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Niantic's new Web3 director shares his thoughts on NFT

Despite what we saw in the movie Ready Player One and Mark Zuckerberg's statement about Meta, exploring the ever-expanding meta universe may not require you to spend thousands on a virtual reality (VR) headset and a powerful computer. All the technology you need can be right in your pocket. That's right, the future of the meta-universe - and perhaps Web3 as a whole - may lie in the use of augmented reality (AR) smartphones.

And what experience with AR smartphones has been more impressive than Pokémon GO? The game, developed by Niantic, became a viral sensation after launching in 2016, and by the end of the year it had been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide. Now Niantic hopes to apply its expertise to the Web3 space with the help of Chikai Ohazama, the company's new director of Web3.

We caught up with him to discuss his journey at NFT and the role they can play at Niantic.

Falling down the rabbit hole
Like most prominent figures in the NFT field, Ohazama began his journey as a collector. In an email exchange with nft now, he shared, "I bought one NFT, then another and another, and before I knew it, I fell down the rabbit hole."

The art originally drew him to the place, but what really "struck him," he said, was the community. "I had never encountered a community like that before," he explains. "It was so warm and welcoming."

As he became more familiar with the space, Ohazama found that he needed a way to organize his growing collection. "Most sites at the time had tools to help organize what you already had, but they didn't help organize what you wanted to buy," he said. His many tabs and bookmarks were turning into a mess.

As one of the creators of Keyhole, the geospatial visualization company that was later bought out by Google and became Google Earth, Ohazama had an impressive background in product creation. He used his skills to create superniftyfan, a kind of "Pinterest for NFT," he explained. After learning more about NFT, he continued his work. Eventually, he created a social network and a product store, and collaborated with artists such as George Williams and Tanya Rivilis.

More recently, Ohazama launched MONOLITH Gallery, an open curatorial platform that redefines gallery space by getting people to think beyond the usual white walls.

"As the NFT space grows, we're going to need ways to help collectors find the art they want to buy," he says. "I think curators, curator people, are a key part of that future. I personally would rather have human curators tell me what art to buy than algorithms."

Bridging the Gaps
So what does the future hold for Niantic as Ohazama takes over the Web3 division?

There's no definite roadmap yet, but Ohazama has made it clear that NFT will be a big part of it. "Just think of what could happen with AR, mapping and NFT. There is tremendous potential to move not only the NFT community forward, but also the gaming community and many other communities into a whole new world of Web3," he said.

Ultimately, Ohazama said he sees the future as a place where virtual and physical worlds are increasingly intertwined, and that he believes Niantic will be at the forefront of that future. "I think there's a big opportunity to connect the digital world with the physical world as we look to the future. And just as work hasn't gone from remote to fully personal, [...] it's gone to a hybrid model, I think this bridge between the digital world and the physical world will also be a hybrid model. This is where Niantic has an incredible opportunity," he said.

While well-known brands like Instagram and eBay have already begun to dive into the NFT world, Niantic's entry into this space carries a different weight. Given their past projects, there's a good chance that Ohazama and the rest of the team will end up changing the game for years to come.