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At the 2022 Milken Institute Global Conference on Tuesday, Wave Financial founder Les Borsai hosted a panel titled “A Look into the Metaverse: Augmented and Virtual Reality,” which sought to explore the various applications for mixed reality and metaverse-related technologies. Yet when Borsai initially asked attendees whether any of them owned virtual reality tech, only a smattering of hands went up across the room, while only a handful of the same folks said they used VR for more than one hour per week.
The discussion was wide-ranging—covering topics ranging from the value of NFTs as profile pictures, to VR’s potential as a vehicle to treat mental and physical ailments. One of the participants, none other than author and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, claimed that VR can help “change the experience, [and] change the reality” for patients, advocating for its use by the chronically ill.
The talk began with a demonstration by mixed reality production firm Big Rock Creative that introduced all six panelists in “the metaverse” before they walked out on stage. If the idea sounded cool, the execution left something to be desired; blocky, two-dimensional avatars of each panelist—for some reason missing arms and legs—floated on-screen to introduce themselves, before all boarding a virtual bus to “drive them” to the conference.
The bit didn’t land, with many attendees exchanging confused glances, unsure if the presentation was live (it was pre-taped). The avatars lacked detail and failed to convey even the basic emotions that Snapchat’s Bitmojis are capable of. At the risk of a roast, it’s frankly flummoxing why these much-hyped and well-funded “metaverses” often don’t look better than the graphics that EA whipped up for “The Sims 2” some 18 years ago.
Back to the discussion: Panelist Kathleen Cohen, founder of Santa Monica-based mixed reality consultancy The Collaboratorium, talked up the potential of “twinning”—creating digital twins of yourself or your assets to sell or use in the metaverse. A former producer for Disney, Cohen described her job as “hacking happiness and safety for a living,” and said she thinks the metaverse could help differently-abled people better communicate with the world.
Also speaking was Peter Levin, managing director of Los Angeles-based gaming-focused venture capital firm Griffin Gaming Partners, who noted the commonly held view that the metaverse’s greatest opportunity right now is in the realm of gaming. Griffin Gaming is pouring plenty of money into that thesis, having closed a new $750 million venture fund last month.
Levin envisioned a future where gamers can use their digital twin as a login token on every gaming platform. “We're going to eliminate that friction [and] provide a tremendous amount of agency to this consuming constituency” of younger gamers, he predicted.
Chopra—who noted that he has a wellness AI, named Digital Deepak, that he speaks with daily—said he believes “the ethics are still evolving around” the metaverse and what it should look like moving forward. He added that he’s bullish on its potential to create immersive spiritual environments and games that “promote joy.” The spiritual guru has also embraced NFTs, nodding to a recent drop that he said sold out within a day of launching.
While the panelists were optimistic about the metaverse’s ability to connect people, after seeing it in practice, the audience appeared skeptical at best. The technologies powering the metaverse are still their infancy, and the virtual realm may face a long journey out of the uncanny valley before people feel comfortable cloning themselves in this brave new tokenized reality. — Samson Amore
After a “challenging” first quarter, Snap is hoping that new celebrity partnerships and original influencer content can help it grow its young user base and generate more advertising revenue.
The tech giant is already hiring for its expanding hubs in Santa Monica, Irvine and San Diego. Roles include software development, engineering, game design, user experience and more across such Amazon teams as retail, games, operations and Amazon Web Services.
The Los Angeles-based tech executive will succeed outgoing Match Group CEO Shar Dubey in leading the dating app conglomerate, which owns popular platforms like Tinder and Hinge.
The Irvine-based company said its factory, which is projected to cost $5 billion to build, will support 7,500 jobs near Atlanta. The plant should be capable of producing up to 400,000 vehicles annually.
“It's not about speech, it is about reach.... Virality is much more equated to the extremes,” Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian said Tuesday at the Milken Institute Global Conference. “That reach is what the most extreme people want; they want to be able to be seen by millions and millions of people.”
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What We’re Reading Elsewhere...
- Musicians like Miley Cyrus and Daddy Yankee are courting TikTok influencers to help promote their music.
- Evil Genius Productions partners with three film and TV studios to create tabletop games based on their productions.
- Los Angeles Unified and AT&T are teaming to provide high-speed internet to students’ homes.
- Fitness app FitOn launches a new program for seniors and those with chronic pains.
- For the first time, California was able to meet the state's energy demand Saturday using only renewable energy, mostly solar.
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Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.
- Los Angeles heads into week after largest one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths
- Milken Global Conference postponed again
- Skip grocery shopping this week, L.A. health officials warn as they prepare for onslaught
Officials urge residents to skip shopping this week as deaths climb to 147, cases to 6,300
Bracing for a wave of coronavirus cases, Los Angeles county health officials asked people to skip shopping this week. The plea case as the fast-moving COVID-19 claimed another 15 people, bringing total deaths to 147 in the county. So far county health officials have logged 6,360 cases of COVID-19 with 420 new ones reported on Monday.
"We will see many more cases over the next few weeks," said Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director during a daily press conference. "If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether. if you can arrange for medications and groceries to be delivered, this would be the week to put this in place. "
Ferrer also said she's encouraging grocery stores and pharmacies to offer free delivery services for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions because they have such a high risk of dying from COVID-19
She urged the elderly and those at high risk to not go out except for medical appointments. "There is a lot of virus circulating in our community and you are not safe if you go out," she said.
