Partnering with fashion retailer JapanLA and city organizations like Downtown Santa Monica Inc. across the U.S., the Flickpay app is aiming to bring a digital collectible metaverse to the real world through AR. Partners in Europe are coming next year.
While purely digital experiences have been touted as the future, the possibilities around AR that overlays the current physical landscape could prove to be more interesting and interactive, especially for users that are not familiar with virtual reality. John Hanke, founder and CEO of Niantic, the company behind the biggest AR game Pokemon Go, recently said that the metaverse should encourage people to interact in real life through AR, creating new connections and expanding on thousands of years of human experience. As Meta grows in force and expands its metaverse, could AR experiences allow for a more natural way of engaging with technology?
Pierina Merino, founder of the AR collectibles platform Flickplay, would certainly say so. The Flickplay app works on the premise of online personas, flanked by collectibles that can be unlocked, shown off and sold, akin to an NFT. The platform’s interactive game map allows users to interact in real-time with digital objects owned by other people in the real world. Flickplay announced its partnership with fashion retailer JapanLA earlier this month after raising $5 million in seed funding, backed by global VC firm Lightspeed Ventures and co-led by San Francisco-based Abstract VC.
Talking about the partnership, Jamie Rivadeneira, founder of JapanLA, said, “The Flickplay metaverse aligns well with our digital retail store concept and helps us interact with our community on Instagram and Tiktok. Now, when customers pick up their orders from us, they can interact with our Flickplay storefront and collect a digital collectible of our store and brand that they can own forever and take it into whichever metaverse they choose.”
For Merino, the AR and VR worlds are an extension of society’s relationship with social media. “Facebook marked the first intersection of the self and social as a way for us to connect. Instagram started as a platform to help us share moments and evolved into a platform that helps you not only show who you are, but also helps you shape your identity,” she said. “Digital ledgers have helped us not only shape our realities, but they’re also becoming as real and tangible in perception as the things that we can touch and feel.”
Merino’s background was instrumental to the development of Flickplay. She worked in architecture, when VR and AR technology were first being adopted in that field, and then led VR brand projects. She then saw the opportunity to combine her knowledge of architecture and her experiences with technology to create a new platform.
Her first startup, Piemer, became the first 3D-printed product line to sell at large-scale retailers like Nordstrom. “[Then,] we saw that Pokemon Go was almost dictating where people were spending time and [working to] move masses of people in the real world,” she said. “And then the Museum of Ice Cream and other experiential pop-ups launched, which were helping people shape their digital identity through physical spaces.”
The interactive part of Flickplay presents a new opportunity for brands. With others like Balenciaga are entering the gaming world through Fortnite, there, users’ level of interaction with the brand is limited to the garment. With AR, brands can combine their stores, storytelling and history to create experiences that can be collected as the consumer explores their store or outside space. “You wouldn’t go into a VR room to get a crazy, immersive experience every day — that’s something that you would do on a weekend. But you would use glasses or your phone to bridge your everyday AR reality with your real reality,” said Merino.
Flickplay has also partnered with cities across the U.S., starting with Los Angeles. After recently launching Christmas-themed experiential AR filters in Santa Monica, it is now growing its seasonal offerings and planning for more brand partnerships.