AMA Recap: Posemesh Updates with Auki Labs CEO Nils Pihl
On Friday, January 19th, 2024, Auki Labs hosted an AMA with Nils Pihl, the Founder and CEO of Auki Labs, in the Aukiverse Discord.
For those who missed the session, we’ve got you covered - check out the written highlights below.
Countdown Tweet Promoting the Event:
Listen to Full Recording of the AMA or Read on for the Highlights
Nils Pihl: Hello, everyone, thanks for joining us for this AMA.
I guess we might just get a lot of friends and colleagues, they're fantastic.
Our moderator, Kevin, has done me the huge favor of sending me a little checklist of things that I should touch on.
Reflection On 2023: Key Highlights
2023 was a very, very interesting year for us. It felt like a very long time and a very short time all at once.
The key thing that happened for Auki Labs in 2023 was that we started getting really, really significant traction with retail. So much traction with retail that it forced us to completely rethink what we were doing with our previous application efforts.
Some of you know us from our early application efforts under the brand Matterless, where we wanted to build AR pets and AR games, but we got such traction with the retail, such interest with retailers, and realized that the market opportunities were so big that we reoriented our application efforts to focus entirely on capturing the retail market. It was a huge transition for us as a company.
We haven't thrown away our old code, but it is on pause for now because we really want to capture these retail opportunities.
We built a couple of really fantastic pilot applications that we are now piloting in North America, Europe, and Asia. We have pilots coming up in the Middle East and in Australia. We're really, really excited.
We're talking with many of the world's very biggest retailers, and we have many, many pilots being lined up for this spring. Doing that, especially retail this way, made us think deeply about what are the core utilities of the posemesh as a protocol.
Our starting hypothesis in 2021 building the posemesh was we wanted to really lower the barrier to entry for making very simple, ad hoc multiplayer experiences. Those of you who have been following us for a while will remember a very powerful instant calibration demo where people could just hop into a shared AR session.
In 2021, during the height of the metaverse craze, we had a very strong hypothesis- at the time - that a lot of people would want to develop augmented reality apps. That didn't quite work out, so not that many people joined us in building augmented reality.
Discovering the Core Value Proposition of the Posemesh
So even though we're very happy that over 100 projects have signed up to use the instant calibration SDK, that's nowhere near as much traction as we're getting with the retail stuff.
So what that means is we're starting to understand what the core value proposition of the posemesh is: It's not the spontaneous, ad hoc, hop-on, hop-off multiplayer. It's persistent AR experiences in inside spaces that aren't serviced by the positioning technologies of our competitors.
I hope you all saw the fantastic video (see below) of how we did indoor navigation for FinTech Week in Hong Kong.
That was something that I believe only Auki Labs could have pulled off and that only the posemesh could have pulled off. And this is what we are realizing.
For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Medium, I put it in a single sentence this way, ‘Practical businesses require spatial AI - spatial computing.’
Auki Labs Internal Applications Demo Day
So, we just had our internal applications demo day today. Every two weeks, the whole company gets together to show the latest developments of our applications.
Today was a particularly exciting day because a lot of the things that we have been building are finally colliding into one cohesive product we will be demoing publicly to you guys very soon.
But essentially, what we're doing is we're bringing the power of the posemesh to AI. And this is really, really exciting.
To tell you what it is we're doing, we realized that AI, like LLMs - they only understand digital things. They have no way of understanding the physical world. And what that means is that e-commerce benefits from AI a lot more than retail.
Understand that, of course, retailers are going to be very, very worried about this. Everyone wants to get access to AI. AI will very soon be both the best and the cheapest worker.
For AI to be able to help at the front lines of retail, at the front lines of retail, they need to have spatial awareness. Physical businesses require spatial AI, and spatial AI requires spatial computing.
So we are now putting the finishing touches on a really cool prototype: an AI store manager that uses the posemesh to look around the store and make recommendations for the human staff on what tasks they should perform.
We're really, really excited about it. Our pilots are really, really excited about it. And I can't wait to show you guys soon.
