What does the metaverse mean and how are Austin developers thinking of gamifying your life in the new realm
Joshua Johnson's work is centered on advancements for the metaverse where he’s immersed in a world of portals and digital twins.
If it sounds like it’s out of a science fiction novel, that’s because it is. The metaverse—a combination of meta and universe—traces its history back to a book released in the 90s called "Snow Crash."
But the idea has developed since then. To Johnson, a smart world architect for Beyond Meta, what he calls spacial Web3 is at the heart of the metaverse. That includes augmented reality, extended reality and virtual reality tech.
In some ways, it’s had a shaky start. Facebook, which changed its name to Meta because of the promise it sees in the space, spent $10 billion on it last year and saw profit drag. Others note that the equipment commonly used in the metaverse like VR headsets and augmented reality glasses can bring discomfort and motion sickness.
Still, Johnson thinks the coming years will see wider use of the metaverse. He sees a future where everyone has their own verse in the metaverse, similar to how people have a social media presence or website.
And he finds brands will have an important role, too. He sees a key development for this will come in the form of containers called Meta Pods. They’d likely be standard shipping containers that people walk into, serving as a physical portal to the metaverse, and it could be customized by brand.
As an example, Johnson said it could involve someone buying a pair of Nike shoes and you also buy a “digital twin” of them that you can wear in the metaverse and then play in Roblox.
“More and more now what we’re focused on is digital twins and connecting real-life value. And then connecting that and making gamified commerce and we call it 'ownification,'” Johnson said. He went on to say ownification is owning your own data and processes. “Ownification is really helping you gamify your life in a way that benefits you.”
In Austin, it’s not just large companies making moves on the metaverse. Emanuel Palalic has been in game development for years working on big-name mobile and PC games like DOOM Eternal and Quake Champions. But after work, he’s running his own company that works in tandem with the Metaverse.
Known as Empty Vessel, it’s a team of four in the early stages of sharable content that Palalic is quiet on until it reaches closer to its launch. It also helps Web3 projects with 3D pipelines.
Palalic notices Austin has game studios, big tech like Meta and Apple, plus a growing crypto scene.
“I think it creates this weird, but perfect blend for these types of projects because I think Austin will have easier access to the talent pool required for that,” Palalic said. “And the city’s culture is very entrepreneurial and forward-thinking when it comes to tech.”
From the user standpoint though, there could be some barriers to wider adoption as concerns rise of cybercrime in the metaverse. For example, a beta tester of Meta’s VR platform Horizon Worlds was reportedly virtually groped last year. Palalic considered this and the potential for other problems like hate speech, saying bigger companies may be working on mitigating these harms using tools like AI or blocking capabilities.
“I am very curious what the conversation will be like on a legal standpoint because as more people get on board and as more people are interacting with universes, the public’s opinion of what happens in digital, physical spaces is going to completely change,” Palalic said.
Still, being a part of shaping the metaverse in its infancy is a thrill to Palalic.
“I think that excitement just carries over with everyone you’re working with or everyone you meet, especially in Austin; there are so many people in Austin working on this stuff,” Palalic said. “It’s always neat when you go to some of the meetups and everyone’s just as excited, just as giddy building out all these different types of projects.”
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Everyone knows that Austin has built its reputation on being “the Live Music Capital of the World.”
Whether you’re being greeted by a guitar-laden crooner upon arrival at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport or enjoying breakfast tacos in the shadow of statue and mural tributes to legends like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan, nods to the famous moniker are apparent throughout the city.
But following a pandemic that turned the entire world upside down, what’s it actually like to be a musician in Austin right now?
Julie Nolen has been part of the local music scene for 23 years, not only as an alt-country artist but also as the host of open mic and songwriter nights across the city. She said her goal is “to keep getting better and meet a few heroes along the way.”
Nolen described the Austin music community “like a college – you can learn from the best here.” She said that while it can be difficult to make ends meet at times, musicians are fortunate to lean on local organizations such as the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and the SIMS Foundation, which offers mental health and substance use recovery services for those in the music industry.
