By Victor Agreda
This week Magic Leap made its latest splash by allowing tech journalists to toy around with its Magic Leap One Creator’s Edition glasses. They’re the first product from the company after years of work and almost two billion in funding. But it’s clear this is not a consumer-level product – yet. The AR (augmented reality) glasses cost $2,295 and will only be available to developers at first. Obviously hardware needs software to run, and Magic Leap is hoping developers will flock to one of the first manageable AR-goggle solutions in existence. The AR space is heating up, as Google and Apple baked in tools for developers a year or more ago, and a slew of AR apps are available on their stores. How does blockchain factor in? Well, there are a few AR-related plays using blockchain, which we’ll look at below.
First of all, it’s worth noting there are serious ergonomic challenges to AR itself. It’s unlikely that gamers will hold up their phones for hours to play a game using AR, and Magic Leap’s goggles (never mind the cost) are not exactly the most fashionable thing you can strap to your face. But technology gets smaller all the time, and AR aficionados are banking on more fashionable, less expensive hardware in the future. The only question is, when?
You might be familiar with perhaps the most popular AR game of all time: Pokemon Go. Players “find” various Pokemon as they walk around, pointing the camera on their phones at real world locations to capture the tiny monsters, which power competitions with other players at designated places. Most of the AR games and platforms being proposed by blockchain companies are a variation on this theme, which has obvious applications in the non-fungible items space.
There are also obvious marketing plays here. IZX (currently having its token sale through August), is one of those making the argument that a decentralized platform for marketers using AR is a boon to consumers. The notion is for players to “collect tokens in augmented reality and exchange them for valuable prizes – crypto-tokens of other projects, gifts from advertisers and discounts.” This is very much like Pokemon Go, but with a rewards system in place. It’s not unlike the dozens of other token systems that reward participation with coins, although it’s one of the more presentable AR solutions.
As for fully-fledged games, Reality Clash isn’t a groundbreaking game in itself, but it is implementing non-fungible items as weapons – think CryptoKitties but the cats are guns. Of course, you can buy the guns with RCC Coins (their own currency), and you can become a “virtual arms dealer” by selling and trading them on RC’s platform. All of this is built on Ethereum, so there’s a chance for making money that way, too. Expect to see lots more of these types of games in the future.
Then there’s vaporware, like Lucyd’s proposed AR glasses. The company originally declared it would have a beta prototype in Q1 of this year, but that’s been pushed back to 2019. Considering that Magic Leap has raised over $2 billion, and produced a model that looks pretty bulky (and reviewers admit is somewhat half-baked), it’s unlikely that the paltry $6 million raised by Lucyd’s ICO will leapfrog the competition. The tokens seem to have been sold to fund development, and otherwise the company makes the same vague assertions about decentralized platforms that pretty much every blockchain tech company claims as well. While Lucyd is positioning itself to be the Oculus Rift of AR using blockchain, it remains to be seen if it can deliver.
Perhaps more interesting is Scanetchain, which is just closing its own pre-sale. This company is using blockchain as a ledger for products in the real world that can be scanned and thus enable a wide swath of purposeful content. Imagine scanning a water bottle and getting an offer to buy that water at a discount, delivered to your door. The company has a few interesting twists on top of its AR tech, including an off-chain layer to accelerate transactions, and Proof-of-Activity compensation. The AR commercial platform is set to launch in Singapore in September, 2018 and could be worth tracking to see how many vendors and marketers it can get on board.
Rounding out our highlights tour is Arcona. The company is offering digital land in a pre-sale (now over), and will open its marketplace soon. Here, instead of buying virtual land as in Decentraland, the company is offering AR space grafted onto the real world. When the iPhone added an App Store, there were a number of companies using the mapping tools to build these augmented maps where people could fight over territory, and this appears to be an evolution of that thought. For example, you could put a giant statue of your company mascot in the middle of Times Square – for a price. The company has some solid backers, and its tech includes research done on distributed geographic information systems (GIS). The use of blockchain for a GIS, plus AR, plus the other areas the company says its researching gives it a possible leg up in the AR space. Mapping is critical to success for projects like these, and leveraging blockchain to do so has applications far beyond the company’s own AR ambitions.
AR and blockchain might not seem to work well together, but as expected there are some smart companies out there creating novel applications and platforms marrying the two technologies. The question is which ones will launch, and which will capitalize on their tech. Augmented reality is even more nascent than virtual reality, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens next.
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Featured Image: Augmented Reality Child Bicycle Bike Cyclist Fence via Max Pixel