So, in retrospect, 2023 was the year that we realized that the posemesh is not, at least in the short term, going to be about ad hoc AR gaming as our initial hypothesis was, but it's a much more enterprise use case about bringing artificial intelligence and persistent augmented reality as a communications tool to indoor places like malls, conferences, retail environments, and hospitals.
Today, some of our team members met up with a government that asked us if it would be possible to put lighthouses (QR codes) on the street signs of our city so that the positioning service of the posemesh can be a public utility in that city. And we'll be following up with them on that soon.
So we are getting traction all the way from the government level down to indie developers, and we're super, super excited and proud of that.
What are some of the behind-the-scenes developments that contributed to the success of Auki Labs in 2023?
That's a tough question. We try to be very open with everything we do, so it's not intuitively clear to me, like, what things are behind the scenes. So it's more about what we forget to tell you guys.
But one of the biggest things that's happening now is very, very soon that we're super excited about - I think many of you have seen our lovely office with a demo space behind these shelves where we have a fake grocery store. In just a couple of days or weeks, around mid-February, we are getting an entire floor of this skyscraper building. And it's on the 10th floor of this building.
Level 10 Research Center
We're calling it the Level 10 Research Center, and it's going to be a huge, beautiful demo space of what the posemesh can do for smart cities, smart spaces, IoT, and robotics.
In fact, we just demoed internally today a very cool robot demo that has to do with this AI I mentioned; I look forward to showing you that soon. We just need to polish it a little bit more because internal demos don't have as beautiful a design as the kind of stuff I want to show you guys, but we'll be showing you soon.
And what happened behind the scenes there is, of course, we've been doing a lot of networking around Hong Kong, building up momentum for people to want to collaborate together, to work more closely together. And then, through the fantastic support of Baboon, one of our most active and beloved backers, they gave us access to this space. We're incredibly, incredibly thankful to Baboon for providing us with this space.
It's going to be a game-changer for the spatial computing industry, a game-changer for Hong Kong, and definitely a game-changer for Auki Labs and the posemesh.
So this is something that we have been working on behind the scenes, and we'll be opening up the Level 10 Research Center in about a month.
Auki Labs Vision for 2024
Our vision for 2024 is very much showing the world how the posemesh can be used to bring artificial intelligence and augmented reality into physical spaces.
Setting up this Level 10 Research Center and the much, much bigger demo space that we're doing on the 10th floor, together with a lot of the Web2 marketing that we've been doing, will help spread awareness to the wider world of the power of DePIN networks, spatial computing, and how blockchain is being used to allow this kind of privacy-preserving protocol for positioning.
In 2024, we will be pushing the narrative of how spatial computing, AI, and DePIN are naturally colliding and how the posemesh is the best example of these three industry-changing trends.
We're really excited to be bringing more mainstream attention to this industry. We think it's one of our big jobs to bring new eyeballs into this ecosystem. I know some in the community argue with me about this and sometimes think I'm maybe a little bit naive, but I think what I can do for the blockchain community is to bring outsiders in. This is very much our focus: how can we bring outsiders into this space and legitimize this technology and show them that the use cases are real, not just profile pictures, it's not just funny money?
Web2 Media is very excited about it. Just yesterday, I was interviewed by two different Web2 journalists about this messaging. Early my morning, in a few days, I will be talking with Forbes about this as well. So we're getting a lot of mainstream Web2 attention, and we're really, really excited and proud of that.
We think this is really one of the things that we can do for the blockchain community is to help bring outside attention to the very meaningful mission of decentralization.
Update on Retail and Plaza Premium Lounge Pilots
We have an implementation live right now that is not under NDA, which is unusual for us.
But if you find yourself in the Hong Kong airport, you should visit the Plaza Premium Lounges at that airport, and you will be able to experience our technology live.
That's live there right now. And we're really, really excited about it. Hundreds of thousands of people have seen it, not the actual AR experience, but online. We have been promoting it widely, and the people in the lounge are playing with it and having fun with it.
We're showcasing the interoperability of the protocol with many different applications running inside the same domain. If you find yourself in Hong Kong airport, here's an implementation that we can openly talk about. It's not under NDA.
