The social aspect of the metaverse has incredible potential to change how we live our lives. The problem is that right now, most social “metaverse” platforms are in VR – meaning that they can only change our lives while we’re wearing a headset. This creates a potential disconnect between our physical and virtual lives rather than an integration. Dropp has a different idea.
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Dropp wants to create a social metaverse that uses digital twins of real cities as a virtual scaffolding to build AR experiences. And, today, September 8, they’ve announced the acquisition of just the company to help them do it. To learn more, ARPost talked with Dropp’s CEO and co-founder Gurps Rai.
“I would call us a feature-forward Web3 enabler,” said Rai. “The genesis of the company was really around experiential commerce.”
Some of DroppLabs’ earliest claims to fame involved a toolset that allowed viewers to purchase objects in real time by clicking on them in a video player. One of the biggest successes involved recording artists wearing merch in videos that viewers could order for themselves by clicking the clothing item. The service is now offered in AR as well, and has grown in other ways.
“Since then, we’ve also added the capability for artists to create NFTs inside of their music videos, which brought us into the ‘phygital’ space,” said Rai.
The concept of the ‘phygital’ experience has been one that Rai has been eagerly awaiting, even though he wasn’t sure how it would work. Until recently, that is.
“The metaverse is this convergence of the physical and digital worlds,” said Rai. “You can [physically] walk down 5th Avenue and have a similar experience to someone walking down 5th Avenue in the [virtual] version.”
To Rai, Flyy was a missing link.
The “Real-World Social Metaverse”
Flyy operates a “real-world social metaverse company” built around digital twins. “Digital twin” can mean a lot of things, but in this case it’s a digitally reconstructed physical space. In the case of Flyy, these digital twins allow users to post messages tagged to physical locations.
These messages can be encountered on the street through an AR mobile app, but they can also be seen in a thousand-foot view giving live information about an entire area – kind of like some seasonal applications of the Snap Map. Today, Dropp announced acquiring Flyy for a cool $25M.
“I am thrilled to bring Flyy into the Dropp Group portfolio. Collectively, we’re now poised to revolutionize the metaverse and Web3 industries,” Adel Al Massarani said in a release shared with ARPost. Al Massarani is the founder of Flyy and had served as CEO – though following the acquisition he will transition to “Chief Metaverse Officer” at Dropp.
The great upside of Flyy – the use of digital twins – is also its largest obstacle. These twins have to be painstakingly produced in order for the service to work properly in a given area. Rai explained that the company’s current phase is “getting Manhattan up and running.” The task is both incredibly large and, in terms of the scale of a real-world metaverse, incredibly small.
But, the plan offers an incredibly detailed solution that avoids many of the problems of other “virtual real estate” platforms. Each digital twin of each building can be sold as its own NFT. The team is still deciding which blockchain they want to use, but before they cross that bridge they still have to think about building out their virtual world.
“The idea is to keep building [Flyy’s] team and build with other developers to scale,” said Rai.
A Few Tall Orders
Without getting into the intricacies of NFTs, the idea of having NFTs of individual buildings is at least as tall an order as having a digital twin for each building. Further, other organizations are already making digital twins of the world, but these are seldom integrated into robust applications in any meaningful way.
But, like every other monumental objective that Drop offers, their approach has some huge potential benefits. The model is intended to operate as a sort of spatial domain for properties. It also means that owners don’t have to purchase whole city blocks like with other virtual real estate platforms.
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Further, Dropp is working with the owners of the buildings themselves, rather than setting up the model that anyone can own the virtual stake on someone else’s physical property. This prevents any random person from buying the digital twin of someone else’s building. It’s also required from a software perspective to build the digital twin itself.
Rai also says that NFT buildings will help when the company is ready to explore interoperability with other platforms. But, this may be a sticky situation. As noted, there are other “real-world metaverse” platforms out there. Will platforms that all promote owning the virtual rights to physical land be able to cooperate with companies that have sold those rights to someone else?
And will other real-world metaverse platforms have difficulty with interoperability in the real world because of physical spaces having multiple digital owners? Different AR companies from Darabase to ARIA have different approaches to these issues but the question is becoming more complicated rather than less complicated.
A Complicated Ecosystem
Rai spoke of the metaverse as being a convergence of other emerging technologies and Dropp is a microcosm of that.
By using digital twins, blockchain, and lots of classic Web2 know-how, the company is presenting a model that will take a lot of work but may solve a lot of problems and offer unprecedented utility. But they’ll have to find the right place in the ecosystem to make it all work.