• | 1:32 pm

The Metaverse of Things: This startup is using microchips to turn physical objects into NFTs

Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, rapper Future, and OpenSea are funding an effort to bring the power of blockchain technology to real-world assets.

[Source photo: jae park/Pexels, Getty]

Imagine a world in which your most prized physical possessions—a Prada purse, a pair of Nike Dunks, a Rolls-Royce, a wall of Impressionist paintings—could be indelibly marked as yours for, theoretically, the rest of eternity, so that in the year 3000, when future archaeologists unearth these historical artifacts, they will decode high-tech data that traces all the way back to your ownership.

That’s the promise of the blockchain for digital assets like NFTs. But Americana Technologies, a new startup funded by the likes of Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, rapper Future, and OpenSea, wants to bring those possibilities to real-world assets. It’s much like the revolution brought by the Internet of Things—but in Web3, that’s evolved into the Metaverse of Things.

And Americana hopes to build it with a microchip. Embedding the chip into any object, collectible, or artwork imbues it with all the powers of the blockchain, essentially turning it into an NFT, and thus attaching the corresponding digital ledger that offers proof of authenticity, proof of ownership, and an entire history of ownership as public record.

It might be a fancy way to rack up more internet cred for the cool stuff you bought, but it could also have functional repercussions far beyond that. For one, in the art collector’s realm, it serves as a provenance that can never be lost or muddled. It could also thwart underground networks of forgers that sell artwork dupes meant to fool the buyer—or even just the buyer’s friends and enemies. Or in the luxury goods market, it could stem the rampant circulation of fakes. It might even put appraisers out of a job.

“Americana is the next step for Web3,” said Ohanian, who invested in the company through his venture capital fund Seven Seven Six. “Global provenance of things that exist in the physical world is huge and before Americana, there was no way to do it. For the first time ever, brands big and small can have their authenticated products on-chain and even gain royalties every time that item is resold.”

“Now you can buy a Gucci bag or a KAWS sculpture from a stranger and know it’s authentic—without any middleman,” he added.

But it’s not going to break ground for most of us just yet. In the near future, Americana appears to be targeting passionate collectors of typically expensive, often-hyped goods, such as art, designer furniture, luxury tags, limited-edition streetwear, or cars. (Its website features a $250 Gap x Kanye West jacket; a $32,000 Charizard Pokemon card; and a $140 million Pablo Picasso painting,  Figures at the Seaside.) Aside from blockchain benefits, the company says its NFTA Universal Chip also provides Web 2.0-level security with real-time GPS data.

According to Americana, the chip also includes a method to transfer ownership and royalties without the need for an intermediary—presumably, something as simple as scanning the object with your phone and navigating an app. It reportedly supports only Ethereum blockchain integration, but is exploring Solana and other chains.

The company just closed a $6.9 million seed funding round, and has yet to launch.

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