Detail of Krista Kim's Mars house

Will NFTs usher in a new era of creative expression?

First in a series on NFTs: Unlocking the potential of the Digital Economy.

With the burgeoning interest in the investor community around all things NFT (nonfungible tokens), yesterday prominent angel investor Jason Calacanis and his Inside.com crew hosted a 3½-hour webinar called “Understanding the NFT Opportunity.”

 

An outtake from the Inside.com webinar with, clockwise from top left, artist Krista Kim, moderator Michael Tant, Griffin McShane of Inside.com, Jason Calacanis, Bill Barhydt of Abra Global and investor Vinny Lingham. At top, a detail from the artwork by the artist Beeple that sold as an NFT for $69 million.

And while that might sound like a dry topic, it turned out to be an illuminating summit with some of the sector’s most prominent figures laying out their vision of what’s ahead in this emerging world.

While some skeptics dismiss NFTs as a fad or a soon-to-burst bubble, the builders in the space are quietly going about their business of creating a new digital economy that holds out the vision of a Web 3.0 where power flows to creators, fans get rewarded and the current tech behemoths of Web 2.0 no longer dominate.

One of the thought leaders emerging in the space is Krista Kim, a digital artist since 2013, whose presentation during the webinar took the conversation to some place special.

 

Digital artist Krista Kim during her presentation.

“Enjoying your actual life, and yet enhancing it with 3D digital programmable assets, is the future of art, and it’s the future of NFTs.”

KRISTA KIM

While another panelist in the webinar, investor Vinny Lingham, said the current moment reminded him of the ferment around ICOs (initial coin offerings) circa 2017, a more apt parallel would be the explosion of creativity and new possibilities in 2005.

In March of that year, I launched (with Marc Canter and Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive) Ourmedia, the world’s first free video hosting platform. Six weeks later, YouTube opened its doors. Google Maps was born. So was Techcrunch. Reddit came along in June. Social media emerged as a cultural force, along with the selfie. I organized a Citizens Media Summit at the Internet Archive. (For a further trip down memory lane, see my 2011 writeup, Six years ago a video revolution was born.)

We’re in a similar cultural moment today.

Just over two weeks ago, the Toronto-based artist Krista Kim “minted” and sold the first NFT house for more than $500,000 on the SuperRare digital art marketplace. Called Mars House, it’s a 3D digital file that can be experienced in virtual reality. Kim called it a representation of “digital Zen.” Here’s a screenshot of a visualization she shared during the webinar.

 

digital house by Krista Kim

A screenshot of the pool in Kim’s Mars House. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Kim, the global ambassador for the SuperWorld AR augmented reality app, told the participants that she expects Apple’s long-rumored AR glasses to come out in 2022. When it does, she said, “It’s obvious that … enjoying your actual life, and yet enhancing it with 3D digital programmable assets, is the future of art, and it’s the future of NFTs.”

She held out the prospect that the fine arts decorating these online worlds, along with regular collectibles that you populate your spaces with, will “make your heart sing and make your life beautiful.”

She added: “You can wear beautiful digital NFT fashion in an augmented reality space, and you could imagine that this fashion can actually respond to your body temperature and your mood. It could respond color changes, you could go as crazy as you want or as minimalist as you want. Really, the sky’s the limit creatively.”

“I believe that 3D digital assets and augmented reality are basically going to be an extension of that self expression of who you are through creative objects,” Kim went on. “That could be anything. It could be a theme song for the day that you bought that you want to play for an hour to walk around with. It could be a poem that you actually transpose onto your body or where’s a thought bubble above your head and you go grocery shopping with it because that poem inspired you and you want to inspire other people when you’re at the grocery store when they read it.”

 

The bedroom in Kim’s Mars House. (Click to enlarge.)

In a way, it’s an extension of the virtual world Second Life, which I devoted a chapter to in my book Darknet, and the new generation of VR and AR (see my piece on mixed reality events) — but updated for the 2020s and powered by blockchain and the cryptocurrency Ethereum.

Kim pointed out that studies show that young people are the most depressed generation in history thanks largely to social media and how big tech companies are not prioritizing their users’ well-being.

“On the SuperWorld interface, what I want to do is I want to create these healing beautiful meditative experiences in different places around the world for the public to experience for free,” she said. “I’ll have one maybe in the middle of Bryant Park in New York or the Hudson Yards, or in Toronto, in Kyoto, all over the world. Really, the opportunity for creatives is incredible for this new world of 3D digital assets and augmented reality spaces. You can mint on the platform, or you can actually actually upload your already minted NFTs and you could sell them in augmented reality in real time. And you could imagine the opportunity for brands, for companies to collaborate and to create unique and special creative experiences … using the next generation of NFTs.”

Exciting times. Hold on for the ride ahead.

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