Remember when the Pokémon GO craze took over the world and people were walking around their neighbourhoods searching for Pokémon in Augmented Reality (AR)? 

It looks like you’ll soon be able to do the same but this time the hunt will be for bitcoin.

Fold, a bitcoin app, has partnered with Niantic to let people hunt for bitcoin in the real world. The company described it as an effort to forge an alternative vision for the metaverse that promoted freedom through ‘bitcoin and fun’.

Niantic, the studio behind the smartphone hit Pokémon GO, has lent its AR platform to the bitcoin payments company to create an in-app experience where users can earn bitcoin by exploring a virtual environment based on their immediate surroundings.

‘It all started with someone saying “let’s make Pokémon GO but for bitcoin” and ended with “let’s build a new way to exchange and share bitcoin with others”,’ said Fold in its blog.

The company describes this new world as a ‘bitcoin metaverse’ where users will be able to discover and collect Bitcoin and other prizes around them using the app. 

Every 10 minutes, a new block containing a fresh prize will be dropped in the vicinity of a player. By claiming the block, the user earns ‘Satoshis’, the smallest unit of Bitcoin (like a pence to a pound), alongside other rewards. 

However, this virtual world will be littered with ‘shitcoins’ or ‘poison pills’ which, if collected, will cost you the bitcoins you’ve just earned.

The Fold app already gives people the ability to earn bitcoin by going while buying coffee, shopping, paying bills, and even paying taxes. 

Calling the AR experience ‘a natural extension’ of the Fold app, it will also give merchants the ability to engage the community with incentives and offers. 

Fold said that it had begun rolling out a limited beta version of the experience within its app on November 23.

The complete experience is scheduled to drop next year and will supposedly enable individuals to find, trade, and hide bitcoin and other rewards throughout the real world.

‘This is the easiest, most fun way to get your first piece of Bitcoin. Anyone can use our [Fold] app to earn Bitcoin and other rewards by exploring the world around them. For us, it’s always been important to make participating in the Bitcoin economy easy for anyone, regardless of education or technical expertise,’ said Will Reeves, Fold’s CEO.

Into the ‘Bitcoin Metaverse’

Users can start playing by opening the ‘Play’ tab in the Fold App to discover bitcoin and other rewards hidden around them. 

The entire experience has been gamified with rewards including ‘time extensions to stay in the game longer and orange pills to protect you from harmful surprises’.

‘We believe bitcoin is really just a game. And, there are millions of people around the world already playing this game every day, working to acquire bitcoin through mining, trading, shilling and earning in pursuit of financial freedom; all the while avoiding the villains of inflation, monetary controls, censorship, and other forms of financial debasement,’ Fold said in its blog.

It pointed out that the only catch is that there’s only 21,000,000 bitcoin that will ever exist, of which 90% have already been found. Fold claims that its users alone have already captured billions of satoshis this year and were ‘only just getting started’.

‘The Metaverse is a dystopian nightmare. Let’s build a better reality,’ said John Hanke, Niantic’s Founder and CEO in August.

Hanke shared his vision for a future where virtual worlds can be overlaid on the real world, calling them ‘reality channels’. He said that the plan was to expand it to multiple worlds like Mario, Transformers, Marvel’s superhero universe, the world of Wakanda, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Bladerunner, Sherlock Holmes etc.

These realities were expected to transform people’s daily routines into ‘something a bit more magical, intriguing, exciting — and most of all, a little more fun. 

‘Importantly, all of these experiences will be shared by countless other people, so that the adventure is a catalyst for spending time together and deepening social relationships,’ said Hanke.

He had hinted that these reality channels would not be limited to games and entertainment but would power more activities from assembly lines and construction sites to the most complex knowledge work, all without taking us away from reality.

‘We have a responsibility to do all this in a way that respects the people using our services, as well as people who don’t,’ he said highlighting the need for user privacy, responsible use, inclusive development processes and recognizing and mitigating the potential impacts of AR technology on societies.

While mixing crypto and virtual reality is an intriguing idea, it remains to be seen if hunting bitcoin would be as fun as hunting Pokémon.

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