Staking Claim to a Digital Plot in AR, with SuperWorld’s Hrish Lotlikar

Imagine owning the digital real estate surrounding the Taj Mahal. Well, to be real with you, you can’t have all of it – today’s guest, SuperWorld co-founder Hrish Lotlikar, already has a piece. But he’s made it easy for anyone who wants it to buy the rest, and other plots of digital real estate around the world.

He also talks about The Rogue Initiative and SingularityNET!

Alan: Welcome to the XR for Business Podcast with your host, Alan Smithson. Today’s guest is Hrish Lotlikar from the Rogue Initiative, SuperWorld app, and SingularityNET. Hrish is the co-founder and chief business development officer for the Rogue Initiative, a Los Angeles based entertainment company composed of award winning entertainment industry professionals, including alumni from Amblin Entertainment, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Activision and they are creating new original feature films, television, AAA cinematic interactive VR, and gaming content. He’s also the co-founder of SuperWorld — superworldapp.com — which is Foursquare meets Pokemon Go meets Monopoly in the real world, building a community in AR, powered by the blockchain. They’ve built an AR real estate marketplace, ad marketplace on the blockchain, which also acts as a social AR app, allowing users to personalize their real world by adding anything, anywhere in augmented reality with photos, videos, texts, and 3D objects, and share those experiences with their followers. He’s also an advisor of SingularityNET, a decentralized marketplace for AI algorithms allowing companies, organizations, and developers to buy and sell AI at scale. Previously to this, he was in venture capital, but he got better. If you want to learn more about Hrish’s initiatives, you can go to the Rogue Initiative, which is therogueinitiative.com, SuperWorld, which is superworldapp.com, and SingularityNET, which is singularitynet.io.

Hrish, welcome to the show, my friend.

Hrish: Hey, thanks so much for having me, Alan. I appreciate it. Looking forward to having this conversation.

Alan: Oh, absolute pleasure. You do a lot in this space. And the first time we met was at– I think it’s now called Global World Summit. But it was called– what was it called before?

Hrish: The VR/AR Conference?

Alan: Yeah.The VR/AR Association Conference. But let’s unpack these amazing initiatives that you’re doing. Let’s start with the one that’s Rogue.

Hrish: Yeah.

Alan: Tell us about it.

Hrish: Sure, yeah. So, Rogue Initiative we started back in late 2015. My co-founders, Pete Blumel and Cathy Twigg. The goal of the Rogue Initiative was looking at the convergence of linear, Hollywood, traditional entertainment and interactive entertainment. And how could we — from the ground up — create new original properties that brought those forms of entertainment together? Because there is a confluence of technology and Silicon Valley in Hollywood that was coming together. And how do we how do we kind of leverage that, to create new original content that goes across all of those medium? So building and developing a new story that starts on the feature film side and then organically moves to interactive all the way through TV, through all the way to amusement park rides and toys. So building franchises from the ground up, bringing in top Hollywood talent and interactive talent, and knowing from the foundations of creating that content, that we’re building it to go across all those mediums. And that’s the kind of high level vision of the Rogue Initiative.

Alan: Very cool. So let’s move on to SuperWorld app. Let’s talk about that. What is that about?

Hrish: So SuperWorld, I co-founded with Max Woon. Max co-founded Xfire and sold it to Viacom, and he’s been involved in several other companies at the very foundational level. Even in the VR/AR side with Sliver, and he’s been involved in toonstar, and SKIT, and Phizzle. And we got together because we saw Pokemon Go become the fastest company to hit a billion dollars in revenue, and just the growth and excitement around location based AR and putting kind of gamification on that, and bringing in a big license brand. And we thought if we can build the next Pokemon Go, wouldn’t it be great to build a place where the next thousand Pokemon Gos get built on? And that’s kind of the vision behind SuperWorld. It’s an augmented reality platform, where users and brands can create AR around them and put anything around them anywhere. And then that would be characterized as kind of like Pokemon Go meets Foursquare, right? Pokemon Go is putting digital objects around you anywhere, Foursquare’s the data elements of that. And we have a big data strategy at SuperWorld. And then the third part of SuperWorld is Monopoly. So how do you basically sell or buy the world? And if you buy the world, or buy parts of the world — we’re selling the whole world in 100 meter by 100 meter plots of land — you get a share of any of the XR commerce that happens on the land that you own. And we built that on the Etherium blockchain. So each plot of land is a non-fungible token, that once bought can be repriced to whatever you want. So it’s a unique digital asset. We’re getting people buying the world, and so the analogy is back to 2009, with Bitcoin launching and there’s a finite amount of it, or domain names back in ’95, if you had the opportunity to buy a really cool domain name. And so that’s kind of the excitement around SuperWorld.

