The Road to Augmented, Shared Reality
While the Geo Web land market has been live on Optimism since January 14th, 2023, our project history stretches way back to 2020.
Much has changed since we set out to build a “fair” property rights system for geospatial augmented reality. Our world was forever altered by a pandemic. We’ve had multiple breathless crypto bull runs followed by violent downturns. The technology landscape continues to be transformed at an accelerating pace (if based solely on Twitter discourse, artificial general intelligence might be here by the time you read this).
But none of that has changed why we’re building the Geo Web.
We believe that always-on, field-of-view smart devices (e.g. augmented reality glasses) will usher in an era of computing more impactful than the current smartphone era. The spatial internet will create untold opportunities with positive and negative impacts.
We want the foundations of this technology (and therefore society) to optimize for creating permissionless opportunities, rewarding those that continuously add value rather than extract it, and ultimately creating more shared prosperity.
How those values manifest into the Geo Web “product” has undoubtedly evolved.
We now see our mission more fully as creating augmented, shared reality.
That vision includes where it all started: property rights that account for the networked nature of the modern world. It also requires open publishing standards/tools for new media possibilities. And maybe most importantly, it calls for public goods coordination that promotes cooperation rather than defection long into the future.
These 3Ps are the pillars of the post-launch Geo Web roadmap. With our property rights foundation laid, we can begin to round out our offering and actualize augmented, shared reality. So today, we’re excited to share what we’ve been quietly working on, preview opportunities on the horizon, and invite you to help shape the direction of the project in this next phase.
Property rights are still at the core of the Geo Web experiment.
Partial common ownership (PCO) reflects our values and accounts for the nature of a networked society (i.e. a shared reality). It’s fairer, more efficient, and more productive than traditional private property rights.
Making changes to something as foundational as property rights isn’t just a technical challenge, but a social one. We couldn’t launch the Geo Web until that foundation had sufficiently settled.
It’s why so much of our project development has focused on our PCO land market implementation to date. This includes at least three major redesigns over our multi-year journey. That doesn’t mean that our work is complete or perfect. We’ll continue to learn from experience, incorporate new technology/ideas, and expand our perspectives with new contributors/stakeholders.
We designed our mainnet contracts to prioritize scalability, modularity, and extensibility. Fee rates and auction mechanisms can evolve without massive migration efforts. We can add market functions for merging and splitting parcels. How parcels are defined can become more flexible to better fit physical reality too (i.e. parcels with arbitrary shapes rather than locked into a grid).
But our current focus in the property rights realm is all about improving the user experience of our PCO land market.
Account abstraction offers numerous exciting UX opportunities. With smart wallets, we can simplify Geo Web land market interactions through transaction batching and gas fee abstraction. We can push the intricacies of blockchain technology into the background while enhancing–not compromising–web3’s core value propositions. Self-custody “Web 2.0 sign-in” wallets already exist and are getting better with multiparty computation (MPC) and social recovery. Account abstraction combined with low-cost, fiat-to-crypto onramps (i.e. credit/debit card ETH purchases) will make the Geo Web Cadastre accessible to those with zero previous crypto experience.
We’ve begun working on a mobile-accessible Cadastre. It will remain web-based and open-source (no draconian app store rules or 30% duopoly tax). Empowering users to claim parcels when they’re out in the world rather than sitting at a desktop will shorten the feedback loop between land claims and value realization. At an event, park, or restaurant with friends? Claim your current location on the Geo Web and add AR content from your phone for a killer party trick.
Promoting the understanding and adoption of our radical property rights system will be an ongoing initiative. We’ll keep chipping away through hands-on exposure, educational material, and supporting other PCO experiments.
Property Rights Roadmap Highlights
- Account abstraction (transaction batching, gas abstraction, privacy) - In-progress
- Fiat-to-crypto onramps on the Cadastre - In-progress
- Web 2.0 Cadastre sign-in - In-progress
- Mobile Cadastre - In-progress
- Partial common ownership education
Reality is a visceral phenomenon for the most part. We don’t intellectually examine it often. But if we do, we might boil it down to essential elements like persistence (objects don’t randomly disappear), synchronicity (simultaneous observations are consistent), and interactivity (actions have effects).
As we attempt to create the Geo Web’s shared digital overlay, we want to recreate these conditions that we take for granted while breaking the rules in ways that create magic.
This is a tall task, but we know at least one table-stakes requirement: physical reality isn’t excludable. We share it.
So our goal isn’t just to develop open-source standards and tools, but to design them in a way that abstracts away the proprietary technologies that will inevitably persist in other parts of the stack (hardware, AR frameworks, etc.). We can commoditize these complementary technologies by making geolocation the point of integration for spatial computing rather than an app, algorithm, OS, device, or server.
Creating a non-excludable digital reality (aka augmented, shared reality) requires practical usability. Everyone needs to be able to participate in the Geo Web without specialized knowledge or skills—again like physical reality.
For Geo Web publishers, adding digital content to a parcel should functionally be as easy as hanging a picture on the wall (or easier!). Cadastre tools need to simplify the technical aspects of AR publishing to the equivalent of installing an app on your phone. For Geo Web browsers, we want to hide the complexity and interactions that are used to create multi-party digital reality. It needs to be natural enough to be taken for granted.
