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Nvidia CEO says the metaverse could save companies billions

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Companies are investing money into the creation of the so-called metaverse because it may ultimately save them significant chunks of change in the real world, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Friday.

In an interview on “Mad Money,” Huang painted a vision of connected, virtual reality universes that go beyond facilitating recreation and commerce. Rather, Huang said he believes businesses can lean on the metaverse — or omniverse, which is Nvidia’s preferred term — to reduce wastefulness and increase operational efficiency.

“We waste a whole bunch of things to overcompensate for the fact that we don’t simulate. We want to simulate all factories in metaverses, in this omniverse. We want to simulate plants in omniverse. We want to simulate the world’s power grids in the omniverse,” Huang said.

“By doing that, we could decrease the amount of waste, and that’s the reason why the economics are so good for companies,” he continued. “They’re willing to invest a small amount of money to buy into this artificial intelligence capability but what they save is hopefully hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.”

California-based Nvidia is the largest maker of graphics and artificial intelligence chips in the world. While demand for its semiconductors was already growing, increased attention and investment focused on the metaverse is a boon for Nvidia. That’s because the company’s chips play crucial roles in the computing devices that will run the metaverse.

The concept of the metaverse has been around for decades in science-fiction circles, but Wall Street is taking notice now that a number of technology giants such as Facebook-parent Meta are marshaling resources toward creating interactive, immersive virtual worlds.

Huang’s appearance on “Mad Money” comes two days after Nvidia reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue for its third quarter. Nvidia shares have been on a tear in recent weeks, driven at least partly by investor optimism on the metaverse. The stock is up 29% so far this month and 66.6% over the past three months.

Nvidia’s market capitalization now stands at $824.6 billion, making it the seventh most valuable company in the S&P 500.

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In Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse, how will advertisements look?

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A new video by Inspired by Iceland pushes back against experiencing life through the “metaverse,” as described by Mark Zuckerberg during Facebook’s rebranding to Meta on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Imagine at a point in the near future, you are taking your daily trip through the metaverse when you encounter Colin Kaepernick. It’s not the flesh-and-blood Colin Kaepernick, but a digital avatar of the former NFL star. As you interact with Kaepernick, Nike, Kaepernick’s sponsor, becomes part of the experience. Whether you’re a Nike fan or not, his presence at least affirms the brand’s identity and story.

Advertising has always met the world where technology has taken its eyes and ears. If the first wave of advertising was print and billboards, followed by radio, and TV ushered in a new iteration in the 1950s built around the 30-second spot, an era lasted through the introduction of the World Wide Web in the 1990s.

But in the mid-2010s, the average time spent watching TV fell from 4.2 hours to the current 3.17 hours and that time is projected to continue falling through the decade. While it’s not assured that less TV time means migration to the metaverse, a conceptual virtual world where people will interact with each other using headsets or smart glasses and virtual reality, many advertising executives are banking on it.

The term “metaverse” dates back to Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science-fiction novel “Snow Crash,” in which humans, as avatars, interacted in a three-dimensional virtual space — to escape a dystopian reality. It has caught fire this year after Facebook rebranded itself as Meta Platforms, noting its goal is “to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses.”

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the metaverse as an “embodied Internet” that, unlike the Internet of today, gives one a “feeling of presence.”

Video game companies like Fortnite developer Epic Games and Roblox have planted a flag early in the metaverse trend. Nike — which has several patents related to selling products in the metaverse — recently created Nikeland in conjunction with Roblox, and seemingly every company is looking to do something.

“Our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we’ll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney metaverse” said Disney CEO Bob Chapek on the company’s third quarter earnings call.

“The metaverse is the next frontier just like social networking was when we got started,” billionaire businessman Orlando Bravo, co-founder and managing partner of private equity firm Thomas Bravo, recently told CNBC. “It’s investable and it’s going to be very big.”

Now, the question of how to monetize metaverse users’ attention in this new form of media is top of mind. Advertising might have previously interrupted a user’s media experience. A newspaper ad, for instance, ran on the same pages in which readers read news stories. Subsequent inventions like radio followed the same format: programming would be interrupted by audio ads. Later, TV would follow the same format.

Advertising executives sketched out a different approach for metaverse advertising.

The new billboard ad

In the first phase, these executives said, brands would merely erect digital billboards in the metaverse. The template for such advertising is in games like Tiki-Taka Soccer and FIFA Mobile, in which billboards for brands both increase awareness and, if the visitor is interested, lead to more information about the product.

“It’s going to be very similar to what we have today in the real world,” said Jason Velliquette, executive vice president of digital for marketing consultancy R3. He believes that there will be systems within the metaverse that let you produce and publish assets. “So in the same way that we have billboards on the side of the road or [out of] home signage, brands will still be able to buy these types of placements within a Metaverse environment or a 3D environment,” he said. 

