This week we had the honor to interview Sven Van de Perre, Creative Director at Tropos AR, a leading Metaverse discovery portal.
Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background, his role that Tropos AR. We also talked about his startup, product, how it benefits the teams and the leagues. We also discussed the NFT and Metaverse market, the killer use cases for NFT and metaverse the need to regulate the NFT world, and his plans for the next 12 months.
Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Sven:
On his background: “ I'm an autodidact with a dash of obsessive behavior, meaning that if I'm intrigued by something, I go all the way down the rabbit hole. I found my school rather boring, but I did have an older brother who studied to be a programmer. He gave me his old computer. And when I was 15, I changed the bio of the computer, added an SK editor, some people still probably know what that is, I made it boot with a graphical interface, even before there was any windows. Over one summer, I claimed my dad's garage at age 15, and I sold about 14, 15 PCs, which at that time were very expensive machines. It wasn't until I think Microsoft came out with their windows 3.1 that my whole first teenage business went down. In a way, Bill Gates killed my teenage company. After that I helped build the first ever PC magazine in our region. I was one of the first team members on the Larian studios team, which is now a famous game developer. I was Editor in Chief of the official PlayStation magazine. I founded the first ever Belgian mobile game development studio. I've been on the forefront of technology and being the obsessive guy I always am for over one, two, three decades now”.
On his role at Tropos AR: “The origin story goes back more than a few years ago. I was hired by my now co owner, a serial entrepreneur called Sven Franken, who was about to start an augmented reality company. He hired me to see if there were any mistakes there were still missing in his business plan. I showed him the Gartner hype cycle because AR then was “it's going to make a lot of money”. I explained to him, that it was way too soon because of what I have learned in the last 20 years in the video game industry.
On his Metaverse startup Tropos AR: “The psychology behind digital behavior has a lot to do with gamification and gamification can be all about psychological triggers that trigger your dopamine system. If you don't get that right within whatever software you're building, you're going to have a hard time. It's very hard to do in a web AR environment. So web AR for me, it was a good lead up to where we are now, but I convinced him to work behind the scenes for four years to do a lot of research, to start with problems from users, and then work your way back up to the technology. That's what we've done at Tropos AR. So that's why right now, we saw the whole data management problems coming, and the fact that social media was on the wrong side of that. We built our platform to be an open platform, which allows augmented reality to be placed within any mobile app. So any business can start communicating in it. They also have data ownership for them as well as for the end users”.
On his product: “We have one product, which is our SDK, and it's a piece of technology that can be integrated into any existing mobile app. It has a backend which allows you to use a standardized form of content, which you can implement, which you can then basically put AR content anywhere within the world, within the AR cloud. Any company that has integrated our SDK can see that content. Even if they're not using your app or an app you have the SDK in, everybody can see everything within that AR cloud. On top of that, we add a layer of gamification, but purely the end user gamification towards that user himself and it can reward that user with digital content”.
On his take on what the Metaverse is: “I think to explain the metaverse, it's best to take a step back from the technology aspect. When you see technology from afar, there's been only a few big cycles of technology. So the first phase of technology evolution was when everybody had a website and as an end user, you could decide whatever you wanted to visit. And that lasted until I think 2007. The second phase was when both consumers and businesses gave up all their freedom for the sake of convenience, and when we all moved to social media and most websites became a place where it was mainly about static information. It seemed like a good idea at the time. At this point it's pretty clear that it wasn't a cost effective choice even though we all thought it was back then. The metaverse or the spatial web is basically just the third version of the internet. We can now see it on the horizon, but it's not fully here because a lot of the infrastructure that is still being built”.
On how his company Tropos AR plays in the Metaverse world: “Over the next two to four years, as a society, we're going to have to make choices on what that next cycle will become. We will need to answer the following question": “Do we go for convenience and give up our freedom or do we want true freedom that we had in the previous cycle? That's what Tropos AR offers. I know that Meta and Zuckerberg and a few other of these companies such as Sandbox or Fortnite, they all promise open standards and freedom of choice, but let's be honest, their business model is data monetization. Even if they offer freedom during the early years, they're going to do what they've always done. Once they gain dominance, the walls are going to go up. That's how we see the metaverse and that's what we want to do. We want to help other businesses get their spot in the metaverse with the freedom of having, just like your browser had open source protocols with the freedom of working with us or starting their own version or working with somebody else, but not being bound to or monetized by any big company that is hovering above them”.
