Within the next five years, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) applications are expected to dramatically accelerate in popularity. This phenomenon will gain traction with mainstream users in particular. Spurred on by the latest generations of smartphone and mobile devices equipped with powerful “computational” camera technology that can capture and digitize 3D images with stunningly photorealistic visual quality, the “metaverse” concept has emerged. First coined by the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, the term metaverse describes a collective virtual shared space generated by the merging of virtually enhanced physical reality and “enhanced” physical reality persistent virtual space. It’s heady stuff that has inspired popular movies like TRON, The Matrix, Minority Report, and Inception, just to name a few.
Who is Dreamium Labs?
Los Angeles-based Dreamium Labs, a nascent startup operating in stealth mode for the past two years, is working on what I believe is an exciting technology platform focused on “mainstreaming” an AR-based capability in a narrow but potentially high-impactful manner. The company’s founder and CEO is tech veteran Mike Rubin, who believes Dreamium Labs is building something that will stand out as part of the next “big compute” era. (Disclosure: I worked with Rubin at Compaq in the 1990s). In many ways, it represents the Internet of the future. Assimilated with decentralized technologies like Web 3.0, virtual worlds, and the Internet, the company has developed a technology platform that will leverage the metaverse’s potential by quickly creating virtual personas in the form of intelligent, highly realistic avatars.
According to Rubin, Dreamium Labs is building the industry’s first decentralized cloud platform for virtual personas and its digital goods. Rubin is well aware of the exceedingly high expectations that consumer and business users have regarding virtual persona creation: these personas must interact, be highly recognizable, customizable, transportable, and intelligent. Anything short of these parameters produces a sub-standard experience that leaves the user with a gimmicky taste in its mouth.
Later this month, Dreamium Labs will launch what the company describes as the world’s first user-generated virtual persona platform that addresses these significant challenges. Available via its V2 miniiworld app on Apple iOS, users can rapidly create a jarringly realistic “minii” just from a simple selfie taken on its smartphone. These “minii” avatars are customizable with different hairstyles and outfits. But here’s where the fun comes in: the avatars can then emulate the most popular TikTok trending dances and create exportable videos with friends, family,
and celebrities. Taking things a step further, users can “transport” themselves by using a unique “miniicode” (essentially a QR code that is specific to its “minii”), which provides access to its avatar from the “miniiverse” cloud.
It’s not difficult to imagine the potential, even purely entertainment-driven, for this capability. Miniis could transform the way users create social media stories with a live avatar-narrated AR orientation, a feature that Dreamium Labs has dubbed Snips. In this way, miniiworld could allow friends and families to instantly transport its avatars so that it can play together and create fun and shareable video moments. In a world where the pandemic has mostly shut down over the past year, its functionality is appealing.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens), broadly known as scarce digital content represented as tokens, are driving a new wave of crypto adoption that Dreamium Labs is uniquely addressing. Enabled by Ethereum blockchains, gaming companies, artists, and content creators alike are applying token standards that essentially assign attribution to uniquely tangible assets. The company seeks to capitalize on content creators’ emerging desire to monetize its work in a digital world. Dreamium Labs’ virtual personas employ its iteration of NFT technology that makes them collectible, tradeable, and playable today both in blockchain-based applications as well as traditional apps.
In the same way that hardcore “action figure” collectors never break the original box’s seal to maximize its full collectability value, “minii” personas can be securely collected and traded on popular NFT exchanges and offer the additional value that let fans use them interactively in its own miniiworld video creations to post on its social media feeds. This factor is not a minor consideration as the collectibles category (which includes toys, games, action figures, and trading cards) is projected to be an $8 billion business in 2021.
Some closing thoughts
After you play with Dreamium Lab’s V2 miniiworld app and conjure up your avatar, it’s hard not to get excited about the new digital universe potential that the company is enabling. There is something indescribably unique and compelling about what the company is doing. It could represent the fabled “killer app” that opens up the metaverse’s potential to a large mainstream audience.
Enthusiasm aside, getting a mainstream audience to “accept” the technology as it matures will be challenging. Comprehending realism in avatars in a lifelike manner is a non-trivial task, and it can yield undesirable results that can get written off as too amateurish. Also, privacy considerations (particularly with the public’s fear of the “deep fakes” phenomenon) might inhibit adoption. Even less robust competitive products which lack the ownership, authentication, and privacy controls that Dreamium Labs has put into place could be a headwind from a public perception standpoint. Furthermore, the NFT space currently has a “wild, wild west” perception that diminishes the ability (at least in the short term) to leverage the monetization opportunity for digital content that the app can produce.
Though considerations aside, Dreamium Labs is raising the bar on understanding and leveraging the potential of this brave new world called the metaverse. The company is dancing in a den of well-capitalized giants —- most notably Apple, Google, Facebook, and potentially Amazon —- who will promote and push its closed ecosystems if it chooses to get into this space. Earlier this week, Microsoft flexed its muscles with the announcement of Microsoft Mesh, a platform that enables presence and shared experiences from anywhere through mixed reality applications. The company is dancing with elephants, and that’s always risky. Nevertheless, Dreamium Labs is onto something that deserves closer attention and could very well become a metaverse pioneer.