Updates on Retail Projects Under NDA
Under NDA, we are doing pilots with several of the world's larger retailers now, representing several thousand stores each for those pilots. Of course, we don't pilot in thousands of stores at once. We typically pilot in just one or three locations, something like that. We think the pilots are going very well. We're very excited. And hopefully, we should be able to make some some formal announcements soon.
NRF Retail Conference in New York
We attended the NRF Retail Conference in New York just a few days ago, and we left that conference with 180 new leads. We're super, super excited about that.
The largest of those leads is an Asian chain representing around 20,000 stores. We are really, really excited about how well our business development team has been doing at NRF and the tremendous response that we are getting.
Spatial Computing and the Apple Vision Pro
Q: Could you elaborate on the latest developments in spatial computing and what Apple Vision Pro brings to the table?
Nils Pihl: If you follow XR Twitter, you will see that there's a lot of debating about why Apple does not call it a VR headset. Why do they call it a spatial computer? What's going on with that? And I think that Apple is actually quite genius in not describing it as a VR headset and describing it as a spatial computer because Apple is educating the population about the big shift that's about to happen.
Your typical VR headset only runs one experience at a time. It's about being immersed in something. It's an entertainment device.
The Apple Vision Pro lets you run several different applications at the same time, just like your computer. A spatial computer is a computer that's aware of the space around it.
Apple is telling us by saying that the Apple Vision Pro is a spatial computer. They're saying, hey, listen, this thing is going to replace your laptop. It's going to replace your desktop. Maybe in the future, maybe this will even replace your phone. This is a computer. It's not a headset. It's not a toy. It's not a console.
It's not competing with the vision of things like the Quest 3 that position themselves very much as an entertainment device. Apple believes that spatial computing is the future of computing full stop. It's a spatial computer.
That being said, we're still very early in this. And the Apple Vision Pro, even though it's a very cool device, has a couple of limitations that make it not that interesting for what we are doing with our applications.
Apple Vision Pro is designed for sitting in one place, not for moving around a big physical space.
So, we are unlikely to be doing any retail stuff with the Apple Vision Pro. However, we benefit very much from the Apple Vision Pro because a lot of Web2 journalists have been reaching out to us for comment - what this means for the industry, etc.
If you go to the URL augmented.vision, that's my private blog. I put up my very first post this weekend, I believe, explaining a little bit about why spatial computing is so important in the A.I. race and what the Apple Vision Pro kind of tells us about how Apple sees the future of AI.
I disagree with the Bloomberg analyst that after trying some of these new LLM saying that Apple is falling behind in the A.I. race. I don't believe that at all. You will see why I believe that companies like Apple and Tesla might actually have a very significant lead in artificial intelligence if you read that blog post.
When Will the Auki Token Be Listed
Q: Yesterday, there was an interesting conversation in the Aukiverse token channel. Could you share some insights into what was discussed?
Nils Pihl: The summary is this.
In 2021/22, we did presales of the Auki token to a couple of institutions and communities that were excited about what we were building and wanted to get involved.
As part of those presales, there was a time limit set for when this token should be launched. We have always said that we didn't want to launch the token until we could clearly show that the token has utility.
One of the things that we didn't want to borrow from the Web3 playbook of the 2021/22 era was just to write a white paper, mint a token, and use those proceeds to build something in the future. We wanted to build something first and launch the token after.
And that means it's taken a long time for us to get to where we are. And the SAFTs are now maturing.
In fact, by the end of this month, our contracts say that we have to launch. And some of our backers and supporters don't really want us to launch now. They have their own theories and hypotheses as to why it might be better for the protocol’s community if we launch later and do a launch strategy that is more focused on getting on centralized exchanges.
Our default plan to be compliant with our contracts and not expose ourselves to any potential conflict with our backers is to launch this next Friday (January 26th) on Trader Joe, which is a decentralized exchange for the Avalanche community.
We are, of course, building on Avalanche, and we feel pretty confident doing this. We have a very strong long-term belief in what we're building, but some backers think it would be optimal, better for us if we launched the Auki token later.
So we now have the situation where we have to see if the backers can kind of negotiate with each other and agree with each other if we should move this launch date or not.
