Welcome to This Week in the Metaverse, where Fortune rounds up the most interesting news pertaining to NFTs, culture, and virtual worlds. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with tips.
Apple may have fallen short of analyst expectations with its earnings on Thursday, but its metaverse ambitions are still flying high. According to a recent report by the Information, the company is working on a way for users to create augmented reality apps for the App Store with the help of Siri.
The company is also developing a way for users to create 3D models from real-life objects, which will be helpful for realistic AR applications. Apple also is rumored to be working on glasses that will have both AR and VR capabilities, but the company is more interested in AR.
Crypto-enabled metaverses like The Sandbox and Decentraland also had some good news this week. The cryptocurrencies associated with both platforms were up 94% and 156%, respectively for January and outpaced both Bitcoin and Ether, which saw double-digit gains this month.
The boost in the two bigger cryptocurrencies may have contributed to increased optimism for the metaverse tokens, but both platforms also have some exciting developments in the works. Decentraland will be hosting its Metaverse Fashion Week in March. Last year, it attracted big-name brands like Dolce & Gabbana, so it could be a good opportunity to attract institutional interest to the platform.
As for the Sandbox, a spokesperson told Fortune that they have several announcements and partnerships in the works.
“Our main priority is solely to build,” the spokesperson said.
Elsewhere in the world of Web3, NFTs are experiencing a resurgence. Sales jumped 38% in January, Decrypt reported, based on data from DappRadar, with sales totaling $946.7 million during the month, compared with $683.9 million in December. The renewed investor optimism made January the strongest NFT market in terms of the number of sales since February 2022.
Ever wanted to see an augmented reality version of your (legal) cannabis before you buy it? Using startup WEEDAR’s mobile app, its 5,000 customers in California can see realistic 3D images of cannabis products like vapes or edibles right in front of them that they can zoom in on, and even open, to reveal the contents. Customers can then order the products directly through the app. WEEDAR’s founder, Jonathan Bohun, told Fortune that the AR feature is meant for a post-COVID world where cannabis dispensaries are increasingly wary of customers touching their products.
In addition to AR, the company is also focused on customer loyalty through NFTs. By giving out free NFTs, created in collaboration with artists, for customers ordering through their platform, WEEDAR claims to be putting money back in customers’ pockets. The NFTs can be used for discounts with different cannabis brands or resold on secondary markets like OpenSea.
Bohun said the 23-person company recently raised $1.5 million and plans to use the money to help it expand beyond California to at least three different states in 2023, starting with Washington.
“We’re going to build more augmented reality experiences,” Bohun told Fortune. “We’re going to add and finish some augmented reality games that not only brands but shops will be able to use to attract more customers and stimulate sales.”
In other news
French luxury brand Hermès is in court this week over a squabble with the creator of the MetaBirkins, a collection of 100 digital handbags that look similar to the real thing, and sometimes have sold at similar prices. While creator Mason Rothschild said the NFT collection represents freedom of expression, Hermès wants him to hand over his profits plus financial damages and to destroy the NFTs. The case could bring some clarity on how much control brands have over their image in the world of Web3 tech.
Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot and Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami announced a new line of 13 unique physical timepieces with associated NFTs. The NFTs are inspired by Japanese video games in the 1970s as well as the product of the pair’s first collaboration, the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black timepiece. Twelve of the watches can only be purchased on Hublot’s website by owners of one of the 324 NFTs issued in April 2022 as part of a previous collaboration between Hublot and the artist.
OpenSea recorded more sales for Polygon-based NFTs than Ethereum-based ones for the second straight month, Decrypt reported. The secondary marketplace saw customers buy 1.5 million Polygon NFTs and just 1.1 million Ethereum NFTs in January. Ethereum is traditionally the most popular blockchain for NFTs.
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