Here’s Why One Company Ventured Into the Metaverse

Emerging start-up Atomic Form aims to be a window into the metaverse with their hardware modules from the get-go


Source: Shutterstock


key takeaways

  • Atomic Form’s digital frame connects directly to the blockchain through its hardware module, to allow users to display and lend their NFTs
  • The New York-based company’s ultimate goal is to “create a hub for metaversal participation regardless of chain, product, or issuer”

The metaverse is often used to describe the successor to the mobile internet where the physical and digital worlds converge in a shared virtual space. In the metaverse, technology is an all encompassing reality and not solely a tool like the rectangular device in your pocket.

Compare the metaverse to a video game like Fortnite. Players have digital avatars and seamlessly roam from one world to another, purchasing virtual goods and participating in this virtual economy.

Lately, the metaverse has resurfaced in mainstream headlines following Facebook’s earnings call in July when CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the term 20 times during the hour-long presentation. Then, Zuckerberg told employees, investors and analysts that Facebook aims to be more than an interconnected set of social media applications. Instead, it will be a “metaverse company.” 

In the coming years, Zuckerberg said the tech giant would continue selling their virtual reality products like Oculus headsets for a lower price point, but generate future revenue through advertising and digital commerce within the metaverse itself.

In a recent step into this virtual space, Facebook’s Financial Head David Marcus said the company’s soon-to-be launched digital wallet, Novi, could someday store holders’ NFTs.

Monetization within the metaverse

When it comes to monetizing what seems a distant and vague concept depicted by Zuckerberg, consider Fortnite again. Epic Games, Fortnite’s parent company, generated $3 billion in 2018, selling accessories and non-functional skins in their video games to characters. Epic now has an equity valuation of $28.7 billion, the company said in a statement

Along with Facebook and Epic, widespread adoption of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) continues as other big-name institutions like Visa dip their toes into the water of the metaverse. 

According to BitMEX Co-founder Arthur Hayes, NFT purchases today may seem arbitrary, but people will always want an identity or sense of self — the biggest change is that now, more of their identity is stored online. An increased demand for digital collectibles (or NFTs) results from this need for social signalling. Essentially, dropping a grand on a Fortnite character costume, a pair of Balenciaga sock sneakers or paying 3 ETH for a cartoon mutant ape all support the same purpose, he wrote in a Medium blog post.

“NFT-permissioned art is completely worthless from an energy standpoint, but it will represent the ultimate way to Flex social standing in a purely digital world,” Hayes wrote. “While it seems silly to those who think Art Basel and The Venice Biennale are the epitome of gatherings of like-minded cultured individuals, infinitely replicable JPEGs traded on the blockchain are no sillier than squiggles on a piece of canvas.”

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One start-up’s venture into the metaverse

A frothy summer for NFTs has led big-name companies to both question and incorporate the asset class into their future business plans. However, Atomic Form, an early stage start-up, aims to be a “window to the metaverse” from the get-go. 

The hardware and software solutions company is first entering the metaverse through its crypto art display frames, co-founder Garrette David told Blockworks. 

“If you spend money on a Monet, you’re not going to have that in your house in Hong Kong, London and Singapore at the same time. It’s going to be in one place,” David said. “[But] that’s actually why you own it because there’s only one of them. We design this kind of product that pays homage to the fact that there can only be one of these [artworks] or if there are multiple, that you’re able to authenticate that it comes from the contract.”

Atomic Form’s 27-inch digital display connects directly to the blockchain using its hardware, ensuring that all NFTs are verifiably owned. NFTs have a unique address that connects directly back to their owner, which means that users cannot connect any downloaded image and cast it on their frame.

Atomic Form
Slimesunday’s NFT series What the Fork? featuring Atomic Form’s hardware; Source: Atomic Form

Users attach their crypto wallets to Atomic Form’s hardware, also allowing them to lend out their NFTs for a customizable set rate over Ethereum’s blockchain to other display owners. 

Co-founder David is a former bitcoin miner and neuroscience researcher at Columbia University Medical Center. He has been interested in exploring the economics and mechanism of design of blockchains for a decade.

‘Creating a metaversal hub’

Atomic Forms’ mission isn’t just to monetize crypto art as a means to generate returns or cut down on merchandising costs as utilizing NFTs generally does, according to David. The company’s module is just one step toward their “ultimate goal which is to create a hub for metaversal participation regardless of chain, product, or issuer.”

“A more exotic example would be if you transferred [a NFT] out of a wallet, and then that affected how the piece was displayed or just how the smart contract lives because it’s like clay, The smart contracts are really like clay,” David said. “People don’t appreciate that from the exhibition perspective so we made this company so they could have that ability.”

Atomic Form founders
Atomic Form’s Co-founders Isabelle Kitze (left) and Garrette David; Source: Atomic Form

Co-founder Isabelle Kitze was a former crypto and blockchain journalist, serving as the editor-in-chief at CryptoMania News in 2017. Prior to that, she studied fine art marketing at NYU and worked in product development at Jonathan Adler.

“I think that people are just inherently looking for a solution to display their NFTs and the fact that you can only show you verifiably own it is a huge win for a lot of people,” Kitze told Blockworks. 

Evolving over time

Atomic Form was recently featured in Slimesunday’s NFT series What The Fork? at Phillips auction house last month. Phillips used Atomic Form’s photon for the exhibition. The photon allows a digital display to connect directly to the blockchain to render data, meaning that each time the NFT replaces, repeats and changes, the screen will reflect this in real time in front of its audience at the exhibition.

As of now the company may be known for its crypto art display, but there is more to come for Atomic Form, according to Kitze. She added that there will be funding announcements and product updates in the coming months.

“I would say over the next year, we’re looking forward to providing not only hardware solutions, but also software solutions of every scale and kind for the NFT space. And it will go beyond art, which is really exciting,” Kitze said.

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