By Riley Kaminer
“I’m making Miami the metaverse capital of the world,” Gianfranco Lopane boldly claimed in an interview with Refresh Miami. “What the internet is for Silicon Valley, I want the metaverse to be for Miami.”
How does Lopane plan to accomplish this? By building what he describes as the “first metaverse for the masses.” It’s called Habytat, an offering from SmarterVerse Inc., where Lopane is president. Habitat’s virtual environment is inspired by Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. Users are provided with free land in this metaverse and the ability to create an avatar.
There are a wide variety of things people can do in Habytat. They can meet up with other users, explore everything the neighborhood has to offer, and even raise a virtual pet. Habytat launched in May but has been in development since 2022.
But the real differentiating factors for Habytat are less superficial. For one, the platform has placed a key focus on accessibility by enabling users to access the metaverse right from their phone. “Everyone has a phone in their hands all day,” noted Lopane. “So we thought, why not create an app that people can just download and simply access the metaverse?”
Lopane also noted that many metaverse platforms are selling virtual real estate, which he sees as a barrier to adoption. The Habytat team hopes that giving away digital properties will entice people to join the platform.
The other major differentiator for Habytat is its graphics. “The metaverse usually looks like the Flinstones or the Jetsons – it’s so cartoony,” asserted Lopane. In contrast, Habytat’s platform aims to create a photorealistic environment that makes people feel like they own real assets.
What does Lopane say to metaverse skeptics? He paints a picture of the metaverse as the next iteration of social media. “Social media is just about endless scrolling. This is going to be different because you can interact with people through our immersive experience.”
Miami also is also playing an important role in the development of Habytat. Lopane said that the team was inspired by Miami’s multicultural, art-forward DNA. “Miami has it all,” he said – so why not transfer that to the metaverse as well?
Now, 65 people are working on Habytat, including 50 from SmarterVerse. Habytat has been funded thus far by its parent company, New Jersey-based DatChat, which is traded on the Nasdaq exchange.
“Currently, most people have no idea what the metaverse is, what it does, what it looks like or how to get involved, which has impeded mass adoption by the average consumer,” Darin Myman, CEO of DatChat, commented.
“We saw a unique and timely opportunity to leverage our patents and develop new technology that hopefully leads to more people joining and seeing the value in the metaverse,” Myman continued. “Habytat offers all users free NFT-deeded properties that will serve as a key to the new social media, unlocking interesting content, new utilities and access through both mobile devices and virtual reality.”
Myman added that the next generation of social media will change how we exchange, store, and control our information – hinting at a move toward decentralization.
“We are excited to be the #1 metaverse in the world in terms of active users,” Lopane shared. “We’re making it accessible and easy for people to access the metaverse, which is the right way to do it. So there’s a really high chance – I’d say 99% – that this is going to be successful. And Miami will be at the center of it all.”
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