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Surfing the Metaverse’s Real Estate Boom

High prices have pushed some toward collective ownership, but the future of virtual properties is uncertain

3 min read
​MetaOasis DAO metaverse The Sandbox

The MetaOasis decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) plans to build out an elaborate headquarters in the virtual world The Sandbox.

MetaOasis DAO

The real estate boom isn’t limited to reality. A prime plot in Decentraland, a metaverse platform, sold for the equivalent of US $2.4 million dollars in November of 2021, and less desirable land often sells for six figures.

This creates a problem all too common in the real world. Many who’d like to own a plot in the metaverse are now priced out. So metaverse decentralized autonomous organizations (a.k.a. DAOs, sometimes jokingly referred to as “group chats with a bank account”) are forming to solve this. In the process, the DAO creates a new model for virtual property ownership.

But is the demand truly sustainable?

DAOs purchase, sell, and hold blockchain assets without control from a central authority. Buying the DAO’s token grants rights to influence decisions, often in proportion with ownership, though the specifics vary between groups.

“It’s largely a combination of a long-term, rather speculative investment, and the current utility that digital land provides, with the former currently dwarfing the latter.”
—Mihai Vicol, Newzoo

The purpose of a metaverse DAO might seem straightforward: Buying gives you a stake in the metaverse even if you can’t afford a plot—right? Well, that depends.

PangeaDAO is among the more traditional groups. A recent post on the DAO’s Mirror page claims “virtual land will one day be a yield-bearing, high-appreciation asset” that consistently generates revenue. PangeaDAO wants to buy virtual real estate, develop it, lease it, or sell it as an asset, much as real estate investment trusts do with real-world properties. The DAO is still in a very preliminary (what’s called a “pre-whitelist”) phase, though, and so it does not yet own actual properties in the metaverse.

EnterDAO is already renting metaverse property in Decentraland, which puts it ahead of the curve. Yet that’s not its only goal. Its land rental marketplace, Landworks, is just one of two major initiatives. The other is MetaPortal, a desktop app meant to serve as a portal into multiple metaverse games. Both projects are related to the metaverse, but that’s where the similarities end.

Another spin on the concept can be found at MetaOasis DAO (not to be confused with MetaOasis, a separate metaverse project). Though pitched as a “new paradigm in real estate development,” activity on the DAO’s Discord channel, and a recent council meeting, seems focused on development of City Oasis, a specific plot the DAO owns in The Sandbox metaverse. The DAO has also moved to issue NFT avatars called Zzoopers, each with its own backstory. The result looks like an investment group and a video-game developer thrown in a blender.

Metaverse DAOs are pitched on the promise of making metaverse ownership more accessible, but it’s still early days. PangeaDAO, as mentioned, is still organizing. MetaOasis DAO owns 35 plots in The Sandbox but has yet to develop most. EnterDAO has rented a few dozen plots in Decentraland since February of 2022, though mostly at rates below $10 a day.

MetaOasis DAO has also moved to issue NFT avatars called Zzoopers, each with its own backstory. The result looks like an investment group and a video-game developer thrown in a blender.

So what, then, is the ultimate point of virtual land?

The differences between each metaverse DAO highlights the messiness of the metaverse in 2022. Interest is high, but the point of owning a chunk of the metaverse differs significantly from one buyer to the next.

“It’s largely a combination of a long-term, rather speculative investment, and the current utility that digital land provides, with the former currently dwarfing the latter,” Mihai Vicol, junior market analyst at Newzoo, said in an email.

For speculators, that goal is obvious: profit. For everyone else, virtual real estate is a bet on the metaverse, an attempt to boost a brand, an opportunity to generate revenue on virtual goods, or possibly all that, and more. A high-traffic spot is a bit like a flagship property in downtown San Francisco or Hong Kong. British multinational bank HSBC, for example, owns land in The Sandbox and aspires to entertain users with educational games.

HSBC Stadium in the metaverseHSBC Stadium shows how brands hope to boost their visibility in the metaverse.HSBC

“It is brands that stand to gain the most by establishing a 3D digital presence in the metaverse,” says Vicol. “Owning digital land… allows brands to advertise themselves to younger generations and to interact with them in a way that users of these virtual worlds perceive as more natural.”

