NFTStudio24 sat down with Virtua’s CEO Jawad Ashraf to talk about various aspects of the metaverse, VR, and NFTs, Web3 aspirations, the future of human social behavior with modern technology, and Virtua’s vision for the metaverse.
Jawad Ashraf is a well-accomplished technical specialist and entrepreneur who has been working in the field of innovative technology for over 30 years. His interest in VR and PC games landed him to explore the metaverse, and now he’s the CEO/co-founder of a metaverse platform network called Virtua.
Virtua is an all-in-one NFT ecosystem built on Cardano blockchain that showcases the true essence of virtual reality in gaming, socializing, and creativity through digital collectibles and blockchain technology.
Founded in 2017, it is a marketplace for fans to collect NFTs and interact with them. As the CEO of Virtua, Jawad aims to build his company that follows a trinity foundation: metaverse, NFTs, and a gaming studio.
Currently, Virtua has a market cap of around $30M and is likely to expand as metaverse enters into the real world but before it truly becomes part of people’s daily life, NFTStudio24 host, Logan Crawford sat down with Jawad Ashraf to talk about various possibilities within the metaverse.
Here’s a detailed interview with Jawad Ashraf:
Modern technologies and Virtua
Jawad has always been a fan of disruptive technologies which led him to experiment by building different companies. He was always one step ahead of everyone else around him.
When the world was getting used to PCs, Jawad was already exploring web applications. He moved to mobile when everyone started adopting web applications. With the introduction of blockchain technology and the launch of Oculus Rift, Jawad had also fully entered to explore various possibilities within the new technology through gaming.
His interest in gaming led him to mobile games where he discovered VR technology and how it could completely revolutionize the way the world worked. Since VR was still an early technology, Jawad faced many challenges due to a lack of market data. Eventually, he decided to build a VR gaming company to follow his passion and collect VR data himself.
Jawad began creating testing applications across Google, Samsung, HTC, and the Oculus to see public interest and no. of downloads to collect market data. This data helped him understand people’s sentiments towards disruptive technologies.
I looked at what blockchain could bring you. I saw an intersection between VR and metaverse, which wasn’t and isn’t new. And also NFTs where you could own digital assets. The whole correlation between these three things made more sense. Jawad said
Metaverse: An old concept
According to Jawad, the metaverse is not a new concept, instead, it is just another step into technology, which is far more immersive than before. He said that the first metaverse to ever exist was Second Life, an online multimedia platform that allows people to create avatars and control them in a virtual space.
Similarly, Fortnite is a “metaverse of swords” and Call of Duty motivated people to buy digital assets and skins to use on the online platform. Amidst these emerging gaming platforms, Jawad saw that the people who bought digital assets didn’t own them.
I didn’t see the metaverse as being a new thing. I saw how VR and NFTs were changing what the metaverse could be. He said
This is what led him to create Virtua as a platform that follows the trinity foundation of NFTs, VR, and metaverse together.
Educating Metaverse’s concept to the world
Jawad believes metaverse’s concept isn’t fully developed, which makes it harder for people to truly understand what it is all about. There are so many speculations going around related to the metaverse and almost everyone has a different way of looking at it.
Jawad claims his company tries to align with the market’s perspective, dig deeper into the issues and try to educate people about the metaverse as a solution to those issues. Virtua is trying to bring as many individuals into space as it can, but the definition of metaverse itself remains open to people’s own perspectives.
In other words, instead of giving it just one definition, Jawad is trying to convey the metaverse as a concept with infinite possibilities.
Metaverse isn’t one place, it is a sum of every island which is a metaverse. It’s facebook’s Meta, it’s Decentraland, it’s Sandbox, it’s us all together. The key to making it something that users can adopt is by having a bridging technology between the metaverses.says Jawad.
He further gave the example of Web 2 with millions of “fragmented websites” which give only one web experience to all. People can switch between various websites because of “clever indexing” to jump from one brand to another without any complications.
“We’re trying to explain to people that it isn’t just one place but it’s one of the many places.”
Jawad believes that as the metaverse continues to develop, the concept might become clearer than before.
‘Metaverse is not just a land’
Metaverse is commonly known as a piece of land that people can buy. However, Jawad says it’s beyond that.
Currently, the market aspect for metaverse is only related to land ownership and people have been buying lands at a large scale to profit when the demand for them increases. Jawad aims to bring utility to metaverse lands through his company, Virtua.
According to him, not everyone has enough money to buy lands on the metaverse. The aim should be to focus on how the metaverse can be utilized for common individuals who are only there to visit or experience virtual reality.
