When you spend time trying to understand blockchain and some of its applications, inevitably you end up reading some white papers that supposedly explain how blockchain will get applied, and even going back and watching the cute little carefully-crafted 2 minute video and reading everything on the website – and you still don’t understand what the heck that company does or how it does it.
Here are some of the ones I’ve found in my retail blockchain travels.
The Fabricant is a digital fashion house. And by that, I do not mean a fashion house that uses digital tools to design its products, though they can help fashion houses with some of those tools. I mean, it is a fashion house that designs fashion that is only available digitally. Like on Instagram. Like, never produced in real life but meant to be worn by a digital avatar. And someone apparently bought one of their digital fashion pieces of $9500 (see the Instagram link).
Imagine your next vacation worked like this: I go to a website and build out an itinerary of where I want to go and what I want to do while I’m there. To give it some concreteness, I might go to this site and say, “I want to go to Hawaii. I want to stay for 7 nights, and while I’m there I want to go to a luau, fly over a volcano, paddle board by a waterfall, and swim with dolphins.” Smart Trip then bids out your itinerary to participating travel companies. You might get one company who says they can do it all for $X, or four different companies who together can deliver the itinerary for $Y. You pick which option you like best, and behind the scenes a blockchain-driven smart contract does the rest. That is what Smart Trip is trying to do.
IKEA’s Solar Blockchain
IKEA has been pretty focused on sustainability for a while now, but they are taking it to a new level with a blockchain-driven way for consumers to generate solar power and trade it directly with other consumers. When I think of what it takes to negotiate that just with the local power company, I have a hard time wrapping my head around how that would work exactly, because it’s not like people have point-to-point energy connections to each other, or face a universal rate card for energy generated in one location vs. another. But points to IKEA for trying.
You have to take something seriously when a VC like Andreessen Horowitz backs it with $61 million in capital, but Dfinity is yet another company example where it’s very difficult to work out exactly how blockchain changes the game, let alone brings anything basic to the equation. In the case of Dfinity, they are using blockchain to tackle cloud computing by offering “a single, infinitely scalable, internet-based computer”. I can’t wait to see how that goes.
In this case, the company Empower is taking on something admirable: trying to save the oceans from plastic waste. Blockchain does play a role by promising to connect non-governmental entities who have budget to startups, entrepreneurs and citizens who have ideas on how to reduce plastic waste in our oceans. It seems simple on the surface, and here I genuinely wish them luck, but there’s still a lot of complexity in these relationships that need to be managed, and I’m not sure that blockchain alone will be enough.
This company, Blockchainga, has set out a bold vision for how blockchain will change the way gamers game. And truly, “company” may be a strong word for this initiative. I’m also definitely fuzzy on the details, but somehow blockchain will make it possible (and desirable – that is a key component) to create open worlds that cross gaming platforms, pay gamers for anything they develop (like digital goods, for example), while ensuring that the gaming worlds stay open and accessible.
And last, but by no means least, there is Plantoid, possibly my favorite example of the weird and wild when it comes to blockchain. Plantoid is an art initiative that is built on smart contracts. The first “plant” which is really an art sculpture made of metal, can interact with people through an app – you pay for the plant to do something, like light up or move. When the plantoid has earned enough money in this way, it puts out a smart contract looking for another artist to design another sculpture – with requirements that it contains this interactive element.
People who have “fed” the plant with cryptocurrency get to vote on what the new design should look like, what the interactive element should be, etc. And then a new plantoid is deployed, and now the two together continue their propagation plans by getting “fed” for their interactive elements until they rack up enough money to fund creating a new one. They are currently up to six.
The Bottom Line
Many of these examples are really proofs of concept, designed to illustrate how blockchain can possibly be used, and may never see the light of day in any real scale. Some are here to make a market and thrive in that way. Either way, the breadth of relative “craziness” of the ideas collected here simply underscore how early the days are in blockchain, and how much the world of the possible has barely been scratched. Look for much more innovation to come.