MET AMS is according to the organizers the largest metaverse festival in Europe. The term metaverse refers to virtual worlds in which people meet at a distance. Such metaverses have been around for a long time, the popular 3D worlds Minecraft and Roblox being examples, but big tech companies will be diving into them for years to come as well. Not surprisingly, Facebook’s parent company changed its name to Meta last year.
The metaverse sounds like an ideal topic for a virtual event, but MET AMS focuses on real-world experiences and encounters, says co-founder Rik Woldring. “It’s more than a conference. You should also be able to experience different things, like at a festival. There are art installations and concerts. And you can order Magnum ice cream from us in the metaverse and have it delivered to the festival.”
The technology that MET AMS is about flourished during the coronavirus pandemic. “As a result, many of the people involved only know each other online. We’re bringing them together for the first time,” Woldring said. Partly because of this, MET AMS also attracts visitors from around the world. “Thirty percent of our visitors come from abroad, really from everywhere: Lithuania, Turkey, Hong Kong, Dubai.”
From Volkswagen to Kwebbelkop
Speakers at the festival include personalities from the virtual world Decentraland, car manufacturer Volkswagen and digital fashion company The Fabricant. But also featuring YouTuber Kwebbelkop, now also an NFT entrepreneur, and digital artists like Dadara and Rik Oostenbroek. Much attention is paid to art and culture. Woldring: “During the corona pandemic, you saw artists and artists switch from physical to digital. For example, with live broadcasts, but also with performances on Roblox or Fortnite. Therefore, we focus not only on builders and technicians , but also creative. They tell us why their lives have been enriched by these techniques. Some digital artists gather with their fans around our festival.”
According to Woldring, the show is “more diverse” than comparable tech events. For example, there are sessions on how virtual worlds can be as inclusive as possible and how sports clubs can make virtual connections with fans, as well as how companies can sell products in the metaverse. “We don’t limit ourselves to just technology, finance, or a particular sector. We want to make it interesting to a broader audience. We want people to think about what the applications of these techniques might be. And we show an interesting use, see cases.
‘NFTs are more than money’
In addition to the metaverse, MET AMS pays close attention to NFT and Web3. NFTs are digital property titles, which can be used to trade virtual works of art. NFTs are an example of Web3, an umbrella term for decentralized techniques, such as blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies. NFTs are not controversial, due to the sometimes shady trading of the tokens, which involves large amounts of money.
Woldring finds it a shame that NFTs often focus on money. “It’s just a good way to sell digital art around the world. It creates a new generation of collectors that the art world hasn’t served well before. And NFTs are also interesting for businesses, for example, for art shows.” loyalty for loyal customers. Universities could put diplomas like NFTs on the blockchain, so fraud is no longer possible. And the Alfa Romeo car brand uses NFTs to record data about car maintenance.”
“Holland is falling behind”
According to Woldring, the Dutch business community is lagging behind in these new technology areas. “Major Dutch parties do relatively little with NFTs and the metaverse. They haven’t embraced the technology yet. That’s also a reason for hosting this event. There are all kinds of Dutch startups doing good work.”
The Dutch government could also play a bigger role, he thinks. “The Netherlands must continue to invest in innovation. You see more being done in this area in other countries, for example with all kinds of tax benefits. As a result, you see startups around NFTs and cryptocurrencies are moving to countries like Malta, Panama, Dubai or Switzerland.”
Reach audiences in the metaverse
The key question with the metaverse is how many consumers are actually going to use this on a regular basis. It will take years of experimentation before it becomes clear, Woldring hopes. “I’m really curious what will happen when the big guys really start to pick up the pace, not just the tech companies but also the big game studios. You don’t need to explain all of this to gamers, they already understand virtual worlds. That’s it.” It’s also a group that will get a lot of attention in the early years.”
Companies should ask themselves which metaverse they can best activate in, he says. “Where is your audience? If you want to reach young people, you can go to Roblox. For companies that want to do virtual events or product launches, other metaverses are more interesting.”
Attention is also paid to the issue of sustainability, because energy consumption is one of the main criticisms of blockchain applications. “That’s also discussed at our festival. And we’re working with Coorest and their NFTree program to sell NFTs that help us reduce our own carbon emissions.”
The Amsterdam festival should become an annual event, but there may also be editions in other cities around the world. “Several parties have asked us to organize similar events in other countries. Like TED events, MET festivals can also be held in other cities.”