The Metaverse is The Future of Human Interactionby@ishanpandey
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The Metaverse is The Future of Human Interaction

by Ishan PandeyDecember 2nd, 2022
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Upland is a virtual property strategy game with true web3 ownership that evolved into a platform. Some players refer to it as “The next Roblox, but for grownups’s ‘Roblox’ Founder Dirk Lueth says the Metaverse is an evolution of social and economic digital interactions: It is the medium where people will spend their time over the next few years, gradually eating away at other channels like social media and TV. Lueth: "The metaverse will become our daily companion -like the smart-phone today- but on a different level"

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Ishan Pandey: Hi Dirk Lueth, welcome to our series “Behind the Startup.” Please tell us about your journey and the story behind Upland?

Dirk Lueth: Once upon a time- I won't tell you when - I did a PhD in Economics about private and state-controlled currencies. When I heard about Bitcoin for the first time in 2010, I immediately dove deeper into it and its underlying technology- Blockchain. Fast forward to 2018, I had a game night with my two co-founders Mani Honigstein and Idan Zuckerman, who are from the gaming industry. We talked about our kids playing Monopoly and thought: Everyone has played this game! What if we take this board game as an inspiration while utilizing blockchain to create a new type of digital platform; a parallel world where people can play, make money and connect with others, all in the context of the real world. And voila, Upland was born ;-). Uplandme, Inc., the company behind Upland, is the fifth company I am building. I also helped over 30 startups as a mentor or advisor on strategy, execution and fundraising.

Vested Interest DisclosureThe author is an independent contributor publishing via our brand-as-author program. Be it through direct compensation, media partnerships, or networking. The author has a vested interest in the company/ies mentioned in this story. HackerNoon has reviewed the report for quality, but the claims herein belong to the author. #DYOR

What does metaverse mean to you? What is your vision of the Metaverse?

Dirk Lueth: The Metaverse is the next version of the web. It's important to note, however, that looking at it through the glasses of technology is wrong. Technology is just an enabler. The metaverse is an evolution of social and economic digital interactions: It is the medium where people will spend their time over the next few years, gradually eating away at other channels like social media and TV.

The metaverse will become our daily companion -like the smartphone today-  but on a different level. It will be where people open their businesses, where they interact with both friends and virtual communities, and where people go for entertainment.

Ishan Pandey: What is Upland and how does Upland’s in-game economy work?

Dirk Lueth: Upland is the largest metaverse mapped to the real world. It is a virtual property strategy game with true web3 ownership that evolved into a platform. Some players refer to it as “The next Roblox, but for grownups”. Others refer to it as a “layer1 metaverse” where many applications, experiences and other games are using Upland in a way apps use iOS: discoverability in the app store, tools like payment mechanisms, APIs and web3 mechanics such as the creation of virtual collectibles, in Upland, and integration with the Upland economy and its user community.

The idea is that Upland works like a (new) nation or, rather, network state where you have the four classical factors of production that make the economy work: Land, Capital, Labor and Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs run businesses in Upland, put their Capital to work via “machines” (there are manufacturing and factories in Upland), buy land to operate and labor (via a resource token called “Spark” which need to be staked to build something like a car or a house). In Upland’s in-game economy value is created very similar to the real world. A currency called UPX (which has a fixed exchange rate of $1=UPX 1,000) enables trading and paying for goods and services.

Why did you choose the EOS blockchain to build Upland rather than any other blockchains such as ETH, SOL, AVAX?

Dirk Lueth: Our goal was always to put accessibility to the masses as the first priority. We’ve had tremendous success with this, as over 60% of our users never owned an NFT before. To make this work, the experience had to be as quick, cheap and convenient as a web2 app.  Today we’re the only blockchain-based metaverse that is available across devices incl. iOS and Android, and allows for fiat in and out, with proprietary technology that allows for a non-custodial wallet while having a “web2 feel” UX/UI via email and password account creation. Transactions are free of any blockchain-based (gas) fees for our users. Also, when we open up new cities, we mint a little more than 70 NFTs per second. Hence, we need something that scales with our growth. The Upland traffic would have broken any other L1 that was available in 2018.

Long story short: Upland would not have been possible on other chains, especially when we started out in 2018. But frankly, Technology (blockchain) does not matter as long as it provides transparency, immutability and security.  What matters is building something users actually want and is easy to use. Using the unique blockchain/web3 value proposition to differentiate from Web2 applications allows us, builders, to create killer apps and platforms with added value to users and co-creators.

Ishan Pandey: Tell us about the FIFA partnership and how it may impact the adoption of the metaverse economy.

Dirk Lueth: A metaverse platform like Upland is a unique opportunity for traditional brands like FIFA to innovate the way they deliver their assets and in their engagement with fan communities around the world. For the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the Upland/FIFA partnership included two main offerings:

First, allowing fans to “own their colors”. Uplanders, old and new, can customize their virtual properties, their game pieces and other items with their favorite country’s colors. We’re seeing entire neighborhoods in Upland showing their support - just like you would in the real world! If you happen to visit Upland’s Rio, you can't miss the Brazilian flags. This also ties into the meta-entrepreneur economy. We’re seeing users manufacturing’ awesome fandom decor and selling it in their Upland shops to other users.

The second and more prominent aspect of the partnership is the FIFA bundles in Upland. This offering is built on an existing product Upland has with the NFLPA and other soccer clubs - but taken to the next level! With the first drop on Nov 15th selling out, and the second drop today (Nov 23rd) having bundles sell out in 2.5 minutes (!!!), the FIFA Legit collections are a huge success. Fans can purchase bundles with virtual FIFA items, use the items to complete collections and accumulate a fan score.

Their fan score ranking will then determine the rare collectibles and prizes they can win, such as video highlights from the 2022 games (imagine you have the one goal of the final) and owning virtual property in Upland - including the Lusail Stadium itself, where the World Cup Finals will be! We also opened up Qatar, where the players can travel to virtually and visit shops. Activities both in the metaverse and outside of it in the real world are happening throughout the matches organized by Upland’s amazing ambassadors.

Do you think Web3 developments will suffer because of the falling value of Bitcoin and the bankruptcy of major cryptocurrency players?

Dirk Lueth: No. If anything, the current industry fallout emphasizes the need for things to be built right in the industry. But we do have to make clear to the broader public that not everything can be thrown into one basket here. This will take time and we need some good and successful projects to create credibility.

Ishan Pandey: Do you believe that regulations are essential for developing the blockchain industry and promoting trust in good-intentioned blockchain entrepreneurs?

Dirk Lueth: Yes, it will help to create trust. However, I wish we could coordinate global efforts better so it becomes more equal across the board, avoiding the case that one jurisdiction is very liberal and another one is more strict.

Ishan Pandey: According to you, what new trends can we see in the blockchain industry?

Dirk Lueth: An alternative to regulation, or a healthy evolution of regulation, often starts with industry standards. That's why initiatives from within the industry are critical to the future health of web3. I am proud to have co-founded the Open Metaverse Alliance (OMA3) ( standards organization alongside industry leaders like Animova, The Sandbox and over 1000 member projects. I was honoured to have been elected Chair of OMA3 this month and I’m optimistic about our ability to move things in the right direction, together.   Focusing on the metaverse industry. one crucial aspect is the need to overcome the walled gardens by collaborating with each other. . OMA3 follows the mission to enable interoperability across the metaverse and has created the initial working groups (legal, portaling & mapping, asset transfer).

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