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  • Do you remember when we all had to stop the spread and stay at home?

  • Well, I tell you, one of the unexpected,

  • positive things to come out of that time --

  • well, other than the normalization of comfortable clothing in public,

  • obviously --

  • (Laughter)

  • was that my industry, digital art

  • and immersive entertainment,

  • experienced a huge surge of interest.

  • More folks than ever before turned to their screens

  • to seek out digital experiences and online connection

  • and well, social connection in online spaces.

  • We couldn't connect in-person,

  • so suddenly, our digital lives took on a whole new level of importance.

  • This sudden global demand

  • accelerated the research and development

  • of a previously sci-fi concept

  • known as the metaverse.

  • In the metaverse, we will connect with one another as virtual avatars.

  • We will live, work and play together,

  • building a whole new, magical dimension of existence.

  • (Laughter)

  • It sounds like a dream, right?

  • Well, technically, it’s a programmer’s nightmare.

  • But if we can pull it off,

  • it will become the world's largest community-driven

  • digital world-building experiment to date.

  • But we don't want to sit inside staring at our screens anymore.

  • At least I don't.

  • I love my digital art,

  • but I want to take it with me out into the real world.

  • So let's do that.

  • This is (Never) Lonely Boy.

  • He's sitting in the abandoned lot by himself,

  • until he's surrounded by his virtual friends.

  • Now, what if those virtual friends could join me here on the TED stage?

  • (Audience cheers)

  • Oh, bam!

  • Hey, little buddies.

  • Now, ideally, we'd all be wearing augmented reality glasses,

  • but consumer-ready AR glasses are not quite there yet,

  • but this is kind of cool.

  • But how can we build on this?

  • You know, what's next?

  • And is there a way for the digital experiences that we create

  • to truly enrich our physical lives?

  • So today I'll propose three pillars,

  • for what I think will help us build a healthy metaverse.

  • Starting off with pillar number one: community.

  • So back in 2010,

  • I had a very enriching experience

  • when I got to collaborate with a bunch of geniuses

  • in the Pilbara desert in northern western Australia.

  • Meet the Love Punks.

  • So we went about our digital world-building in a very analog way.

  • We got dressed up,

  • we put on a face paint,

  • we built sets,

  • and then we brainstormed our stories by acting them out.

  • Now, what blew my mind was how invested these young people became

  • in their digital identities and their digital world-building,

  • that it motivated them to show up every single day,

  • for two years,

  • to learn how to color themselves in the comic

  • and animate themselves in the video game.

  • Now, the Love Punks began as a collaboration

  • with a community of around 40 people and five grandmas.

  • There was --

  • Grandmas, they were the wildest punks.

  • (Laughter)

  • And in Australia,

  • they went on to inspire a live-action TV series

  • and a national curriculum

  • teaching young Australians how to become Love Punks.

  • (Applause)

  • It's not bad for a bunch of punks.

  • So that experience highlighted to me

  • how the digital worlds we build can be a wonderful playground

  • for exploring identity, for learning new skills,

  • for practicing creativity

  • and bringing our communities together.

  • And that brings us to pillar number two:

  • technology

  • and more specifically, access to technology.

  • We need to ensure everyone can participate in this future metaverse.

  • So around the same time as Love Punks,

  • I began imagining how to scale these digital world-building ideas

  • in my cyberpunk web comic called Nawlz.

  • Now I imagined, like, a future digital culture

  • where the youth had chips in their head

  • that allowed them to project their art and imagination

  • onto a shared digital layer that covered themselves

  • and their city.

  • So like,

  • they could hang out at the club wearing their virtual fashion.

  • Or they could get chased down the street

  • by some crazy digital tentacle things that got pretty weird.

  • That digital culture would be described today

  • as an augmented reality metaverse.

  • Now we're probably not all ready to get chips in our heads,

  • but thankfully we can access augmented reality on our mobile devices.

  • So one day I received a mysterious comment on that web comic.

  • It read:

  • "We could make some of those things ..."

  • Very mysterious.

  • So I clicked on the user profile

  • and discovered that person was an augmented reality programmer.

  • So I messaged them back immediately:

  • "Yes" Let's make all the things!!!"

  • That person, Lukasz Karluk is now my business partner,

  • and we augmented everything.

  • Augmented reality comics, augmented reality tattoos, stickers.

  • There's a cute little turtle.

  • Kids could color in their own kites and then fly them immediately

  • as augmented reality kites.

  • I even AI hacked "The New York Times."

  • That was a little controversial.

  • (Laughter)

  • We had a lot of artists reaching out to us,

  • asking how we were doing it.

  • So we created tools to allow them to augment their work.

  • And very quickly, we had a community of artists

  • covering the world with their augmented art.

  • It was beautiful.

  • I felt like my vision was finally starting to make some traction.

  • But up until now,

  • all the experiences that I've shared have been standalone.

  • For example, a Love Punk's avatar

  • kind of like step out of the video game

  • and then suddenly appear walking down the street

  • beside you in augmented reality?

  • Like, that digital bridge doesn't exist yet.

  • But what if it did?

  • And this brings me to my third pillar:

  • decentralization.

  • So for us to move seamlessly through the metaverse,

  • we need for our art and our avatars to be decentralized.

  • We can't be dependent on a single platform.

  • Sorry, Zuck.

  • (Laughs)

  • I mean, what if that platform were to die?

  • We don't want to lose our art.

  • So NFTs --

  • another word that's been flying around a lot lately --

  • help us to solve this problem.

  • NFTs are unique, decentralized digital assets,

  • and they've also come to represent a new economy

  • that has been widely accepted

  • as the norm for buying and selling digital art.

  • So not only can NFTs move from one platform to the next,

  • but they can be sold and digital artists can get paid.

  • And that all helps to keep the lights on in the metaverse.

  • So lately I've been kicking the wheels of my own metaverse

  • called the Sutuverse.

  • Very humble.

  • And my first project in the Sutuverse is Neonz.

  • I illustrated hundreds of cyberpunk characteristics

  • like virtual reality headsets and face tattoos and antennas.

  • Then we created a tool to combine all these characteristics together

  • to generate 10,000 unique avatars as NFT artworks.

  • We then put those NFT artworks up

  • on the environmentally friendly Tezos blockchain.

  • Thousands of fellow cyberpunk enthusiasts collected them.

  • Thank you.

  • We then connected our augmented reality app to that blockchain

  • to allow our community to become their Neonz in AR.

  • And look at us.

  • We're like a cyberpunk Brady Bunch.

  • And just imagine again, when we have those augmented reality glasses

  • and we can just see each other down the pub like this,

  • like, that'll be one hell of a Neonz reunion.

  • If you're not interested in the theatrics of putting Neonz on your face,