Will Blockchain Supercharge Immersive Tech?

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Virtual and Augmented Reality companies are using the Blockchain to raise funds, increase engagement, and grow their platforms.

Merging our physical and digital physical realities is the ultimate promise of immersive technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) Virtual Reality (VR) Mixed Reality (MR) - and others in this growing alphabet soup – which is what makes it such a good fit for the Blockchain.

The interesting thing about Blockchain is that it, too, is all about blurring the boundaries between virtual and real. Perhaps it also serves as a reminder that what we consider to be “real” exists largely in the ether as bits and bytes. Either way, however, Blockchain’s magic is that it makes the ephemeral permanent, and thus more valuable.

Philip Rosedale is the founder of one of the earliest virtual worlds still in existence- Second Life (SL). He told Forbes in a recent interview that such worlds – which monetize virtual goods, services and experiences - need a simple system that allows people to reliably assert ownership.

“I think that Blockchain is super important for money, for digital assets, and most importantly for identity. Not just in the virtual world, but in the real world. It stores that information in a way that only the owner who has the private key can be associated with that little chunk of the Blockchain. The owner can update the object, sell it, move it around. No company or central organization is able to do that once it’s printed in the Blockchain,” he explains.

If Blockchain had been around 13 years ago when Linden Lab first launched Second Life, Rosedale believes Linden Lab - the company which he founded - would have built the platform around, it, and indeed he seems keen to now incorporate the technology into his latest Social VR venture High Fidelity. This also a trend we see among many emerging companies in that space, such as Decentraland, which just held its highly anticipated first property auction this month.

Augmented Reality start-up Lucyd, for example, recently created their own cryptocurrency (the LCD token) and is currently raising funds through an ICO (initial coin offering). Having secured a series of AR patents, Lycid are now designing an interactive AR display that uses smartphones for processing power and data. Essentially the lens will let users look up from their phones and interact with their apps within a large, smooth AR interface.

Being on the Blockchain, they claim, will allow Lycid to develop and distribute AR-native content much more easily so that anyone can develop, share and experience content. And it is experiential content that most experts agree will drive the mass adoption of VR.

With over 60 million concert tickets sold every year in the US, it is clear that the market for experiences is booming, but equally clear that there is a limit to how many tickets can be sold to access them physically. Which is where companies like of CEEK VR come in.

CEEK is a platform founded in 2015 that extends the reach of sold-out shows through its Virtual Reality Venues by allowing users to experience them virtually. It has so far signed up over 100 top artists like Elton John, Lady Gaga, Sting, Bon Jovi and Katy Perry, but believe that incorporating Blockchain technology will allow them to massively scale their operations and realize the dream of a “decentralized VR entertainment Metaverse.”

“CEEK VR’s offering will remove the hurdles of creating premium content and virtual goods featuring licensed music and celebrity assets by offering clearing house services through Smart Contracts that automatically pay respective rights holders and publishers. This means more people will be creating quality content in addition to all the concerts,” says CEEK’s CEO Mary Spio.

Clearing rights for songs, for example, takes a very long time and requires employing full-time staff every time new songs are added to a platform, especially if they are owned by multiple stakeholders – as is the norm in the music industry. By enabling transparent, immutable record of ownership and usage rights to be kept in the Blockchain, however, this process can not only be scaled and automated over millions of songs, but becomes much more accountable, meaning artists will get paid for their work in a much more timely fashion, reaching larger audiences in the process. The picture it paints is very much of a win-win for the creative industries, which has often struggled to cope with disruptive technologies in the past.

Celebrities are also able to create their own currency and items on the CEEK platform. This means exclusive items can be created, and artists can even sign those items with special cryptographic token signatures that cannot be duplicated and are authenticated on the Blockchain in terms of rarity and value.

Gaze Coin is another Blockchain-powered platform that monetizes VR & AR through enabling such celebrity partnerships. By using gaze tracking, it calculates the amount of time a player spends looking at or immersed inside specific content and then creates a micropayment - advertisers are charged for the time, content owners are paid and gamers are rewarded.

The company is now planning on trialling the first of its “Celebrity Coins” next year. The Kim Kardashian West’s KCoin is linked to the KK Goes to Hollywood app which already attracted 42 million downloads and which has generated nearly $200 million in revenue since June 2014. They stand to make even more, however, by adopting a monetized VR platform where instead of purchasing virtual goods, players can purchase Kardashian’s branded and endorsed products both virtually and eventually in real life.

“For the first time the Kardashian’s have been toppled in the Google search rankings, and by Bitcoin. The idea of linking the two might seem far-fetched, but we see it as the next step,” says Jonny Peters Founder of Gaze Coin. “If the app’s KCoin became a cryptocurrency it would enable brands to track and reward players for influence and advertising, as well as the purchase of real-world goods in virtual stores. So we’re doing it,” he says.
Spio also agrees that creating and monetizing virtual goods and services in a frictionless way will be the cornerstone of building these new virtual worlds. “Tokenization does that, and users will enjoy more premium VR content as well as new earning and spending possibilities,” she concludes.

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