Alan: So what properties of you.

Hrish: But so far I’ve bought a few select properties around the world, just places that I have nostalgic kind of interest in, historical places. I think I have a piece of the Taj Mahal, and the pyramids in Egypt, and some places in Manhattan, but I definitely want to keep a lot of stuff for our users to buy. So I didn’t buy too many, but we kind of see it as as a way for people to buy things around their interests. So back to what I was interested in, there’s other people that are interested in sports. There’s a lot of people who come in and buy a lot of sports stadiums. Other people buy downtown. Some people buy their apartment, or where they live, or where they once lived. So it’s kind of interesting when you think about the XR world, the digital land around you, there’s different reasonings that people have to buy things. So it’s kind of fun to watch that.

Alan: It’s pretty cool. I’m actually just buying something right now. [laughs]

Hrish: [laughs] Awesome. And remember, what’s really cool about this is when you buy a property — it’s .1 ether, so about twenty five bucks or so right now — is you can reprice it for whatever you want. So if you’re like, “This is a valuable property,” you could say “Hey, that’s 500K now.” And so what’s cool about this, is now you have 500K of real world dollar property in SuperWorld, so you’re not just a user, you’re like a stakeholder.

Alan: Cool. I have to buy some etherium and bitcoins to do this.

Hrish: Yeah, yeah. You have to transfer some ether to your account.

Alan: All right. I have to go to in– this is going to be more than I can do just on the phone here.

Hrish: [laughs]

Alan: I’ll figure it out. Awesome. Well, I’m definitely going to go buy a block of land, because why not? What land should I buy? I feel like the Monopoly is when you got me, I was like “I’m in!”

Hrish: Yeah.

Alan: I’m going to buy my property!

Hrish: [laughs] You know, what’s funny is that I haven’t seen anyone just buy one. When you buy one and you get your head around what we’re trying to build, it’s very hard to buy just one because, you’ll probably.

Alan: I’m going to make a suggestion on the app.

Hrish: Yeah?

Alan: When you click the spot to buy, the picture comes up over the spot. So I can’t really see what spot it is.

Hrish: Yeah, you can adjust the screen if you’re on your mouse, if you’re on your laptop or even on your phone, you can kind of move it up and down. So you’ll be able to kind of adjust that. But you’re right, it does do that sometimes. So it’s something we’ve got to– yeah, definitely. If you adjust screen, you’ll be able to see it. But the UX/UI is definitely one of the things we’re working on improving.

Alan: I love it. I’m buying this spot right here. Awesome. I got the perfect spot! I’m not telling anybody where it is! But you’ll have to–

Hrish: Until you own it. Until you own it. Then you’ll be telling everyone you own that spot.

Alan: Yeah! I own it! Pretty cool.

Hrish: That’s what’s still going on, is people talk about it naturally.

Alan: So yeah, let’s talk about how businesses can start to kind of utilize this new idea of owning virtual space.

Hrish: There is a lot of use cases for businesses as we think about the XR space around us. I think what’s wonderful about the medium is, you see through the success of Pokemon Go that there are people willing to — at this point, lift up their mobile phone — but definitely in the future with AR glasses coming around the corner, look around them and access contextual data. The way we think about it, — back to Pokemon Go for brands — it could be a brand like Coca-Cola or Nike who says, “Hey, why don’t you walk around your city or go around your city, and find all the rare Nike shoes that we have around the city.” And all of those shoes are interactive pieces of content. So you can collect points or play a game or all of that stuff is possible. But it also can be educational. It could be that I’m in my apartment, and I want to learn how to bake some cookies, I click on a button and I see Betty Crocker making cookies next to me.

