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AR and VR will take a few years to become mainstream. The same is true for blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency. Blockchain allows to securely exchange goods and services online independently of banks and credit card companies, and AR/VR are great visualization tools. Can the integration of two speed up the mass adoption of both? There are scenarios to combine them — let’s explore a few.
New monetization models
Blockchain, with its emphasis on security, decentralization, personal agency, and independence, can help small businesses and freelance content creators to keep control over production and revenue. How could a cryptocurrency-enabled system for independent businesses look like?
Firstly, VR technology can enable people to access live performance — music, theatre, etc. — from the comfort of their homes and at an accessible price. Performers could connect to an online marketplace and have a control over access and pricing for their content. Artists could display their work in augmented reality so that the potential buyer sees how the piece would look in their space. Cryptocurrency would enable peer-to-peer encrypted payments; buyer doesn’t pay a fee, seller doesn’t have to pay a cut to a host gallery or an agent.
The combination of VR and blockchain is interesting for online publishers struggling to turn a profit. For example, VR lends itself particularly to things like how-to videos and travelogues. The viewer can virtually drive a luxury car down a road in rural Italy, authorize a small payment to the content creator. They can learn how to roast the perfect Christmas ham as if they are doing it themselves.
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On the other hand, imagine being a day trader working with a 360 degree VR interface, similar to experiences we are creating at Cappasity. An immersive view could lead to increased efficiency, understanding of market fluctuations, and fewer distractions. According to Goldman Sachs, by 2025 the retail AR/VR market will get about 32 million users and boast $1.6 billion in revenues. Quite an opportunity for a luxury fashion designers, isn’t it? AR applications geared towards trying on clothes or featuring the newest collections have spread relatively quickly as fashion brands and retailers try to get in on the phenomenon.
We have also tried it with retailers and luxury brands and learned that delivering 3D shopping experience to online customers leads to better user experience and retention. Adding blockchain on top of that enables supporting young designers with microtransactions or securing a purchase of new collection by a country-level buyers with smart contracts.
Decision-making meets security
Imagine walking into a grocery store, picking up an apple and seeing the price, nutritional information, and type pop up. Imagine putting it in your cart and walking out without a physical checkout. Sounds comfortable?
Some companies are already flirting with the second part of this concept. Amazon is working to set up Amazon Go stores as soon as 2018. They promise to deliver a seamless checkout so customers can come and go as they please. Amazon is also toying with AR-based furniture showrooms. There customers can both see the couch they want to buy as well as project it into the living room to see how it fits.
The consumer benefits are obvious. Anything that helps the consumer along the purchase journey is worth checking out for business. For instance, 3D visualization already helps e-commerce customers online to pick the right thing. At Cappasity, we’ve seen a 5 to 40 percent increase in online conversion rates with 3D imagery. For example, Jake (a fashion brand from San Francisco) tried the technology to promote a new collection. The poll showed that 95% customers preferred 3D view to video playback.
What happens if blockchain is added? Firstly, the technology that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin use provides better security for online payment transaction and helps to keep financial data safe. The use of cryptocurrencies also promises a certain autonomy from banks and credit card companies. Finally, blockchain makes counterfeiting harder, so the buyers become more assured to get exactly what they selected through an AR-interface.
Going back to the idea of a cashier-free store, opting into a cryptocurrency system enables businesses to significantly cut down on overhead costs. And consumers get security of online transactions for the products they chose with AR and the confidence enabled by smart contracts.
New virtual economies can build community
Decentralized nature of blockchain and use of cryptocurrency will power true virtual economies. For example, in online gaming, blockchain-based transactions can eliminate the need for a central hub or in-game store. Players can establish an online economy on their own terms. Thus a regular massively multiplayer game transforms from a managed gaming service to a complex virtual world.
How about VR? Existing VR games are not online or multiplayer. Playing a VR game seems like a lonely experience. A combination of the immersive quality of VR with the social experience of MMO gaming and cryptocurrency in-game purchases might create an exciting virtual analogue to the communities of the physical world.
Cryptocurrency and VR/AR integration doesn’t have to be limited to online gaming. Opting in to a cryptocurrency helps online communities to become true virtual analogues to traditional forums. Imagine an AR or VR-enabled online auction house similar to eBay, but entirely peer-to-peer. No middleman or auctioneer, but a sort of online version of favourite neighborhood flea market.
The new digital world
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 presumed “natural” (i.e.: work, shopping, or leisure). The future of AR and VR presumes an increased level of immersion and interconnectivity between the offline and online world. As the technology improves, no doubt it will be adopted widely by consumers and businesses.
There is tremendous potential for restructuring economic and social life when AR and VR become commercially integrated with cryptocurrencies. A decentralized and secure nature of blockchain allows the greater user autonomy and independence. AR and VR have the potential to change the way we conceive of the digital world.
Marianna Alshina is co-founder of Cappasity, a platform for creation, embedding, and analysis of 3D and AR/VR content.
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