She added that the pandemic caused her to shift focus from performing to talent buying. After initially booking music for the Rustic Tap, Nolen’s reputation as a talent buyer spread – her Pearlsnap Music Group now books for eight bars and produces one festival – the OUTlaw Pride Fest, which is this Saturday, Sept. 24 – each year.
Bobby Cheatham and Liz Feezor, founding members of synth-rock band Candy Riot, said the pandemic forced them to write lyrics first, then build music around the words.
“We were heartbroken when Austin’s music scene shattered for 20 months,” Cheatham and Feezor said. “Writing, rehearsing, recording and performing are all communal activities, so we’re grateful to see everything and everyone come back together.”
The band, which has now expanded to include Ricky Rodriguez and Erica Porter, held a launch party for its debut album, “Moonstar,” earlier this month and will release a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” in collaboration with the Foxtales on Oct. 4. A show at Empire Control Room and a music video release for the band’s single, “Black Tie,” are also planned for November.
“We take emotions and give them a soundtrack, and hopefully some people will like the songs,” Cheatham and Feezor said, adding that their music was featured recently on 101X Homegrown. “It feels good when they’re played on the radio and when friends come to the shows. The band has given us great opportunities to create art, befriend other musicians and spend more time having fun.”
“You'd better be really different and good, but more than anything, you'd better work really hard. Harder than everybody else.” - Bobby Cheatham and Liz Feezor
Cheatham and Feezor said the challenges facing new bands in Austin post-pandemic include finding places to play, writing music and finding the money to record. They added that new bands also need “good songs, pretty pictures, a well-written bio, and traction on social media to get the attention of the venues. Knowing the right people is also important.”
Nolen said that while music is still abundantly available in Austin, pay, fair treatment, affordable housing and transportation also remain major issues for artists. She added, however, that Austin remains “very receptive” to new bands and that, like so many other things, making it in the music business here comes down to hard work.
“Mostly it's how to differentiate yourself from the rest of the hay in the haystack,” Nolen said. “You'd better be really different and good, but more than anything, you'd better work really hard. Harder than everybody else.”
Camp Fimfo Waco, a brand new camping resort, is kicking off football and fall camping season in style! With top-notch amenities, premium accommodations, and 10 weekends of fall fun, there’s no better place to have a fall camping getaway, especially if you’re a Baylor football fan!
Fall promises to be a one-of-a-kind camping experience. From Sept. 16 to Nov. 24, weekends will be packed with fall-themed activities, including special Halloween weekends in October. Campers can enjoy activities like fall crafts, campground trick-or-treating, costume contests, site decorating, outdoor movie nights, and more!
Packages and Ways to Stay
Camp Fimfo Waco
Located just 5 miles from McLane Stadium, Camp Fimfo Waco is the perfect place to stay during home game weekends. Skip the stuffy hotel room and embrace the great outdoors before cheering on the Baylor Bears! Campers can purchase a Baylor Tailgating Package that includes a pre-game meal from Executive Chef Sean Kelley and transportation to and from the game! Chef Kelley will also be cooking up delicious, elevated tailgating meals near the stadium so make sure to check out The Plaid Plate food truck before the game.
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Don’t have an RV? Not a problem, Camp Fimfo Waco has cabins too! Book a Riverview Firewheel Cabin if you’re looking for an air-conditioned oasis for the whole family. Complete with a kitchen and private bathroom, this cabin can fit up to 10 people. Elevate your stay by adding on a golf cart or snag a private cabana by the pool for guaranteed shade. With wifi available throughout the park, you can stay connected during your stay!
Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
Camp Fimfo Waco features lots of amenities to fill your days with fun, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart. After challenging your friends to a game of pickleball, basketball, or mini golf, go for a dip in the resort-style, heated pool - open daily through October! Stay on the weekends through October to enjoy the interactive splash playground. With plenty of ways to burn off energy, like the jumping pillow or playground, you can be sure to end the day with a peaceful night around the campfire!
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