Metaverse: These Dutch entrepreneurs are building a world where anything is possible

“The metaverse is an open canvas,” says Alex van der Baan. He is co-founder of the Dutch company Beemup. “You can achieve very special things. For example, we created an office environment where you can bring someone together in Utrecht, Milan and Beijing. You can break all the laws of physics.”

virtual environments

Beemup wants to make money on behalf of companies and other providers of virtual environments (‘metaspaces’) in the metaverse. And building storylines and designing avatars (representations of users) that walk or fly.

Its clients are organizers of live events, talk shows and companies that organize meetings or launch products. Beemup is a kind of advertising agency and software company in one.

Smartphone, PC or VR glasses

The virtual worlds the startup is building can be visited with a smartphone, PC or VR headset. They call it “a 3D version of the Internet,” one that you walk into and become a part of. Van der Baan: “You have so many more options, anything goes or falls with a good creative concept. We see it as the next evolution of the internet.”

Visitors can spend money through so-called NFTs (non-fungible tokens) for sale. These are digital products that can be anything: a concert ticket, but also something you use in the metaverse, for example. But visitors can also experience something, like walking through their next home in the new residential area where they will soon be living, for which the company wants to partner with a large Dutch construction company.

What is the metaverse?

Virtual worlds are not new. Years ago you already had Second Life. But suppose you link all these worlds together. So that a great virtual world is created. So you talk about the metaverse. A shared virtual world where virtual reality and the real world come together.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sees the metaverse as the successor or new version of the Internet, which largely consists of 3D environments, where people can do things together. If we’re to believe Zuckerberg, we’re going to be spending a lot of time there five to 10 years from now.

And it’s not just Zuckerberg saying that, but other tech company bosses as well. From Meta (until recently Facebook) and Microsoft to Amazon and chip company Nvidia – every major tech company sees a future in the metaverse.

But whether it’s a virtual conference room, a history lesson at the Colosseum, or a concert: someone has to build those worlds. And that also applies to things that will be sold in the metaverse. Instead of putting a car ad in that world, you might as well let someone drive that car for themselves, Epic boss Tim Sweeney once described.

open source

Another Dutch company that has plunged into the metaverse is Odyssey. They look at this new world in a completely different way: with open source available software that users can customize to their liking. “Momentum is a kind of WordPress for your own 3D world in the metaverse. Everyone can help build with templates and plugins,” says founder Rutger van Zuidam. “The community should benefit from it.”

The idea came about in 2020 because the Odyssey hackathon, where participants from around the world build software solutions for complex problems with businesses, government organizations and NGOs, couldn’t take place due to the coronavirus. Van Zuidam: “After two postponements, I thought: then we should make this situation an opportunity where we try to do something other than the disconnected experience is going to replace, but that creates a completely new type of experience”.

€4 million

According to him, Momentum should become a platform where people from all over the world work together in the broadest sense, for example in innovation, art, education, politics or design.

“You can see the activities and results of others, which shows you what you can contribute.” The Dutch startup has fifteen employees and recently raised €4 million from investors.

Odyssey doesn’t have a traditional profit motive with Momentum, as the newly launched software program has been called. “We want to make sure that people can manage things for themselves as much as possible. In an open network where no one party is in control. Our model is: no ads. We don’t want to collect data from people and organizations.”

I’m still getting used to it

While entrepreneurs are already very excited, the general public has yet to get used to the metaverse. “It’s still very abstract, because nobody really knows what’s coming or has a vision of where it’s going,” says Elmar Eisemann, professor of computer graphics and visualization at TU Delft. “There are also technical problems.”

The latter has mainly to do with the state of virtual reality: not everyone has VR glasses or headsets at home. Good glasses are expensive and the quality of the cheaper variants is usually mediocre. Eisemann: “Then you can get nauseous as a user. These are the problems you have to solve before it can work on a large scale.”

According to the professor, a standard is also needed for the metaverse. “The Internet is a good example. You can use different search engines on the Internet. That’s Google now, but not before. You’ll also get that with the metaverse.” According to Eisemann, people will come up with different things to connect the 3D environments of the metaverse. “How exactly that happens is still a problem. But if it works, that’s fantastic.”

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