Alan: Interesting. It’s really exciting.

Hrish: It is a very different way of thinking about building a social platform. And that’s what’s kind of exciting about it, is thinking about how XR can be applied to a decentralized type platform. I think decentralized media is a concept that is going to become more and more important, as we see issues with other more centralized forms of media and curation of content, and news and other things. And so we’re really trying to build SuperWorld and leverage the power of XR, but do it in a way that takes into account people’s privacy, takes in account data sharing, and it’s very permission[-based]. So that’s kind of all parts of this vision, that we think about when we think about the XR world around us. We don’t want to create a world where you’re being bombarded with data and information that you don’t want, you can turn it all off if you want, but you can also kind of in a very permission way bring in XR type experiences into your environment that you want. That’s all part of the vision that we’re going towards in SuperWorld.

Alan: So how will it work when people want to create experiences? Then will you have like a set of agencies or studios that you work with?

Hrish: Yeah. So that’s a good point. So currently what we’re doing is working with brands that we’re engaging with at SuperWorld. But ultimately we would like to bring in other agencies and other developers on the AR creation side into a marketplace where AR developers, individuals or companies can work with brands and be able to create those experiences. At the end of the day, what we would love to do is create an environment where brands and developers can showcase their AR to users that want to experience at AR and XR in all of its forms — whether it’s brands or influencers or even just their friends — on the platform. So at this stage, yeah, we’re kind of working on creating all the AR ourselves, but ultimately we’d like to transition that to more of a marketplace model.

Alan: Yeah, that makes sense. So, there is one more company on the list of your incredible companies here. SingularityNET.io, what’s that all about?

Hrish: Yeah, so SingularityNET.io is a company founded by Dr. Ben Goertzel, who is one of the top AI researchers in the world, well known for his role as chief scientist at Hanson Robotics as well. Sofia — the humanoid robot, if you’ve seen her — SingularityNET is Sofia’s software and provides some of that software there. And so SingularityNET is an AI marketplace. It’s a decentralized marketplace for AI algorithms. And one of the things that we’re working on through SingularityNET — where I serve as an advisor — is another company called Area 51, which is a decentralized AI virtual avatar company. So, connecting virtual avatars to the decentralized AI in order to make virtual assistants, to make virtual influencers, to make virtual Hollywood characters, there’s a lot of different use cases for virtual avatars or virtual characters. And the point here is we’re connecting it all to a decentralized artificial intelligence as part of SingularityNET.

Alan: Let’s go back to Rogue Initiative for a minute. You guys are an entertainment company. What are the experiences or things that you’ve done so far that people could try?

Hrish: Sure. So we’ve launched Crowe: The Drowned Armory on Oculus and HTC. HTC is also one of our investors. We are in post-production with a cinematic VR experience called Agent Emmerson, which should be released very soon. Actually, we just got finished with that. So we’re working on getting it.

Alan: Is it volumetric or 360 video?

Hrish: It’s 360.

Alan: Right.

Hrish: Yeah.

Alan: And the Crowe one, is that– it’s available on Steam, is it?

Hrish: Yes.

Alan: Great.

Hrish: That’s right. It’s on Steam and Oculus.

Alan: Very cool. So those are the new ones coming up. When is it coming out, the new one?

Hrish: It should be out soon. I don’t have exact dates on it. We just got wrapped up on it, and we announced it a while back. We had some delays in post-production. So that just got finished. So we should have that, I’d say, out in the next few months. We [were] planning on having it out earlier this year, but we had some delays. The other thing that we’re working on Rogue is a production with Michael Bay, the action director, which has been announced. But we’ll have more announcements soon. And that’s that’s going to be according to our model of building franchises that go across interactive and linear production.

Alan: Very cool. That’s pretty exciting. In one of my earlier interviews today, we were talking about how Hollywood studios are starting to make these five to six minute experiences to enhance the moviegoers’ experience. So you go to the movies and watch the movie, then after the movie you can get in VR and experience the movie as well.

Hrish: Yeah.

Alan: It’s– I think it’s really interesting.

