Last January 25, I was at the Blockchain and Bitcoin Conference Philippines at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel and I spent the whole day listening to various speakers talk about blockchain solutions as well as their own projects.
A couple of projects were particularly interesting to me. One was Ubiatar (ubiatar.com) which was basically a video-streaming application that allowed people to either be usars or avatars. A usar is someone who hires an avatar to be his eyes and hands in a remote location. For example, a usar in Davao can hire an avatar in Paris to go to the Eiffel Tower and look around, providing a virtual tour for someone who might not be able to afford, or who might not be physically able (i.e. someone who is paralyzed from the neck down) to make the actual trip.
Usars give instructions to the avatar by typing commands in a chat box or by simply using standard onscreen icons to command the avatar to go forward, back, left or right, and even to interact with objects. The icons provide a great way to communicate especially if both do not speak the same language.
Usars can find avatars in different locations in the world via UbiatarPlay (ubiatarplay.io) and initiate contracts which avatars can either accept or refuse. Usars and avatars can also rate each other, much like online services like Uber or AirBNB where vendor and vendee rate each other. UbiatarPlay will also act as mediator in case of disputes, e.g. if the usar commands the avatar to do something dangerous, immoral or illegal, which the avatar, of course, has every right to refuse doing.
What attracted me to this project was that a lot of the technology has already been built and can be tested. I visited the Ubiatar booth where Francesco Raco, the company CFO, demonstrated the platform. First, we “hired” an avatar in Italy and I use the word “hired” loosely since all avatars at this point are simply on a volunteer basis and you can only use them to look around wherever they are. Anyway, our avatar showed us the window view from what seemed to be his or her apartment and we could tell the avatar to move right or left and even take a still photo of the view.
Next, I downloaded the Ubiatar app on my phone and became an avatar while Francesco issued commands for me to go around the conference hall. The video streaming quality was surprisingly good and impressive.
Other possible applications for this included business deals where a property buyer might hire an avatar in a remote location to scout a place first before actually traveling there, saving time and money. One can also use the platform to create a business like an online game where the players control real people to interact with a simulated environment (e.g. crime scene) where they have to solve the case by looking at various clues around the place.
The other project that caught my attention was Datum.org, which was presented by its CEO and co-founder, Roger Haenni. This project seeks to provide a marketplace for data, empowering individuals by giving us control over the various types of data collected from us by our smart devices, social networks, phones, websites, and so on, and we can choose with whom to share or even sell this data.
The user submits his/her data by connecting to the platform and paying a small fee (using DAT tokens) to store the data. This information is then encrypted and anonymized and sent to the Datum blockchain. Buyers can then look for the type of data they want and pay for that data which is then paid back to the users.
What interests me with this is the ability to monetize our own data rather than just having other entities use it for their own purposes without giving us anything in return.
All in all, attending the conference and getting to meet other experts and enthusiasts was an enriching experience. I had minor blooper while looking around at the other attendees nametags. I noticed that a lot of people had BBC Philippines printed on the bottom part of the tag, and I thought, “Wow, BBC (the media company) sure sent a lot of people to cover this event.” When I looked at my own tag later in the day, I was surprised to find out that I also had BBC Philippines printed on it. That’s when I realized that BBC was not referring to the media company but to Blockchain and Bitcoin Conference Philippines.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.
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