There are a handful of technologies that come up again and again when discussing the future of our digital lives, and chief amongst them are blockchain and augmented reality (AR). Blockchain has revolutionized the way we relate to asset management, and AR is quickly changing the way we related to the digital world itself. While the potential impact of each of these technologies is exciting in their own right, could they work together to create unique and engaging virtual worlds?
The Future of Blockchain
Blockchain has boomed ever since Bitcoin crashed onto the financial scene in 2009 and is now the technology that facilitates thousands of cryptocurrencies. Then again, blockchain is not tied to cryptocurrencies: hundreds of non-financial applications have emerged over the past few years, taking advantage of highly secure distributed ledger technology.
The good news about this is blockchain is unlikely to go down in any cryptocurrency sinking ship. The crash in early 2018, when Bitcoin lost 65% of its value in a month, is perhaps a sign that cryptos are not the most future-proof technology. Thankfully, blockchain as a concept seems to be going strong, with major companies such as Google, IBM, Microsoft and Apple investing in distributed ledger solutions.
The Future of Augmented Reality
This hot topic concept is even older, its origins in 20th Century science fiction and its early innovations in the 1990s. Since then Augmented Reality has seen billions of dollars in investment and has been picked up by major companies.
Much like Blockchain, Virtual Reality and AR development appear to be a priority for Apple and is particularly popular with game development companies like PlayStation (with their PSVR headset) and the now well-known Oculus. But that doesn’t mean AR is only for gaming. In fact, it’s thanks to innovations from game developers that companies are discovering the wide range of possible applications for AR. Whether it’s for art exhibitions, retail shopping or even sports events, new applications of augmented reality are being discovered all the time.
Blockchain and AR together
How can these two technologies coalesce and work together in the future? In short, blockchain can help put the ‘reality’ in augmented reality. One of the current applications of blockchain is its ability to generate uniqueness and ownership. It’s the idea that has taken off in areas like in-game purchasing and digital asset collection, for example with the online cat breeding platform CryptoKitties. The distributed ledger gives each user the chance to buy unique digital items and regain that sense of ownership otherwise absent in entirely digital assets.
When it comes to augmented reality, the concept of ownership is even more abstract, and therefore the value of ownership is even more sought after. Imagine Pokemon GO, perhaps the best-known AR game of recent years, where the Pokemon are actually unique, making the ones you catch an actual rare commodity. The excitement around collecting would be far more powerful, due in no small part to the fact that your virtual Pokemon could accrue real-world monetary value.
Building AR worlds
The implications of this uniqueness and collectability go far beyond Pokemon. The start-up VR platform Decentraland provides users with a digital marketplace where they can curate immersive and interactive VR experiences, all backed up by the Ethereum blockchain. Decentraland is promising that users can buy land and create unique locations in their virtual world, akin to what the open-world online game Second Life did for the early 2000s.
Second life is, in fact, an interesting forecaster of the potential of Decentraland. Second Life players created entire existences inside the game, to the extent that their real-world experiences began to merge with their virtual ones. At its peak, there were a great many businesses that operated stores within the game, including clothing brands like Adidas and American Apparel, car brands like Mazda, and the news bureau Reuters. If this was enhanced by blockchain technology to make purchases unique, AR worlds could become an entirely new commercial medium.
There is much to be said about the potential impact of both of these technologies, so much of which is only on the horizon. What is sure, however, is that neither of these technologies is going away any time soon.
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