From our point of view, the people who say that we should launch are legally in the right because that's what the contract says. So unless everyone agrees, we want to do what it says on the contract. We think that that's the way we should conduct ourselves as a business. But we are trying to see if the backers will agree with each other to do some other launch strategy. We're very open to trying another launch strategy.
At the end of the day, we want to keep building and showing the world what this protocol can do. I'm not personally concerned about which launch strategy we do. I think no matter how we launch, the next couple of years is going to be a very, very interesting time for us. I think our community will keep growing as they see the fantastic things that we are building.
AMA Opened for Questions from the Audience
We have a first question from Mikhail: Why is the initial token launch price the same as the presale price we paid two years ago?
Nils Pihl: I don't know. I'm not the guy responsible for the launch strategy. I have heard both 120 and 150. One big difference, Mikhail, between putting money in two years ago and putting in money now is two years ago, you were able to get in with very large allocations. There's no guarantee that you can get in with a large allocation at the TGE.
We want to launch the price, I imagine, somewhere healthy that the market will tolerate.
I am not the person setting the price. And honestly, I don't know what the latest word is on the launch price, but I understand it's somewhere close to the initial price.
When we list it, you know, our FDV is very high compared to many other projects right now. So this is something we have to take into consideration.
AtomikSushi: Have you guys considered how you could leverage the community that you have across the internet to help bolster you even more?
Nils Pihl: Yes, and we're learning a lot here. Some of you will know and either love me for it or hate me for it, but I'm not a crypto-native. This is my first Web3 rodeo, and there's a lot that I need to learn about how things are done.
I'm a very skeptical learner. I want to see data. I want to really study how things work. That means it takes a while for me to really figure out how these things work.
It's very clear that community can be both very powerful and sometimes also quite destructive. We are learning and experimenting with how to make use of the community in good ways.
Some of the great advice we've been getting recently is to make our community bigger and also reach more of the blockchain development community. We're very interested in influencing the wider blockchain community and the conversations we are having to move the industry forward.
We should onboard KOLs as advisors and ambassadors to help us reach these communities and developers that I don't natively know how to reach. We are starting that now.
We're in the process of preparing a community/KOL round where these people will be able to buy some of the utility tokens in advance and start representing the project and helping us reach out.
It's been a long and tricky journey for us because there are some unfortunate realities about how marketing has been done in the wider crypto community over the last two years that are not legal in all jurisdictions and certainly not ethical in my book.
It was always very important for us that if we work with any kind of influencer, this is fully disclosed so that people understand that we have a financial relationship with this person, etc. For a long time, it was actually very hard for us to find KOLs that were willing to really go on the record as having a financial relationship with us. The meta-game of Web3 marketing was doing illegal marketing.
Since we believe that we are building something that is very important for civilization and that we believe in very much, we don't want to expose the project to the risk of breaking the law. We try very hard to be compliant because we assume that one day we are going to be called in front of Congress, etc., to explain ourselves and what we're building. We want to be able to do that with a straight back and unflinching gaze and say that we have built this for civilization. We would lose our credibility if we were breaking the law by doing that. We've been slow, but we're getting there.
We are onboarding like-minded KOLs now who understand the importance of what we're building, how passionate we are about building it, and that we don't want to be breaking the law.
I think this year, our community is going to be growing a lot. Just over the last month or two, the amount of incoming traffic here to our Discord has been significantly higher than in previous periods.
You may not see the growth as quickly on our Twitter because we very meticulously block accounts that we think are bots because they hurt us in the algorithm. But our numbers keep ticking up, especially in the Web2 world. The Web2 world is paying more and more attention to what we're doing. I think this spring is the start of Web3 really catching on to what we're doing as well.
We are always open to hearing your advice as a community about how to reach the wider crypto community. I hope you've noticed that we're easy to reach and very open to talk to. We certainly have strong principles that we believe in, and we might argue with you, but we're always very, very happy to hear your advice and your opinions.
It's stressful at times, seeing that a lot of our peers in the industry have an easier time because they're playing fast and loose. Of course, they get a lot of short-term gains by doing that.