Our current approach toward these lofty goals is based on the Entity-Component-System pattern that is often utilized in the gaming industry. We explore more of the technical intricacies of this in a separate blog post. But, the idea is to create a generalized ruleset that defines how physical space can be augmented with digital content through simple data schemas.
These publishing schemas can focus on the entity (i.e. identifiers for objects) and component (i.e. data that describes the state/attributes/position of objects) parts of the ECS pattern while remaining agnostic to the system aspect (i.e. the platforms and frameworks used to render the objects on-device). Content-addressable data via IPLD provides a ready tool to verify and share the source of truth established by Geo Web publishers through these schemas.
We are currently designing schemas that enable cross-platform support (iOS via ARKit, Android via ARCore, & web via WebXR) of several popular AR object placement techniques—image targeting, object/mesh targeting, and geospatial anchoring.
This effort is representative of our overall approach. Each of these techniques has strengths and limitations. Some are easier to use for publishers. Some introduce friction for the browser. They all have platform-specific implementation details. They’ll evolve over time and be replaced by innovative new techniques. With well-designed schemas integrated into Cadastre publishing tools and Spatial Browsers, these technical challenges and incompatibilities can become transparent to users.
We’re targeting static persistence for initial use cases built on these schemas. We’ll give digital objects a sense of shared permanence and presence that’s lacking with current AR apps. With time, we’ll build up capabilities to enable dynamic multi-party experiences that are both synchronous (read-only) and interactive (read-write) on the Geo Web.
Publishing Roadmap Highlights
- Entity/component schema validations - In-Progress
- Cadastre publishing tools (schema integration)
- iOS, Android, & Web Spatial browsers (schema integration)
- Proof-of-concept use cases with digital persistence
- Schemas & use cases with synchronicity (dynamic, multi-party, read-only)
- Schemas & use cases with interactivity (dynamic, multi-party, read-write)
Public Goods Coordination
How can we possibly think that a bootstrapped project like the Geo Web can take on the world’s biggest corporations and their billions of dollars of R&D per year? How can we wrestle away the foundations of the next computing paradigm they’re so eagerly pursuing?
The answer lies in public goods coordination enabled by smart contracts. There’s a double meaning to our augmented, shared reality mission:
We can create a more prosperous (augmented) future through more effective coordination mechanisms (sharing reality).
In a way, AR tech is just a vehicle to demonstrate the superior outcomes we can generate by adopting this coordination mindset more broadly.
To the uninitiated, this sounds like a do-gooder pipe dream. It’s the opposite. We’re basing our strategy on cold hard incentives and feedback loops.
That’s what ultimately determines the winning platforms on the internet. Each era of the web is defined by the innovations that enable(d) the dominant platforms to better accrue network effects. It’s a largely amoral process.
In the early days, the open web outcompeted walled gardens like AOL through the compounding effects of permissionless global scale.
In Web 2.0, private corporations were able to internalize the network effects of the globe’s workforce, creativity, and data through cloud hyperscaling. They controlled the servers that ran the new innovative stuff. They controlled value flow.
In web3, smart contracts offer a return to true permissionlessness (not just “free”—as in beer), unparalleled operational scalability (deploy a smart contract once and it can serve the world with no OpEx from the deployer), and credible, transparent ways to accrue network effect value to the public.
The public has a choice of where and how to bestow their legitimacy. We can tap into that with value-aligned early adopters to jumpstart the Geo Web’s network effects.
From there, the optimal path to compound value and incentivize laggards to coordinate is embracing the magic of public goods. They’re like inexhaustible wells of value that anyone can access. Those same attributes have always made it difficult to create business models that sustain them.
But with PCO land market funds flowing, the Geo Web can join the growing list of web3 networks and communities that are making public goods profitable and sustainable for innovators/entrepreneurs. We’re targeting July for our first quadratic funding (QF) round. We’ll use Gitcoin’s newly open-sourced Allo Protocol to administer this first iteration.
Network contributors, builders, creators, and educators will be eligible to participate as grantees. We’re excited to experiment with secondary funding allocation mechanisms as grantees as well. Protocol Guild is an example of a type of allocation experiment that could earn matching funds.
By having all of these allocation mechanisms live at “Layer 2” of the Geo Web’s funding governance, we can create a pluralistic ecosystem and more productive outcomes. Mechanisms can be on-chain, off-chain, and even explicitly for-profit. The Geo Web can play the meta game by embracing permissionless innovation in funding allocation mechanisms. The market of voters/funders will decide what has merit. Continued funding requires continued results instead of inefficiencies being ossified through centralized or plutocratic governance.
As powerful as QF has proven to be in web3, we know there’s room to push the envelope with the power of programmable money. Geo Web land market funds are streamed in, so why not stream them out too as quadratic matching funds?
There’s work yet to do with the underlying protocol by the awesome team at Superfluid and with Sybil resistance/mechanism design on our end. But, the velocity, efficiency, and impact of public goods funding that this would enable would be radically different than anything else out there. Stay tuned.
Public Goods Funding Roadmap Highlights
- Geo Web QF Round 1
- Secondary funding allocation mechanisms
- Trial program for incentivized land claim referrals (not funded through network fees)
- Streaming quadratic funding