AR and blockchain…an unstoppable combination?
We’ve recently looked at how the development of the AR Cloud is likely to be one of the most significant drivers of AR adoption.
Part of the thinking behind this is to do with money (or more accurately, profit).
Connectivity providers will charge for access to the AR Cloud, developers will sell in-app AR Cloud purchases, and a whole range of other businesses will spring up with accompanying services like data analysis.
But less understood - and likely to have just as seismic an impact - is the role blockchain technology will play.
In simple terms, this technology is a way of assigning unique attributes to digital assets using cryptography.
Those assets are then distributed on a decentralized, public ledger called a blockchain.
The famous example is Bitcoin - but the applications of blockchain stretch far beyond cryptocurrency.
Creating IP-protected digital assets
Today, copying a digital photograph you’ve found on the internet is easy.
Working out whether or not a digital photo is the original or just a copied version is hard.
Blockchain provides a way to protect IP, by allowing developers to create unique digital assets that can’t be replicated.
A good example of this in action can be seen in the game CryptoKitties, in which players were able to create and sell unique CryptoKitties - sometimes for thousands of pounds - using the Ethereum blockchain network.
For creators of digital assets in VR and AR, blockchain offers the opportunity to give virtual items unique properties - and therefore value.
You might not have heard about it, but this is already happening.
There are companies harnessing blockchain technology and merging it with VR to sell virtual real estate.
Elsewhere, the likes of Lampix are combining blockchain, AR, and computer vision to track virtually represented data between users and cafes, bars and restaurants.
And in recent times, heavyweights including Microsoft, IBM, and FedEx have all embarked upon serious efforts to develop blockchain projects that go beyond use for mere currency.
The marriage of blockchain and AR
To put the importance of the union between blockchain and AR into perspective, consider a world in which the Pokemon you collect are genuinely unique: each has its own completely distinct abilities and characteristics.
This creates a new and totally different dynamic.
Suddenly, fans are hunting and trading Pokemon that are truly rare - and which could potentially be sold or traded for significant sums of money.
The key to this paradigm is the blockchain technology that enables users to verify the authenticity of the digital asset being sold.
And this will eventually start to influence how AR apps are developed and turned into profitable ventures.
We’re already seeing an upswell in the number of Ethereum-based dApps, and many of these are projects that sit at the intersection of immersive technology and blockchain.
A case in point is Cappasity: a decentralized AR/VR ecosystem for 3D content exchange.
Allowing for 3D object creation that can then be embedded into websites, Cappasity enables immersive shopping experiences.
It’s aimed at solving the problem of buying real-word 3D objects based on 2D images on a website.
Now, the retail item can be rendered in 3D, giving a much better idea of what the jeans and trainers you’re planning to buy will look like when they arrive.
Blockchain’s role here is in allowing 3D content creators to produce, rent and sell AR/VR content through the Cappasity marketplace.
Each asset is assigned a unique identification code to prevent copyright infringement.
Immersive worlds you can invest in
A similar marriage of immersive content and blockchain can be found in Decentraland — a VR platform where users can create, experience, and monetize content and applications.
Although it’s in its infancy, it’s positioning itself as an immersive interactive world where people simply pop on some VR glasses and explore a virtual world with a range of activities and sights.
You can even buy virtual land and build parts of the world yourself.
Through the Ethereum blockchain, purchasers of this virtual real estate are provided with incontrovertible proof of ownership.
Smart contracts track any modifications made to the virtual landscape, and you can build houses, run businesses, listen to music, race cars, or even go swimming with dolphins.
It might sound strangely familiar (Second Life, anyone?) but what sets it apart is the monetization element.
Virtual speculators are able to buy and sell land, gambling on the value of the plots that make up the world.
Already, budding virtual property tycoons are buying up swathes of virtual real-estate in a bid to become blockchain billionaires.
There’s even a whole virtual real estate ecosystem developing, including crypto-backed mortgages and investors bank-rolling promising projects.
What’s clear from ventures like these, and the involvement of the Amazons and Facebooks, is that more and more companies are entering the space with private blockchain projects.
At the same time, AR companies are beginning to deploy their AR clouds.
When these two technologies converge, it’s wholly conceivable that we’ll be part of a global economy of immersive content experiences - all experienced in an augmented world via smart glasses - in the not-too-distant-future.