The Details

Blockchain is commonly associated, and often conflated with cryptocurrency, it is of course the underlying digital ledger technology that provides security and transparency of transactions. Blockchain technology can be used in conjunction with all manner of assets – to that end we partnered with Intel and BlockV to create a technology demonstrator to show the full potential of the technology.

The event was NRF, the world’s largest retail expo, the idea – to create virtual lifeforms that asked the philosophical question of whether something is less real because it’s not made of atoms. Among the many virtues of Blockchain, the primary role it provides is uniqueness of the assets tracked therein. A digital 3D asset on the blockchain can only be in one place at one time, whether that’s on a user’s phone, a digital billboard, a banner advert or an augmented reality environment.

The concept was to create and release virtual butterflies across New York, the location for NRF. Each butterfly would have its own rudimentary AI determining such characteristics as speed, stamina and flight path, combined with unique physical characteristics – wing size, colour and patterns. So, if each butterfly was physically unique, had their own ‘brain’ and was a truly unique digital item tracked on the blockchain…is this any less real than a physical object?

The Process

We created iOS and Android apps that provided two ways to view the 3D butterflies – a top-down map view and an AR mode. The app also contained an inventory where users could view their captured butterflies.
Visitors to NRF were encouraged via a combination of social media postings, on-site messaging and speaker sessions to capture the butterflies using the app’s AR mode, powered by Google ARCore. To incentivise engagement, each butterfly carried a gift – the gifts ranging from a donation to charity in the users’ name, to a coffee gift card, to a drone. Upon collecting a butterfly, the gift could be redeemed at the relevant stand.
Also available to collect were ‘biomes’, these were pocket-sized environments in which to home captured butterflies. If a user did not find a biome, the butterfly would soon fly away from the users phone and be available once again for capture.
Over the course of the 3-day event 8,000 gifts were redeemed and $50,000 in donations given to charity.

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