IBM patent uses blockchain to build trust in augmented reality gaming

Blockchain may be the answer to enforcing trust by combining AR and real-world location records.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

IBM has filed a new patent with the aim of instilling trust in augmented reality (AR) applications when users visit real-world locations.

The patent application, no. 20180311572, was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last week.

IBM's document describes a solution which "deters augmented reality game players from intruding on undesirable locations," such as private property, culturally sensitive locations, or areas deemed high-risk -- which could potentially include locations linked to high levels of crime.

AR applications apply an additional, virtual level of 'reality' to our environments. It was, perhaps, the emergence of and surprising popularity of the AR app Pokemon Go in 2016 which first highlighted the potential of these games -- but also the disadvantages.

Users walked around their hometowns in a quest to capture rare pokemon, take over 'gyms,' visit Pokestops, and battle each other,

The location-based landmarks, however, also caused residents disruption, noise, traffic jams, crowds, and sometimes led players to inappropriate areas -- such as drug clinics, memorials, and private homes.

Such games, especially when developed on a global scale, can err by connecting physically sensitive locations to highly desirable areas in virtual reality.

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However, the blockchain might be able to warn users when these locations clash.

"The method includes obtaining a location of a mobile device using a first sensor of the mobile device and accessing a first locational database responsive to the location of the mobile device," the patent reads. "The method further includes retrieving from the first locational database an augmented reality object; obtaining an indication that the location of the mobile device is an undesirable location, and modifying the augmented reality object responsive to the indication that the location of the mobile device is an undesirable location."

Blockchain-based databases will provide the records of locations to be avoided. Also known as distributed ledger technologies, these databases contain records which are stored on multiple systems, which makes falsifying records and timestamps very difficult.

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Not only could this provide a record of areas which should not be visited while playing AR-based games, but this could potentially instill trust in safe areas.

As noted in the patent, "actors or users may maliciously profile a location for different purposes," such as for attacks or sabotage, and so having access to a more 'trustworthy' source could be an advantage for gamers of all ages.

The patent goes further by describing how the same blockchain technologies could be used to give players, regulators, and businesses unique cryptographic IDs, in order to retain ownership of game history including locations visited and at what times.

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Big Blue's idea to use the blockchain to safeguard and ring-fence physical locations during AR experiences potentially could capture the interest of future clients keen to explore -- and perhaps emulate -- the success of games such as Pokemon Go, but without experiencing some of the problems that Nintendo faced.

IBM is not the only tech giant exploring how the blockchain can be used for means other than banking, insurance, and cryptocurrency. Last month, Sony announced the development of a digital rights management (DRM) platform designed to protect the intellectual copyright of content creators which is based on blockchain technologies.

The DRM solution is intended to trace IP including ebooks, music, films, and virtual reality software.

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