Virtual reality is such an amazing concept. By now, it should be clear to everyone that it’s much more than a gimmick. It offers an alternative — a portal into a digital world where anything is possible.
While some may be tempted to use it as a way to escape the harsh realities of everyday life, VR’s real potential lies not in replacing, but in expanding, the human experience. It enables us to visit and experience an infinite number of imaginary worlds and scenarios, while never leaving the comfort of our real-world homes. We can meet our long-distance friends and interact with them in ways previously not possible.
VR + blockchain
Now, with Decentraland, you can also own a piece of virtual land and use it for whatever purpose you imagine. It’s a unique project that blends VR and blockchain — two technologies that have seen massive growth over the past couple of years. Decentraland relies on the Ethereum
blockchain, a distributed ledger running across the internet, which means it doesn’t depend on corporate servers for hosting.
Read: People are making more than 500% buying property that doesn’t actually exist
Users and owners can now be sure that their creations are immune from outside influences (in contrast to the similar, but somewhat aged, Second Life). This level of freedom and safety, as well as the fixed number of available plots (90,000) have attracted a surprising number of VR land owners, ready to pay serious cash for their plot of digital land. Individual plots can easily be sold for $30,000, with prices going into the hundreds of thousands.
Needless to say, in modern Decentraland, speculation is the word of the day. Many buy cheap and sell sky-high, but this kind of trend is just a beginning — or at least that’s what developers Esteban Ordano and Ari Meilich hope. Much of that hope is based on a successful initial coin offering (ICO) that raised $26 million in 30 seconds last year. Sales are still going strong, with a recent Genesis City (Decentraland’s first metropolis) plot auction amassing an additional $28 million.
So beyond plot speculation, what’s the appeal of Decentraland? First, it’s a unique economy. Any transaction within the system is based on MANA, its ERC20 token. As plots of land are populated and districts fleshed out, users will be able to, say, go to a casino or a virtual cinema and watch a movie, paying with their MANA. Possibilities are limitless: In a virtual business district, companies and freelancers could offer their services, all of which could be paid with MANA and conducted in the real world (or even VR!).
MANA can also be exchanged for fiat money (traditional currencies), so all Decentraland’s VR transactions translate to very tangible, real-world wealth. This will motivate content creators to step up their quality to attract more visitors and steal them away from the competition. Visitors will pay for services, which in turn will result in monetary gain and additional investing in service quality.
Don’t forget the protective bubble of decentralization that keeps these investments safe — once built, all these virtual cinemas, shooting galleries, casinos and other user-generated content will be there to stay, impervious to third-party influence. Some people could, understandably, be offended by certain content (Genesis City has a red-light district planned), but the creators already have a solution for this. Users will have filters available to hide any type of content they find offensive or inappropriate.
Decentraland is still very much in its early stages. Many of the plots are empty and those that aren’t still lack the sophistication and interaction levels needed to sway the masses and foster greater adoption. However, there’s one thing that makes it very special: Decentraland shows that in the age of growing centralization and online censorship, tools and applications that can make the internet free again still exist. It’ll be interesting to see if it lives to its expectations!