Vicol points out that Roblox, an online game platform that lets players create their own games and experiences, has over 200 million monthly active users. Today’s metaverse platforms are tiny by comparison, but virtual real estate in a successful metaverse could be valuable for any company or person looking to connect with a younger audience.

For now, however, everyone crowding into metaverse real estate—be it through a DAO or direct investment—is buying and building with hope an audience will eventually arrive. Whether that will prove true is anyone’s guess.

The Conversation (4)
Tom Craver03 Apr, 2022

Virtual real estate can have lasting value, but it'll take more than staking out some territory in virtual worlds and waiting for the price to rise - because if that approach starts to get profitable, hordes of immitators will flood the market with virtual real estate and copy-cat 'experiences'.

Use of real world copyright and branding can be one key to successfully creating valuable virtual real estate. So Marvel Universe, DC universe, Disney Classics, etc. Maybe some high-profile regional attractions if they trademark or copyright or otherwise control virtual representations of their sights and sounds - New Orleans, Paris, Rome, Santorini, etc. Anything that can consistently and independently draw a large number of 'guests', whose presence in turn will draw businesses who want to establish virtual residence 'nearby' to extract profits from those guests and who might be required to provide additional interesting experiences to draw in more guests in a virtuous cycle.

Dinko Dinkov28 Mar, 2022

Well if you look in to Aftermath Islands Metaverse you will see that you can buy 1000 square meters plot in the Metaverse for as low as 35 USD. Also you can use PayPal or Coinbase tp purchace ot. It is pretty straight forward. is the website. They have different promotions all the time. Also their parent company is Liquid Avatar Technologies which is a publically listed company in USA, Canada and Europe. Check them out and you will see that you don't need to spend thousands to enter the metaverse.

FB TS26 Mar, 2022

Or a what if the owner just creates a new & better metaverse world & so the old one becomes outdated & worthless anyway?

The Inner Beauty of Basic Electronics

Open Circuits showcases the surprising complexity of passive components

5 min read
A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.
All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay

Eric Schlaepfer was trying to fix a broken piece of test equipment when he came across the cause of the problem—a troubled tantalum capacitor. The component had somehow shorted out, and he wanted to know why. So he polished it down for a look inside. He never found the source of the short, but he and his collaborator, Windell H. Oskay, discovered something even better: a breathtaking hidden world inside electronics. What followed were hours and hours of polishing, cleaning, and photography that resulted in Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components (No Starch Press, 2022), an excerpt of which follows. As the authors write, everything about these components is deliberately designed to meet specific technical needs, but that design leads to “accidental beauty: the emergent aesthetics of things you were never expected to see.”

From a book that spans the wide world of electronics, what we at IEEE Spectrum found surprisingly compelling were the insides of things we don’t spend much time thinking about, passive components. Transistors, LEDs, and other semiconductors may be where the action is, but the simple physics of resistors, capacitors, and inductors have their own sort of splendor.

High-Stability Film Resistor

A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.

All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay

This high-stability film resistor, about 4 millimeters in diameter, is made in much the same way as its inexpensive carbon-film cousin, but with exacting precision. A ceramic rod is coated with a fine layer of resistive film (thin metal, metal oxide, or carbon) and then a perfectly uniform helical groove is machined into the film.

Instead of coating the resistor with an epoxy, it’s hermetically sealed in a lustrous little glass envelope. This makes the resistor more robust, ideal for specialized cases such as precision reference instrumentation, where long-term stability of the resistor is critical. The glass envelope provides better isolation against moisture and other environmental changes than standard coatings like epoxy.

15-Turn Trimmer Potentiometer

A photo of a blue chip
A photo of a blue chip on a circuit board.

It takes 15 rotations of an adjustment screw to move a 15-turn trimmer potentiometer from one end of its resistive range to the other. Circuits that need to be adjusted with fine resolution control use this type of trimmer pot instead of the single-turn variety.

