Metaverse Weekly: Meta Opens Brick-and-Mortar Store; an NFT Casino Crackdown; Metaverse Search Engine In the Works

A lot of blockchain metaverse boosters like to paint the newly renamed Meta as a threat to the dream of a decentralized immersive virtual world that’s free from the clutches of Big Tech. But one can say this for CEO Mark Zuckerberg: He has the sense to realize that far too little attention is being paid to the “virtual” part of virtual reality.

There’s been little focus on the hardware that will let people immerse themselves in a (mostly theoretical) 3D world: a headset with an enclosed viewscreen, with headphones and hand controls at the very least. Right now, that can be pretty basic, pretty expensive, and often both. Haptic gloves and full-body suits like those seen in the metaverse movie “Ready Player One” exist, but mostly in labs, commercial and educational settings — that’s how dental student practice drilling, and surgeons cutting — and mostly way, way outside a realistic price point for gaming.

So it was notable that Meta on Monday (May 9) opened a brick-and-mortar store in San Francisco dedicated to selling — or rather, trying out — headsets, ranging from its own Meta Quest 2 VR headsets to Ray-Ban Stories augmented reality glasses.

While you still have to go online to actually buy anything, the price tags — $299 to $399 for Meta’s Quest 2 — make it a tough sale without a test drive.

“At the Meta Store, we want you to interact with everything. We want you to pick stuff up. We want you to feel it,” the company said in its announcement.

“Once people experience the technology, they can gain a better appreciation for it,” said Martin Gilliard, head of Meta Store. “If we did our job right, people should leave and tell their friends, ‘You’ve got to go check out the Meta Store.’”

And, Meta hopes, you’ll also go online to try out its fledging Horizon Worlds, a sort of Metaverse Lite VR game.

See also: Meta Opens Its Metaverse Platform to Payments, and It Doesn’t Come Cheap

That was several days after Zuckerberg met with the CEO of eyeglass maker EssilorLuxottica to discuss smart glasses like its Ray-Bans.

They also demonstrate a prototype of Meta’s “neural interface EMG wristband” that will “eventually” let users control their VR glasses and other devices in a way that will let them interact more realistically than current hand controllers.

Read more: Zuckerberg Hints at Upcoming Wearable AR Controller

NFTs Are the New ICO

If metaverse scams are fairly rare now, be assured that they are coming, particularly in blockchain-based “Web3” metaverses that will, by their semi-decentralized nature, be more lightly policed.

That said, five state securities regulators accused a group called Flamingo Casino Club of selling allegedly fraudulent NFTs “purportedly tied to a metaverse casino,” according to a release by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities (NJBOS). The operators said they were a developing a “metaverse casino through a partnership with the Flamingo Las Vegas, an established casino operating in Nevada,” the regulators alleged, adding that the claim “is simply false.”

Warning that “scammers are already attempting to capitalize on the hype associated with metaverses and NFTs,” the agencies said they have seen “an increasing number of suspect solicitations for unregistered securities tied to the metaverse … [that play] on their emotions by falsely promising lucrative profitability, guaranteed income, financial security and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become metaverse millionaires.”

Searching the Metaverse

Startup Lightning Labs just raised seed funding to build a cross-metaverse search engine that will likely prove vital, at least in concept, to making commerce — and everything else — possible in the metaverse, even as “the metaverse” is something of a misnomer as there are dozens — and will likely be hundreds — at least in the next few year.

“Right now, discovery in the metaverse feels more like gaming, where you need to jump from one game to the next to find things, than the internet, where you can access everything from a single entry point,” said Lighthouse CEO Jonathan Brun in a statement.