Hrish: It’s going to be going beyond just a marketing vehicle, where people can experience aspects of a movie. And I think we’re going to move towards fully interactive entertainment, and that’s going to be very exciting. So I’m looking forward to that. I know me personally would definitely enjoy an experience where I have a lot more agency in entertainment. I’m very excited about the future of that. But yeah, currently, it’s also a really great marketing accompaniment to any kind of linear entertainment on the feature film side.

Alan: Yes. Did you see the one they did with– I think it was South By Southwest. It was a huge one where you jumped out of a helicopter in VR and it was crazy.

Hrish: Was that this year?

Alan: Yeah, it was the Amazon Prime show, Jack Something Or Other.

Hrish: OK. No, I didn’t see that.

Alan: It was crazy, you have to look it up. I’ll out it in the show notes. It was nuts. You literally went on a– what’s the thing when you slide down the rope?

Hrish: Rappelling?

Alan: Rappelling, yeah. It was like, you were rappelling across this vast thing in VR. You’re in VR on a physical– it was nuts! Like, who thought this up?

Hrish: Crazy. I missed you at South By this year. I didn’t see.

Alan: Yeah. I actually wasn’t at South By this year, I didn’t go. I really wish I had been there, to be honest. It was just a timing thing. I double-booked myself. I didn’t realize.

Hrish: Ok. Yeah, there’s always so much– I think GDC is going on at the same time. So it’s noise.

Alan: Yeah. Oh well. Next year, I’ll be there. I was a judge for the South By Southwest Awards this year.

Hrish: Oh really? Oh, that’s right! I think I remember seeing that. That’s so cool. I’m sure you saw a lot of good stuff.

Alan: Well, I was the judge for AR or virtual and augmented reality and also blockchain. So I saw a ton of blockchain companies, and a lot of them were working in the kind of logistics and tracking where your food comes from and that sort of thing. And I thought that was really cool.

Hrish: Wow. That’s– that is. Yeah, there’s so much innovation going on around that.

Alan: Let me ask you a question. What’s EastLabs?

Hrish: EastLabs is an early stage accelerator that I founded about eight years ago in Ukraine. The premise there is the region in Ukraine and Belarus and Russia graduates some of the best and brightest technology programmers and developers and designers. And the workforce over there — as you know — is pretty amazing. And the top people end up working in outsourcing for Facebook and Google and other top tech companies in Silicon Valley. The ones that get to San Francisco, start Facebook and Google and WhatsApp and the top tech companies. And so I started EastLabs with two other partners, Eveline Buchatskiy and Olga Belkova. Evelin ended up running TechStars in Boston and now runs a venture capital fund called One Way Ventures, funding immigrant entrepreneurs, and Olga’s in parliament now in Ukraine. But we got backed by one of the biggest investors in the region, Victor Pinchuk, and his EastOne Group, which is a large investor over there. And basically the goal was, is how do we fund these awesome technologists, these programmers, how do we get them together and build world class companies that originate in Ukraine and then move their front office to the US or Asia or wherever, whatever market they’re targeting and keep their back office in that part of the world? Which is where it should be, because they’re so good. And that’s what we did. We invested in about 35 companies in Eastern Europe, mainly in Ukraine. We sold one company, and two or three are still doing very well and thriving. But most of all, a lot of the founders that we invested in went on to start second or third companies that have gotten funded by top theses in Silicon Valley and gotten pretty well-known. So we kind of helped build the ecosystem over there, and we’re really proud of that. Yeah, so EastLabs was kind of one of the originators of the Ukrainian technology ecosystem.

Alan: That’s incredible. It’s really interesting, because I do see a lot of talent coming out of the Eastern Bloc and the talent is there. The cost to develop things is a lot less. It’s up there in talent for sure.

Hrish: Yeah. The Soviet system had a big emphasis on science and technology and mathematics. And I think they graduate thousands and thousands of a very high level programmers every year. It’s an awesome place to find engineering talent, for sure.

Alan: Indeed. On that note, what are one thing that you would want listeners to kind of think about in each of the companies? Rogue Initiative, what do you want people to think about?

