A passion for collecting expensive art is not necessarily considered a perfect match for someone with a passion for sports and fitness. Ben Pember and his company district are effortlessly resolving this supposed contradiction with NFTs.
Ben Pember founded district in 2018 . His mission has always been to motivate people to be active through exploration. When district launched , Ben and his team organized big events with 10 000 people doing something which could be called ‘digital orienteering’. They would use an app, collect points and complete challenges. Some started calling them “Pokemon GO meets The Amazing Race”. It's actually a nice description of what district was all about. Ben calls himself a huge blockchain and crypto enthusiast, always participating in and observing the NFT craze. He was always thinking about how the idea of digital collectibles could apply itself to district. When the pandemic hit his business , he started to develop a new idea..
Hi Ben, what’s your vision for district?
Essentially, we are relaunching district as a game to earn NFTs. We want to make sure that people have that initial experience of collecting coins, exploring the real world, and getting that first NFT. However, the actual longer term vision of what district is going to be is a platform for people to launch their NFTs, their digital collectibles, into the physical world.
NFTs can be quite hard for people to understand.
Digital collectibles, or NFTs, are something that everyone can actually understand. Take for example the baseball card analogy. We think that digital collectables are going mainstream. And as we see brands or lots of different organizations get involved, there will be a huge push to create experiences around NFTs. At the moment, the process of buying, selling, minting and trading NFTs, is pretty one dimensional. We think that district actually is going to be a gamified platform, which can be used by lots of different people to basically launch their collectibles into the real world.
This is totally different from what you were doing before, right?
It still has that original core mission at its heart, which is to explore the world, get outside and visit new places. And so one of the things that we're doing just to sort of finish off is that we're building a whole platform economy or in-game economy.
Can you give me an example on how to bring digital collectibles into the physical world?
One of the things that we've seen with a lot of NFT art projects is that people are doing geocache challenges. So they're trying to literally hide a physical scratch card or something. Whatever it is, people are going out and hunting and trying to find their NFT in the real world. People are visiting different countries, they want to have these mementos of different locations that they've gone to. In the past, they might have gone to the souvenir shop and bought a mini Eiffel Tower. Now they might actually open their phone, scan something, and they can see a 3D model of the Eiffel Tower, which comes to life in AR. There's huge potential, and we're only limited by our creativity.
“Digital collectibles, or NFTs, are something that everyone actually can understand. Take for example the baseball card analogy. We think that digital collectables are going mainstream.” - Ben Pember
What kind of devices do you see for representing digital collectibles in this kind of world?
The concept we're talking about goes to a new level - when we have AR glasses, AR lenses, of course. I think we're kind of scratching the surface at the moment to be honest. One of the things that we want to do is to create customizable virtual spaces and the ability to display your NFT.
Your app is for free, right? When I start earning NFTs through movement, how do you earn money?
We are creating the NFTs with artists that are on board. So we're paying for the creation. The users don't pay anything to collect the NFTs. There are two elements in the ingame economy. The first one is coins. As you collect coins, you will need to spend these coins to open pages which end with a chest. What happens next year is that we will be launching our token with value, which can then be exchanged with the creators of the NFTs. So the idea is that we want to create a platform where people can actually monetize their NFTs.
You are a marketplace between content creators and users who want to run around and explore.
Exactly right. And for the content creator, it's really about the experiential side. We have a web.based creators platform that allows people to sort of just drag and drop and create experiences around the NFTs. So it's the experiential side, which is important as well. But then, of course, the monetization through the token.
And that also means that a creator potentially can be more, right?
To start with there will have to be some curation, because you want quality. But that's, in a way, a good problem. I think there's some really powerful things that we can do around putting the power back into the hands of the users by voting what content can be seen.
“I think the future of fitness is gamified, experiential, driven by technology, and is a tokenized economy.” - Ben Pember
And what kind of goods are being created? Do those have to be related to sports?
We've had good success with the running crowd. But we realized that we're missing a lot of people. We really wanted to open it up to make it more inclusive. So the products, the NFTs, the collectibles to start with, are art, because that's kind of the low hanging fruit at the moment. But the idea would be, as we develop the marketplace, to have utility NFTs as well that can enhance your experience and make your exploration more fun, more easy or more enjoyable.
A backpack or something like that?
What's the connection to the physical world?
Let’s think about utility items. So it could be tickets to a concert, it could be like a voucher to buy a pair of adidas shoes for example. The options are really limitless there.
It's interesting to see this overlap of gaming experiences with what you are doing. I think we see global trends which the traditional industry just doesn’t understand and will probably not understand anymore.
Yeah, and I think the last two years in particular during pandemic times it has just accelerated that so much. And it's amazing to watch the velocity of some of these new gaming properties. It's just ridiculous. You've never seen anything like it with any other brand before. I mean, who knows what's going to happen over the next few years? But you're right, a lot of people are going to get left behind.
The future of fitness: what would that be for you?
I think the future of fitness is gamified, experiential, driven by technology, and is a tokenized economy.
Ben Pember and his team have launched the world's first AR Play2Earn Game defydisrupt.io!
DEFY is a play to earn location based mobile game built on the Ethereum blockchain using the Polygon Layer 2 platform. Immersing players in a metaverse that bridges the virtual and physical worlds, DEFY utilises Augmented Reality (AR), algorithmically generated geolocations, and collaborative code breaking gameplay that has no geographic boundaries.
Check the game on twitter or join it in discord.