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I’m on a Zoom call with RDI hub member and Co Founder of Xavatar, Jason P Rothberg. However this is not your average zoom call, I am chatting with Jason’s avatar, an animated version of himself onscreen. The avatar moves when he moves, his eyes dart around and half way through the call I almost forget I’m interacting with an animated image. I thank Jason for taking the time to chat and ask him to tell me all about Xavatar…

‘Xavatar is an Irish based startup who have created real-time reactionary avatars, created for video, telecoms and exploring the metaverse.  Xavatar avatars are universally native, customisable and NFT embedded.’

What does that mean exactly? ‘Universally native’ means they can exist in any metaverse or across any video telecoms. ‘Customisable’ means you can change the hair, the backdrop, the clothing and your accessories etc, and ‘NFT embedded’ means that when you get your xavatar it comes with an NFT so that that avatar is linked to your end-user’s person, so nobody can ‘catfish’ your xavatar. Then of course, there’s the fact that through your Xavatar avatar, you can access the Xavatar metaverse, the Xataverse!

The Xataverse is due to launch in beta this December. When I ask what it is about the Xataverse that makes it different to any other metaverse, he replies:

The Xataverse is unique primarily because the main driver of that metaverse is a TV series called The Sync Report. The Sync Report interviews music & film industry luminaries and during those interview we create one or two environments from their journey – from their path to success. So for example Steve Vai (american guitarist and rock legend) talks about his recording studio and we create a Steve Vai three dimensional recording studio – you’re able as a Xavatar avatar to explore this and make music and collaborate with friends. And then there’s retail opportunities, if you want to buy the real Stave Vai guitar, or strings, picks, amps, pedals, all kinds of gear.

So it’s you know, gaming, its social connectivity and retail, all linked on this chain of mini celebrity metaverses. So as we are interviewing Charlotte Church (Welsh singer-songwriter) and she’s talking about her Wellness centre in Wales, and you can explore the Wellness centre and get online yoga classes and menus and healthy eating and things of that nature. Another celebrity, Reeve Carney (American actor and singer-songwriter) – he grew up in Manhattan and you can explore the street he grew up in, you can check out his brownstone, walk down a New York street and do some window shopping, or pop in and buy your favourite pair of shoes. Or walk into a record store and listen to Milfredo DJ or another famous DJ. So there’ll be so many different opportunities that will exist in the metaverse but very uniquely delivered within the Xataverse for those of us who are lovers of the arts – if you’re a fan of film, TV and music, this is going to be your destination.

 Sounds great – how do I access the Xataverse?

‘You can access the mini celebrity inspired metaverses through NFT collections available on OpenSea, which we launched earlier this year with TSR host and film star, Colin O’Donoghue.  Those who buy an NFT will be the first to receive a Xavatar avatar and not only explore the beta Xataverse, but will also be included in TSR TV series!’

I say that it sounds like he has had a busy year and ask him to tell me more about the past 12 months and his startup journey so far. Xavatar / TSR HQ is based out of the RDI Hub in Kerry and have participated in several Irish based accelerators including Alsessor AI at Trinity College (one of the finalists), HubStart at MTU and New Frontiers Phase 1 at UCC.  Xavatar plans to start New Frontiers Phase 2 at MTU this September.

When I ask if there is any breaking news he can share, he laughs.  Yes! Ovation TV (US) has issued a contract to buy 14 episodes of the animated show of the Sync Report. This will reach 56 million homes across North America and Xavatar are currently in talks with TV networks in the UK, EU and beyond to assure their global reach.  The Sync Report show will launch mid January 2023.   Xavatar is currently in a funding round with an aim to raise 12 million euros during 2022/23.  Xavatar is well on its way to raising 5 million euros by Oct 2022 due to TV deals and sponsors.

I mention that I have seen on social channels that there are recent additions to the Xavatar board?

To date we have retained Irish based law film Arthur Cox, Dublin based accountant David Lafferty, as well as placing Irish academics and business mentors we met via the various accelerators Xavatar has participated in as part of their advisory team, including Colin Keogh, PHD, John O’Dea and Alan Costello.

 I ask what’s next for Xavatar? He replies:

Xavatar / TSR will create 20+ new jobs here in Ireland in 2022 with plans to grow that number to 50 during 2023.  With many positions to be filled by college students as we seek Irish talent for our art / animation dept, TSR crew members and writers and populate the Xavatar team as we aim to open a Dublin based office first quarter of 2023.  We are currently working with MTU Kerry as well as UCC ATU Sligo and Ballyfermot College to assure we achieve our employment goals.

Jason wraps up by saying

‘Xavatar is on track to becoming the premier Irish AI solution for entertainment and metaverse creation.  Although Ireland has some of the best talent when it comes to animation and tech, there is no competition on the island who can compare with our technology and reach, thanks to the international team leading its development.’

(In conversation with Kerry MacConnell)