Hrish: So, for Rogue Initiative, I’d love people to imagine what they would think of as an entertainment franchise. What do they think of when it comes to XR as the ideal way to to experience entertainment? The way that it’s happening right now is a mix of interactive and passive, and I think we all have our own personal opinions about what kind of things that we want. But I think ultimately what’s really great is the XR medium allows entertainment to really evolve from what we think of now, and to what it will be in the future. Imagine watching a movie on your coffee table in AR, right? Or imagine playing a game around you that is part of the movie. And some of that stuff you can see in Call of Duty and other console games that have been around for years. But I think we’re going to see a real evolution in terms of entertainment. And so I think that as we all imagine what we would want in entertainment, those are the kinds of things that we think about at Rogue Initiative. Those are the things that we’re creating on the entertainment sites. It’s a lot of fun to think about that, but that would be my take away there.

Alan: Amazing. So what would the takeaway be then for SuperWorld?

Hrish: The interesting thing is, that it being a platform where XR in all of its forms in terms of our vision, where we imagine a place that you can really kind of access, not only games or kind of Pokémon Go-esque type experiences, but also one day be able to experience other things like education or more enterprise applications. I think the takeaway there is that all of this in the XR world is is still very formative. I’d say it’s very– the way that it’s being built is piecemeal by brands, and brands have apps or brands are using WebAR. All of these different forms of AR are kind of out there. But I think the take away is, is how do we create an environment, where we can create a place where all of these things can live. And as users, we can kind of experience those things again, in an environment that’s very permissioned, where we’re not being overloaded by AR, and it’s very curated. And that’s kind of some of the things that we think about at SuperWorld is, as we are building an AR world in an AR platform, how would we build that if we could kind of build the ideal platform? And part of that is the decentralization. So I would say go and buy some real estate and and help us build SuperWorld. And that’s the point, is when you buy some real estate, now you’re a stakeholder on the platform. You know, eventually we plan on giving owners rights or privileges on the platform. And we want to build it with kind of everyone involved. And so that’s the back to the decentralized kind of approach there.

Alan: Awesome. And finally, SingularityNET.

Hrish: SingularityNET, we’ve been around with Ben, creating decentralized AI and again, my involvement in the SingularityNET came from my interests in AI And I’ve known Ben for a while. And we think that AI and decentralized AI really has a place in SuperWorld. And as we’re thinking about virtual avatars connected to decentralized AI, the benefit here is, you look around at other virtual assistants or other assistants like Siri or Alexa or others on the market. You’re kind of freely providing your data to those assistants that and they are mining that data. And we think that if we can kind of build this in a way where the data that is used by these assistants is– you’re being compensated for that data. And so there’s an exchange of data for her payment. And then also having that data and that information be processed by in a decentralized fashion also has benefits for us as users, because we aren’t feeling like the information that we’re providing is to a centralized source that’s controlled by one authority. And so, again, SingularityNET being decentralized, utilizing decentralized algorithms and then back to XR and how we’re interacting with those XR avatars. There’s a lot of benefits to that decentralized AI infrastructure. And so that’s kind of the thing I would say I would say, is the takeaway is, how is your data being used currently? And is there a better way to have an AI virtual assistant experience, where you’re having all your own privacy and and your data that you’re providing accounted for. And you’re monetizing that data as well, so I would say that that’s the takeaway, and some of the things that we’re thinking about there at SingularityBET and Area 51.

Alan: Really incredible stuff. I can’t wait to see what you guys dream up for these, in terms of kind of real use cases as it expands and as the platform expands and more users come on board and brands start to kind of flex what’s possible, it can be really interesting.

Hrish: Yeah, yeah. Ben Goertzel, who’s the head of SingularityNET, and also involved in Area 51. He’s been working on AI and for 20+ years, and is one of the leaders in the field. So it’s a pleasure to be able to have him and others like Cassio Pennachin, his longtime partner and co-founder. We’re kind of thinking about how do you bring in AI into the XR world. And I’m honored to be able to help them and provide my insights on that.

Alan: Really awesome. Well, I want to thank you again, Hrish, for taking the time out of your busy schedule. This has been great.

Hrish: Yeah. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

Alan: Thank you so much.

Hrish: Thanks, man. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Looking for more insights on XR and the future of business? Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify. You can also follow us on Twitter @XRforBusiness and connect with Alan on LinkedIn.

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