It has to be a place where you can go and do things, which is sort of missing right now. And that is part of our whole trilogy philosophy,said Jawad
He sees the metaverse as a place for people to make their living, enjoy entertainment, and learn something.
Since the idea behind metaverse isn’t fully developed, there are millions of possibilities, each different for an individual but one thing to remember is that metaverse isn’t just speculation but a proper system of its own.
Compared to all the jokes, internet hype, and humor behind metaverse, Jawad views it as a serious virtual space that will completely revolutionize the industry.
If you have land and your only hope for utility speculations is on the price of the land, you’re not using it properly. You’re not engaging with the metaverse properly.
Virtua is aiming to introduce that utility and educate people on how they can use metaverse lands to earn something or pursue what they couldn’t in the real world. The whole idea is to ensure that people who are visiting the virtual space have a reason or need to come back again.
The human mind and social behavior with Metaverse
Over the past few years, many social scientists and researchers have speculated that the metaverse might have a huge impact on the human mind and social behavior. Studies show that the metaverse might evolve the human mind, while others believe it might affect the way the mind functions in real life.
Jawad believes metaverse isn’t something that will have a negative impact on human minds as long as people are aware of its consequences. He understands that every technology has its dark sides and people tend to misuse it, such as social media.
However, Virtua is aiming to educate people and make them aware of technology use with responsibility. According to Jawad, if people understand the utility, they are unlikely to misuse it.
When asked about how the metaverse could affect social behavior and social interaction, Jawad gave the example of the present era’s children who lack social skills due to social media and Web 2 technology. Gen-Z and Gen-D suffer from social anxiety more because they would rather text than talk to people face-to-face.
60% of Gen-D spend their time online, while when you look at Gen-Z in workplaces, 90% of them would rather quit their job than confront their boss about what they don’t like about their job,says Jawad
For Jawad, metaverse can bring a social change in the form of avatars. Although people can choose to remain anonymous, their avatars will have a one-on-one conversation with other avatars, which can lead to bringing confidence in individuals to talk to people face-to-face in the real world as well.
When dealing with social behavior and the human mind, companies need to be responsible for what they create. By learning from past mistakes, builders can bring something positive into a society that can help users become better people instead of worse.
Like every other technology, the metaverse also has its dark side. The key is to promote positive aspects of it and ensure that users don’t fall on the dark side.
VR exposure therapy and other professional aspects of Metaverse
Jawad has previously explored the therapeutic aspect of a metaverse in which users can overcome their traumas, phobias, and mental disorders through VR exposure therapy.
When asked how Metaverse could influence therapy, Jawad gave an example of a person having Arachnophobia. Metaverse could help them overcome that fear in virtual reality; the person would know the spider isn’t really on their hand but they will see and hear the sounds of it.
Similarly, it can also give users more exposure to better treatments around the world. For instance, if a kid has 30 dollars and lives in a third-world country, they can receive therapy from a well-known psychiatrist from the other side of the world on metaverse.
Various professions can try to incorporate new technology and evolve their studies. Metaverse has the capability of making the impossible possible through virtual reality, which is why Virtua wants to combine the aspect of VR with metaverse.
Changing reality and the future of the Metaverse
Jawad believes metaverse is a comprehensive concept that is changing our reality as a whole. Before smartphones, the reality was people used to walk around to make phone calls. In the present reality, people sit in homes and use the internet.
Our new reality is going to be a combination of the metaverse, our physical, and Web2, says Jawad
Our reality scope is expanding, it’s just another element of the world that is going to exist.”
Jawad speculates an aspect of a metaverse future where AI avatars will help individuals sort data out. In the present day, the internet holds a lot of data and people need to filter out to get what they want. In the metaverse, the data is going to be even more massive, and AI technology and avatars will help individuals to sort the relevant data.
In other words, 10 years from now, the metaverse is going to completely change our reality to be completely virtual and more immersive than smartphones. Our social interactions, relationships, business dealings, and data operations, everything is going to be virtual, and Virtual is going to be part of that journey.
Jawad’s message to NFTStudio24 viewers
The interview was wrapped up with Jawad leaving a positive message to all striving Web3 developers, entrepreneurs, stakeholders, and creators.
Crypto market goes in cycles, it goes up and down all the time. Right now, we’re on the cycle which is downward for cryptocurrencies. But Web3 builders and companies as creatives and Web3 organizations, all we have to do in this cycle is to keep building and stick true to our vision because the fundamentals of your work have not changed. Just keep building what you want to build.says Jawad
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