That means, that if, say, a major financial services company like a Citibank wanted to set up a stand to teach financial education in the metaverse, it can. But in a virtual world, the brand might have better luck partnering with an influencer.

“Within Twitch, you have influencers who have these huge channels and following,” said Velliquette. “You’re going to still be able to follow these types of individuals or attend their seminars or go to their shows or go to their speaking engagements or things of that nature. And brands are going be able to partner and collaborate with these various influencers to really kind of make a splash within the metaverse space,” he said.

Product placement

The pandemic forced more brands to experiment with the latest in camera technology and virtual fitting apps for clothing and cosmetics, and “virtual fashion” is an obvious target for early development and experimentation in the metaverse.

“When people walk around as avatars it’s quite imaginable, that then your virtual version will dress up and use brands like Nike, Adidas, Balanchine, Balenciaga or Gucci or Levi’s, doesn’t matter,” said Max Pinas, creative director for Dept, a global digital agency. “And so you will have virtual fashion,” he said.

This past May, Gucci introduced a purse in Roblox that actually cost more than the item in real life.

Nike‘s virtual world called Nikeland within the Roblox platform is modeled after the company’s headquarters. While it will feature different minigames for users to play like dodgeball and tag, Nike plans to have a digital showroom and include athlete and product integration.

In the past, when marketers place products in movies or TV shows, they use a product placement agency. In gaming and the metaverse, it works a bit differently. Generally, gaming has you work for goods. In World of Warcraft, for instance, you mine gold and when you get enough gold you can buy something.

The introduction of NFTs — non-fungible tokens — changes this equation. Suddenly a person (represented as a game avatar) can buy an NFT and virtually walk around different worlds with it.

Such cross-pollination inevitably leads to trouble. For example, last year in Fortnite it was possible to see both Marvel and DC Comics properties in the same location. “So you could see, let’s say, somebody suited up as Batman and talking to the Avengers,” Pinas said.

New universe for consumers

As marketers work out those branding boundaries, the technology keeps evolving. That’s why, within a short time, a user will be able to interact with an embodiment of a brand, like Kaepernick for Nike.

Tiffany Rolfe, global chief creative officer of ad agency R/GA, said though the metaverse doesn’t exist yet, it will provide a new universe of customers and environments to build within for entertainment companies like Disney, tapping existing intellectual property. And some of these new experiences will be similar to the 30-second TV spot. “It’s a story that could play out over time across different platforms, different realities, stuff could happen in the real world, and then it connects you to something that’s happening in the virtual world,” Rolfe said.

“This last year of the pandemic, and how we engage with digital experiences has really opened our eyes to what’s possible. Experiences are going to be a big space where brands will create [events] to bring people in and get the scale there,” she added.

Some advertising executives say successful efforts will need to take into account that the metaverse, by its original definition, is a realm inside of which the individual escapes the real world. That means brands shouldn’t create what looks at all like advertising as we know it, and what will come across as real in the virtual world will be different.

The time of phoning it in is over, and brands must redefine their approaches to audience engagement,” said Lewis Smithingham, Media.Monks’ director of creative solutions. “In the metaverse, brands need to strike a balance between being present and being authentic by providing utility and meaning for people through creativity and technological innovation. In short, brands must create experiences people actually want.”

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Elon Musk emails at Tesla in October 2021: Music, direct orders

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SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk looks on as he visits the construction site of Tesla’s gigafactory in Gruenheide, near Berlin, Germany, May 17, 2021.

Michele Tantussi | Reuters

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is known for his spontaneous mass communication, from rants on Twitter to “everybody” e-mails he sends to all employees at his electric vehicle company.

CNBC has obtained a pair of e-mails Musk sent to Tesla employees in the first week of October. The first one said listening to music at work with one earbud out to listen for safety-related issues was OK. The second, harsher email reminded employees there are only three options when Musk sends directions: explain why he’s wrong, request further clarification, or execute.

At the time, Tesla had just announced record third-quarter deliveries despite supply chain pressures, most notably a chip shortage. It had finally released the long-awaited “Full Self-Driving Beta” button, allowing Tesla vehicle owners to sign up for pre-release driver assistance software to test it on public roads.

And on Oct. 4, the company lost a big case in a San Francisco federal court when a jury decided Tesla must pay a former worker, Owen Diaz, about $137 million after he endured a racially hostile work environment during his time at Tesla’s car plant in Fremont, California.

CNBC has also reviewed other emails Musk sent in recent months, including words of encouragement for employees working on the company’s new factory near Berlin, and agreeing with a bullish analyst call in September suggesting that Tesla stock can go to $3,000 per share — if the company executes well.