On his company’s philosophy around data ownership: “We see augmented reality as the next medium. First we had print and newspapers, then we had the radio. Then we invented TV. The internet is kind of the combination of all three. Augmented reality is the next true medium meaning it's a pure content placed within the actual world, within our real world, and without anything surrounding it. You can do amazing stuff with fan engagements, and you can do amazing advertising. Most importantly, all those different types of contents will flow into one and become one big fuse type of content. What's important for our clients is that we allow them data ownership of their end users that they communicate with. It's not their company, with us in between, and then their consumer. It's them and their consumer. That data ownership is very important. What we also offer is, because of our network, it's not only in sports, but you can compare us to the early version of YouTube, where YouTube was the service, and you could upload the video and you could place the YouTube HTML code within your website. You had decent video on your website. So we do the same thing for augmented reality, but then within your app, your user will be able to see a lot of different content from different makers and from different sports and different markets. Especially the data that you generate as a company, which is yours. If we see a way to monetize that for you towards another market, we will do so and we will charge a fee, but most of the reward of that monetization, the value it brings will go to your company. That's one of our big internal drivers, and we're going to do data monetization as well for individuals as for companies themselves, but above all, that's the reason why we're growing so fast within the sporting world”.
On the work they are doing around gamification with an ethical approach: “We're bringing in gamification, but we're doing it in an ethical way because we have a long background of gamification that comes from the video game business for over 20 years. We truly believe that up until now, digital types of entertainment have used those gamification dopamine triggers to the best of their abilities and they are eating away the market share of all traditional markets slowly, but surely. With some ethical gamification on the other side, traditional markets can do a real pushback because in my opinion, going out into a soccer field and playing soccer with my friends is much more fun than playing FIFA on my PlayStation. As soon as you bring some gamification to the traditional markets, we really think that you can make those traditional markets be the dominant players again and not be the market that shrinks every year and that has to find new ways to monetize the ever shrinking crowd. We truly believe that with gamification, which is a digital thing, when you can put digital content within the real world with AR you can bring gamification with it. If you do that in an ethical way, I think we have a bright future ahead of us for a lot of traditional markets. The sporting markets is right within the center of that”.
On the fact that the UK gambling regulator recently requested Sorare to have a license in the UK where they operate: “Just like every company, once they bring in digital entertainment, which can be where you can do gamification on it, the line between gamification and flat out gambling tactics is really thin. So I can imagine that in the video game world, it happened as well. I know the FIFA guys, and what they did with their FIFA cards and the loot boxes from Fortnite. Some of that stuff is unhealthy because we really have to protect our consumers and not take the dopamine system for granted because you can really go wrong with that. That's why we stand for ethical gamification. I think part of what they're looking into is whether Sorare is this still just some type of entertainment or if they are going full gambling, which is where there has to be some regulation on that. Just like there's regulation on alcohol and tobacco and all other kinds of stuff, you need regulation on that as well (..)
On the need to regulate NFTs to avoid potential money laundry issues: “The other thing with NFTs, there's a lot of comparisons between NFTs and the Art market, because just as with a piece of Art, when a piece of Art gets resold to a new owner, the original creator gets his share again and again, which is similar to NFTs. In my previous company, I had a very wealthy investor who was into Art. I got to know him pretty well. He then explained to me that the Art world (..) That world is one of the world where there's a lot of stuff going on financially behind the scene, which is really not okay. You can do a lot of money laundering within the Art world. I can immediately see that regulators compared NFTs to the Art world. I come from the cryptocurrency space as well, which is also very open to money laundering and all that, so good luck to the regulators. So I think it should be regulated. Society's going to work better if it's regulated, even when sometimes when that regulation goes against you. I'm for the investment of humanity, not for the investment of our company or me as an individual, but on the other hand, good luck to the regulators in getting into this because technology's moving so fast and there's so many new stuff coming up that they're going to be in pursuit of fixing things that will constantly been added on top of each other. I hope that the people involved into this are ethical themselves and do no wrong, but you know as well as I do that, when there's a lot of money involved, people's ethical side sometimes gets compromised”.
On his plans for the next 12 months: “Right now we're working on landing some deals with some very big players within the broadcasting world, within sports, as well as outside of the sporting world. Once one or two of them land, we want to expand into US and Asia as soon as possible. Once we have our platform, it's really like YouTube, we don't have to make the backend content because everybody can do that with Unity. We're already in talks with some of them already. We are focusing on a lot of initiatives for the Metaverse as well. We're going to work with companies anywhere in the world where we can help them create AR content very easily. They will be able to implement it, and put it into the cloud, and let their consumers enjoy it and own the data rights and we'll be there to offer the infrastructure in between. Of course, we have some business models on top of it, and we do data monetization for them, but with a way fairer view. So right now in the next 12 months we are still going to be focused on a lot on projects in the sports world. And let's hope that in these next 12 months, we can get back to a more or less normal society worldwide. Then after that, we will focus on a few other big markets”.