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Issue #11 – Playing With Reality – The Metaverse 🚀🔮🌟

Thijs Pepping
May 17, 2021

“Playing with Reality” is the title of our upcoming book on synthetic media and the follow-up to our 2008 book “Me the Media”. Playing with Reality is about how humans continuously manipulate reality and how new digital technology tools enable us to go one step further in this ancient game. This includes modern phenomena like conspiracy theories such as QAnon, Deepfakes, and fake news, but also virtual humans such as CGI Influencer Lil Miquela and virtual worlds like Fortnite.

The development of the metaverse is accelerating at breakneck speed. More and more companies and brands are entering virtual worlds, gaming, virtual fashion etcetera, than ever before. Last week, the concept of the metaverse was even discussed during the trial between Epic and Apple. Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, stated, “Our aim of Fortnite is to build something like a metaverse from science fiction. […] It’s a virtual world for socializing and entertainment.” A week before the trial, during an investment call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella mentioned the metaverse as well, “As the virtual and physical worlds converge, the metaverse comprised of digital twins, simulated environments and mixed reality is emerging as a first-class platform.”

In this week’s newsletter we look at some of the initiatives that are now happening in the metaverse.

The Strange, Soothing World of Instagram’s Computer-Generated Interiors

It’s called “renderporn”, high definition images on Instagram that show all sorts of surroundings, buildings and furniture that look realistic but are in fact unreal.
“The residence, Villa Saraceni, was the work of designers Riccardo Fornoni and Charlotte Taylor. It also didn’t exist in real life: the house was built with rendering software, and its design was entirely speculative. […] Instagram is full of such images: living rooms, patios, bedrooms, and estates that do not and will never exist. […] The polished silver capsules are an appropriate, if jarring, frame for the uncanny, ethereal images they contain: an imitation of real-world constraints, and a reflection of the artificial scarcity manufactured by the N.F.T. economy. “Virtual worlds pose very exciting opportunities,” Taylor told me. The “movement toward the metaverse,” she said, seemed like the logical next step.”


Genies Raises $65 Million To Bring More Celebs And Artists Into The Metaverse As 3D avatars.

This week avatar startup Genies announced that it has raised $65 million. The funds will be used to develop Genies’ NFT Marketplace, allowing users to produce and trade tokenized avatars, clothing, and accessories.

Genies is a 3D avatar company.

Genies has raised $65 million to boost its avatar creator, which the company is touting for virtual identity and wearable digital goods. The company wants to become the virtual identity for people to express themselves in the digital world. It started with celebrities to capture moments for events such as album releases, song drops, and guest appearances, and it saw greater use over the pandemic. That has helped celebrities generate revenue even when they can’t go someplace in person. And now Genies is expanding this to wider groups of consumers in beta form.”

The Meebits

This week the Meebits were launched. They are 20,000 collectible 3D characters with a no fee trading marketplace. Owners of a Meebit are given access to an additional asset pack that include the full 3D model. You can use it to render and animate your Meebit, or use it as your avatar in the metaverse.
Immediately after the launch the Meebits were sold out. Some of them were sold for six figures, adding fuel to the crypto bubble.

AI Dungeon Has A Dark Side

Online game AI Dungeon is a new form of human-machine collaboration. The game is inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and uses text-generation technology from artificial intelligence company OpenAI to create a personalized adventure game. Last month, OpenAI says, it discovered AI Dungeon also shows a dark side to human-AI collaboration. “A new monitoring system revealed that some players were typing words that caused the game to generate stories depicting sexual encounters involving children.”

MUST SEE: This Is Cinema

By using the duet function within TikTok people create the most fantastic videos. Watch how a video where a TikToker not only announces his birthday, but also introduces his girlfriend in a most awkward way, goes viral after it’s embraced by the TikTok community. To me this is cinema.

Join Our Upcoming Reality Show

On the 15th of June 2021 we are organizing our yearly summit. This year we try to answer the question how digital technology is changing our relationship with reality. So if you want to know more about deepfakes, virtual humans, cgi influencers, synthetic media, AR, VR and mixed reality, please register yourself. And it’s free!


Playing with Reality is a weekly newsletter in which SogetiLabs’s Research Institute VINT examines the future where synthetic reality becomes part or our objective reality. We investigate the impact of new technology on people, organisations and our society. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact us. You can reach us at

About the author

Trend Analyst VINT | Netherlands
Thijs Pepping is a humanistic trend analyst in the field of new technologies. He is part of the think tank within SogetiLabs and in his work he continuously wonders and analyses what the impact of New Technologies is on our lives, organizations and society.


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