By: Chanda Parashar, MLG Contributor
This piece is part of a collaboration with MLG Blockchain Consulting, a leading global blockchain development and consulting firm headquartered in Toronto, Canada, with a distributed team across North America, Europe and Asia that is focused on building next generation applications using blockchain and smart contract technology.
What is Extended Reality or XR? What does it mean to you, to your business, to your customers? Understanding external reality becomes easier with your senses. Our mind perceives the external reality with the help of these senses. That means, you don’t perceive the outside life in its natural form, rather you do it with your individual perception. For example, the elements of the universe – sun, moon, sky, sea, earth, stars – are perceived along with the man-made physical manifestation of life.
Your external experiences create your inner reality thereby resulting in your future. The different realities continue to evolve and blend into our everyday lives; they are changing the way we shop, interact on social media and, most importantly, how we tell stories. XR has always been an acknowledged technology but now it’s disrupting the media, healthcare, film, retail, and marketing industries.
Each technology has its own unique advantages. Virtual reality puts users in a cocoon of sorts; it creates a brand new digital reality for you to enjoy, closing your senses off from the outside world. On the other hand, augmented reality is all about adding new insights to your perception of the world around you. Extended Reality (or XR) merges these two worlds, bringing the digital into the physical and vice versa. The immersive experiences XR has to offer will fundamentally change storytelling and the way marketers engage with consumers.
Everyone is familiar with “Pokémon Go.” The moment you mention it, one remembers bumping into walls, people and maybe even cars, trying to catch rare AR characters from their phone. However, there’s a lot more to Augmented Reality (AR) than crossing the road while chasing little creatures on your screen. The game displayed the success of combining location and augmented reality while capturing the imagination of consumers by blending fantasy with the real world.
How about combining blockchain technology with AR and VR?
It sounds exciting when we talk about combining technologies of the future. However, not every proposed combination of technologies has a potential. Key questions at this stage are: Does it make sense to combine AR/VR with blockchain? Can the two technologies support each other? Can the blockchain plus a location-based marketing bridge into the real world drive the level of engagement and move consumers effectively?
Right now, our society is generating an ocean of data. But, our data interactions are literally missing one degree of freedom. This freedom can be brought back to us by Extended Reality. XR infuses digital information into the physical space, erasing the boundaries between the two. Instead of merely wandering along the shore, we’ll be able to dive into our expanding ocean of data and discover new user experiences and value propositions in depth. Knowing your users is the single most important step in seizing the opportunities of Extended Reality. Understanding what your customers are secretly hoping for in a user experience will allow you to craft that experience and delight them with it.
Extended reality is neither science fiction nor a Hollywood pipe dream; it’s real. Leading companies are doing this right now—they’re doing real experiments, building real solutions and getting real results. Consumers are hunting cute digital creatures with their phones and paying for the privilege. XR holds the promise of obtaining an extensive reach. Even though the XR environment is virtual, the interactivity is real. It will allow users to customize their choices and choose the path they wish to venture on.
While the AR/VR industry is gradually developing, the blockchain market is exploding. The main elements of blockchain—-the elimination of third parties, micro-economies, unique and limited assets, smart contracts, and unfalsifiable proof of ownership and intellectual property—-proves highly beneficial for these realities. Blockchain, with its emphasis on security, decentralization, personal agency, and independence, can help businesses keep control over production and revenue.
Recent surveys on retailers and luxury brands suggest that delivering a 3D shopping experience to online customers leads to better user experience and retention if blockchain is added on top of it. Companies like Amazon and Cappasity are already experimenting with the second part of this concept. For instance, 3D visualization helps e-commerce customers online to pick the right thing. If blockchain is added, what happens is, consumers get security of online transactions for the products they chose with AR and the confidence enabled by smart contracts. Moreover, blockchain makes counterfeiting harder, thus buyers become more assured to get exactly what they selected through an AR-interface.
The combination of AR/VR and blockchain capabilities could lead to a restructuring of offline economies, creation of new virtual economies, and the redesign of aspects of daily life such as work, shopping, or leisure. Moreover, there is tremendous potential for restructuring economic and social life when AR and VR become commercially integrated with cryptocurrencies. The decentralized and secure nature of a blockchain allows for greater user autonomy and independence. In addition, the combination of location services on a transactional network that allows for the free flow of value is an exciting opportunity.
Over the past few years, retailers, brands and services have designed their applications around location data sent to them from the always-on mobile consumer. The consumer’s latitude and longitude are used to optimize advertising, drive loyalty, inform communication and media attribution.
In 2018, companies such as GEON Network are beginning to create new platforms combining location, augmented reality and cryptocurrency to drive engagement and network value, all on the blockchain. The idea is to supplant traditional digital advertising—clumsy banners and annoying pop-ups—-with an advertising exchange that is stocked with 3D-branded objects which adjust intelligently to their XR environment. The hope is that the technology will allow marketing campaigns to blend better with their environments and become more efficient and less intrusive in the process.
The blockchain network combined with location and AR enables a new economy of consumer-friendly services. GEON Network is an interesting model as they are creating a virtual economy where users can virtually locate, fund and mine for coins. Geons are virtual beacons that store crypto value and can be created by anyone, anywhere in the world. Just like other cryptocurrencies, Geon Coins can be freely exchanged between users and converted to other currencies. As this network leverages the blockchain to create consumer-centric solutions, it may become an interesting option for retailers and brands seeking customers.
As of now, only a few companies such as Voxelus, VibeHub, Decentraland and CEEK are working on combining these different technologies; however, there are huge opportunities in this space yet to be grasped. Whether you look at business applications or consumer experiences, VR/AR and blockchain are two industries that probably benefit the most from each other.
Behind these technologies, you’ll find awesome possibilities that will help you to grow your business. If you have any queries about these emerging technologies, feel free to reach out to us!
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