The resistive element in this trimmer is a strip of cermet—a composite of ceramic and metal—silk-screened on a white ceramic substrate. Screen-printed metal links each end of the strip to the connecting wires. It’s a flattened, linear version of the horseshoe-shaped resistive element in single-turn trimmers.

Turning the adjustment screw moves a plastic slider along a track. The wiper is a spring finger, a spring-loaded metal contact, attached to the slider. It makes contact between a metal strip and the selected point on the strip of resistive film.

Ceramic Disc Capacitor

A cutaway of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor
A photo of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor

Capacitors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of static electricity. They’re used in countless ways, including for bulk energy storage, to smooth out electronic signals, and as computer memory cells. The simplest capacitor consists of two parallel metal plates with a gap between them, but capacitors can take many forms so long as there are two conductive surfaces, called electrodes, separated by an insulator.

A ceramic disc capacitor is a low-cost capacitor that is frequently found in appliances and toys. Its insulator is a ceramic disc, and its two parallel plates are extremely thin metal coatings that are evaporated or sputtered onto the disc’s outer surfaces. Connecting wires are attached using solder, and the whole assembly is dipped into a porous coating material that dries hard and protects the capacitor from damage.

Film Capacitor

An image of a cut away of a capacitor
A photo of a green capacitor.

Film capacitors are frequently found in high-quality audio equipment, such as headphone amplifiers, record players, graphic equalizers, and radio tuners. Their key feature is that the dielectric material is a plastic film, such as polyester or polypropylene.

The metal electrodes of this film capacitor are vacuum-deposited on the surfaces of long strips of plastic film. After the leads are attached, the films are rolled up and dipped into an epoxy that binds the assembly together. Then the completed assembly is dipped in a tough outer coating and marked with its value.

Other types of film capacitors are made by stacking flat layers of metallized plastic film, rather than rolling up layers of film.

Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

A photo of a cutaway of a Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

At the core of this capacitor is a porous pellet of tantalum metal. The pellet is made from tantalum powder and sintered, or compressed at a high temperature, into a dense, spongelike solid.

Just like a kitchen sponge, the resulting pellet has a high surface area per unit volume. The pellet is then anodized, creating an insulating oxide layer with an equally high surface area. This process packs a lot of capacitance into a compact device, using spongelike geometry rather than the stacked or rolled layers that most other capacitors use.

The device’s positive terminal, or anode, is connected directly to the tantalum metal. The negative terminal, or cathode, is formed by a thin layer of conductive manganese dioxide coating the pellet.

Axial Inductor

An image of a cutaway of a Axial Inductor
A photo of a collection of cut wires

Inductors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of a magnetic field. They’re used, for example, in some types of power supplies to convert between voltages by alternately storing and releasing energy. This energy-efficient design helps maximize the battery life of cellphones and other portable electronics.

Inductors typically consist of a coil of insulated wire wrapped around a core of magnetic material like iron or ferrite, a ceramic filled with iron oxide. Current flowing around the core produces a magnetic field that acts as a sort of flywheel for current, smoothing out changes in the current as it flows through the inductor.

This axial inductor has a number of turns of varnished copper wire wrapped around a ferrite form and soldered to copper leads on its two ends. It has several layers of protection: a clear varnish over the windings, a light-green coating around the solder joints, and a striking green outer coating to protect the whole component and provide a surface for the colorful stripes that indicate its inductance value.

Power Supply Transformer

A photo of a collection of cut wires
A photo of a yellow element on a circuit board.

This transformer has multiple sets of windings and is used in a power supply to create multiple output AC voltages from a single AC input such as a wall outlet.

The small wires nearer the center are “high impedance” turns of magnet wire. These windings carry a higher voltage but a lower current. They’re protected by several layers of tape, a copper-foil electrostatic shield, and more tape.

The outer “low impedance” windings are made with thicker insulated wire and fewer turns. They handle a lower voltage but a higher current.

All of the windings are wrapped around a black plastic bobbin. Two pieces of ferrite ceramic are bonded together to form the magnetic core at the heart of the transformer.

This article appears in the February 2023 print issue.