Ferrer said last week that she expected new cases to jump to about 1,000 a day in the coming weeks.
Milken Global Conference postponed againupload.wikimedia.org
The Milken Institute announced Monday it was again pushing back the 2020 Milken Institute Global Conference, to October 12-15, 2020.
It is another indication of how rapidly circumstances have changed over the last few weeks. Less than a month ago, Milken said the conference would be moved to July. It was originally scheduled to take place in May.
The gathering, which attracts 4,000 attendees from more than 70 countries to Beverly Hills, normally takes over the entire Beverly Hilton – from the same massive ballroom where the Golden Globes are held to dozens of smaller rooms.
Had it been held in July, the conference would likely have to have been more spread out. Milken staff were exploring different sites in Los Angeles since it was not clear how much of the Hilton was already booked. But with the event pushed back to October, the event can now once again take over the hotel.
Of course, it remains very much an open question whether large scale events can take place at all by October. But Milken would be loath to cancel its Global Conference since it is a major source of the nonprofit's annual revenue.
"The global crisis demonstrates the need for individuals, organizations, and nations to bridge divides and work together to find solutions to—and be better prepared for—economic and health challenges like those we are facing now and in years to come," Michael Klowden, CEO of the Milken Institute, said in a statement.
Los Angeles heads into week after largest one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths
Los Angeles County hit a grim new record over the weekend after 28 deaths were reported on Saturday from the novel coronavirus, the largest one-day increase since the outbreak slammed California. This will likely be front-and-center when California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti hold respective briefings later Monday,
As of Sunday, there were 15 additional deaths and 683 new cases -- bringing the county's totals to 132 deaths and 5,950 cases. "We have some very difficult days ahead and now is the time for all of us to redouble our physical distancing efforts and look after our neighbors, friends, and families who may be at the highest risk for serious illness from COVID-19," Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said in a statement.
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With virtually every event nationwide now canceled for at least the next two months, Cameron Argetsinger, who specializes in insurance law, says his phone has been ringing nonstop.
"There's no precedent for this," he told dot.LA.
The Centers for Disease Control recommended Sunday that events with more than 50 attendees be canceled or postponed for the next two months. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom banned gatherings of 250 through at least March. Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered restaurants, bars, nightclubs and gyms closed last night.
Most conference organizers did not wait for official orders, with Southern California events such as Coachella, E3, and The Milken Global Conference already delayed or canceled.
Argetsinger, Special Counsel at the Washington D.C. based firm, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, has been getting calls from conference organizers desperate to recoup losses from events they have to cancel or postpone because of coronavirus. He says most big conferences buy cancellation insurance, but the majority of policies have exclusions for communicable disease. Policyholders can choose to pay slightly higher premiums to be covered against disease, though many do not carry the extra coverage, including South By Southwest, which will now reportedly be on the hook for tens of millions dollars.
"The devil is in the details," said Argetsinger.
For those trying to file claims, Argetsinger recommends policyholders be as thorough as possible and document losses meticulously.
"Event organizers who have bought cancellation policies should know that they may be facing an uphill battle in trying to obtain coverage from insurers who are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cancellation claims and who are trying to limit their own losses," Argetsinger said. "It is critical for policyholders to understand the terms of their policies and to comply with all of the requirements that the policy places on them."
He says it helps that governments are increasingly banning gatherings, which makes it hard to argue that events could proceed.
"That would strengthen the claim," he said.
Postponing the Milken Global Conference
On March 7th, executives at the Milken Institute postponed the 23rd annual Global Conference to July. The event, which attracts 4,000 attendees from more than 70 countries to Beverly Hills normally takes over the entire Beverly Hilton – from the same massive ballroom where the Golden Globes are held to dozens of smaller rooms. It is likely not possible to replicate the same thing this summer, though the institute is currently in negotiations with the hotel about how much of the conference can take place there and would only say that it would be happening "somewhere in Los Angeles."
"There is no guarantee of how things are going to look in July, but all of the best advice we were getting in terms of monitoring the track of the virus was that what we've seen in Asia was there was a peak over a period of about two months," said Katherine O'Reilly, Milken's Executive Director of Business and Development.
Milken has a full-time staff of about 25 working on the conference year round and another 100 who pitch in once the date gets closer, all of whom will now have to turn their attention to trying to reschedule panels and add new ones to reflect how the world has changed.
"It's a very heavy lift logistically," said O'Reilly.
O'Reilly didn't know the financial toll of postponing the conference and what might be covered by insurance, but if the conference is ultimately canceled or scaled back, it would be a major blow for Milken since the conference – with ticket prices in the thousands of dollars and lucrative sponsorships – covers much of the Institute's operating budget.
"Our expectation is that the sponsors are sticking with us," said O'Reilly. "For a lot of people this conference is important to their business, so they want to see it continue."The wider economic impact of the conference not taking place totals at least $19 million, PredictHQ, a provider of event data, told dot.LA. It says all told, billions of dollars will be lost from the tens of thousands of events not taking place around the world.
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