Here’s what Musk told employees on Oct. 3 and Oct. 4.

The first one was about music at work.

To: Everybody

From: Elon Musk

Date: Sunday October 3 [time redacted]

Subj. Music in the Factory

Just wanted to say that I very much support music in the factory, as well as any little touches that make work more enjoyable.

An associate just sent me a note asking if we could have one ear bud for music so the other ear can listen for safety-related issues. That sounds fine to me.

Also, ambient music from speakers is also totally cool so long as there is reasonable agreement among your colleagues as to the music choices.

If there are other things that you think would improve your day, please let me know. I care very much that you look forward to coming to work every day!

The second one reminded everybody who the boss is.

To: Everybody

From: Elon Musk

Date: Monday October 4 [time redacted]

Subj. Please Note

If an email is sent from me with explicit directions, there are only three actions allowed by managers.

1. Email me back to explain why what I said was incorrect. Sometimes, I’m just plain wrong!

2. Request further clarification if what I said was ambiguous.

3. Execute the directions.

If none of the above are done, that manager will be asked to resign immediately.

Thank you,

Elon

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What happens next in the Senate

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After months of starts and stops, the House passed President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion social safety net and climate bill on Friday.

The process will not get any easier for Democrats as the bill heads to the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to pass the Build Back Better Act by Christmas. To do so, he will have to get all 50 members of his caucus — from conservative Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — to back the same sweeping plan.

Multiple senators will push for changes to the bill’s provisions including paid leave and taxes along the way. Any tweaks will require another vote in the House, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford three defections (only one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, voted against the bill Friday).

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (C), D-CA, speaks during a news conference with Democratic leaders after the passage of the Build Back Better Act at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on November 19, 2021.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Congress will leave Washington for Thanksgiving week, setting up a December rush to approve the bill before the capital’s attention turns to the 2022 midterm elections. In a statement after Friday’s House vote, Schumer said the Senate will take up the package after the Senate parliamentarian completes the “necessary technical and procedural work” to make sure it complies with budget reconciliation rules. The special process allows Democrats to approve the plan with a simple majority without GOP votes.

“We will act as quickly as possible to get this bill to President Biden’s desk and deliver help for middle-class families,” he said.

The House bill includes child-care subsidies, a one-year extension of the enhanced child tax credit and universal pre-K. It would expand Medicare to cover hearing aids and boost options for low-income Americans to buy insurance through Medicaid.

The plan would also put roughly $550 billion into programs designed to curb climate change.

Changes are coming in the Senate

The Senate will likely make changes before it passes the bill. Manchin, who has not publicly endorsed the package as he expresses concerns about spending and inflation, will seek at least one overhaul.

He has signaled he will push to scrap a House provision offering four weeks of paid leave to most Americans.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., is another Democrats who could seek to influence the bill in the Senate. She already shot down her party’s efforts to hike tax rates on the biggest businesses and wealthiest individuals, forcing lawmakers to opt for more complicated policies such as a minimum tax on corporations.

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Tax policy could become one of the biggest sticking points in the Senate. Sanders and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., have taken issue with a House proposal to lift the cap on state and local tax deductions to $80,000 from $10,000 through 2030.

The policy — which Pelosi has defended — would disproportionately help wealthy Americans as part of a bill Democrats have sold as a boon to working families. It would also cost the Treasury revenue.

“You can’t be a political party that talks about demanding the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, and then end up with a bill that gives large tax breaks to millionaires. You can’t do that,” Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee chair, said in a tweeted statement Thursday. “The hypocrisy is too strong. It’s bad policy, it’s bad politics.”

In a separate statement Friday, Sanders cited tax policy, drug prices, Medicare expansion and climate policy as he pledged to “strengthen the Build Back Better Act” in the Senate.

Democrats will likely have to forge a compromise around the tax deductions. A handful of House Democrats from high-tax states such as New York and New Jersey made lifting the cap a condition for supporting the bill.

Another tax plan that could surface in the Senate is a proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to tax billionaires’ assets. Golden said Friday that inclusion of the Senate Finance Committee chair’s levy on billionaires or tweaks to the cap on state and local deductions could get him to support the legislation when it comes back to the House.

In other possible changes, the Senate parliamentarian will likely strike a House proposal to establish limited legal protections for millions of undocumented immigrants.

After the House passed its version of the bill Friday, Pelosi acknowledged she will likely have to resolve differences with the Senate.

“This bill will now be reshaped to their committees and at that point we’ll see where we need to, shall we say, reconcile our differences. But at the end of the day, we’ll have a great bill,” she said.

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