have the connection to people who have launched projects," said Barkin. "That's a big part of the value, so we hope to build that community out."
CORRECTION (April 17, 2023 18:00 UTC): Rebecca Barkin met Neal Stephensen when she was working at Magic Leap, not at MSG Sphere. Other details of her work at Magic Leap were clarified.
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