I don't know if I should say cynical or whatever, but some of our backers take the attitude of, like, everyone is doing it.
Everyone is doing it. You're a sucker if you don't do it. But I don't think that's an excuse. Just because everyone starts looting doesn't mean that we should start looting. That's how civilization falls apart.
We want to be compliant. We want to work with the government. We want to work with regulation and make sure that our conduct does not threaten this protocol because if we lose as a protocol, the alternative is centralized visual positioning. I think that's a very, very bad outcome for civilization.
A question from Aigor: Do you know someone who is working on the marketing side? If not, what is your plan for this?
Nils Pihl: We have a newly onboarded PR firm that we're working with. We have tried a couple of different marketing firms and marketing advisors. We've stopped working with many marketing advisors also because they wanted us to break the law. But we have hired Chris now, who I think is doing a really, really good job. He's helped us reach a lot more people and is very willing to work with us.
Question from Mihail: How many people are working full-time on the project currently?
We are 40 people working full time- 40 people on full-time contracts; and we have a runway until about the end of January next year.
DPF asks: What are the current revenues?
Nils Pihl: DPF, we are not charging for the protocol at this time. We are piloting without charging, so the revenue is a cool $0. We are not charging for it.
The reason we are not charging for it is that we raised it at a very high valuation. The way that we need to position ourselves for a Series A is- if we have revenue already, then our valuation will be counted as a multiple on the revenue. This is a lesson I learned from my previous startup.
At my previous startup, I was offered the highest seed stage valuation of any Asian startup at the time. I declined it because we were a pre-product at the time, and I thought once I built the product, I should be able to get an even better valuation.
I launched the product and did $130,000 of revenue in the first 30 days, and that lowered our valuation because then they could look at the revenue and give us a multiple on that.
Strategically, DPF, we are not charging anything yet because that will impact our ability to raise.
Aigor asks: Can you tell us more about new Auki airdrops?
Nils Pihl: No, I cannot tell you more yet, but of course, we will be airdropping more.
We're probably going to be setting around 5% of the total supply as an airdropping budget.
We are still planning on how to spend that airdrop budget. But somewhere on the order of 5% of total supply will be set aside for airdrops.
Question: Are we planning to do some airdrop incentivizing for the testnet?
Nils Pihl: Yes, absolutely. We're planning to do that. As I said, we're probably going to put around 5% of the total supply aside for the testnet.
We were given the advice to not put more than 7% aside for the testnet. We were also given the advice that since we have a very high FDV, maybe we should not go as high as 7%. Right now, we're thinking around 5%. We'll be finalizing that before TGE and have a public airdropping strategy. So you know at least how much of the total supply is going to be airdropped.
Nils Pihl: I'm glad to see so many people have joined this call. I think in our last AMA, we were just like eight people or something. It's lovely to see the community growing. And I am so thankful for all of you that are giving us advice. Of course, it's great that you're asking questions, but that you're giving us advice, that's really fantastic. Thank you.
I just need to keep building. I'm really, really excited to show you what it is we've been working on, how DePIN, Spatial Computing, and AI are colliding to make this beautiful thing we call the posemesh.
2024 is going to be a fantastic year.
Thank you so much for being here.
I'll catch you all soon.
About Auki Labs
Auki Labs is at the forefront of spatial computing, pioneering the convergence of the digital and physical to give people and their devices a shared understanding of space for seamless collaboration.
With a focus on user-centric design and privacy, Auki Labs empowers industries and individuals to embrace the transformative potential of spatial computing, enhancing productivity, engagement, and human connection.
Auki Labs is building the posemesh, a decentralized spatial computing protocol for AR, the metaverse, and smart cities.
About The Posemesh Foundation
The posemesh is an open-source protocol that powers a decentralized, blockchain-based spatial computing network.
The posemesh is designed for a future where spatial computing is both collaborative and privacy-preserving. It limits the surveillance capabilities of any organization and encourages sovereign ownership of private space maps.
The decentralization also offers a competitive advantage, especially in shared AR sessions where low latency is crucial. The posemesh is the next step in the decentralization movement, responding to the growing power of big tech.
The Posemesh Foundation has tasked Auki Labs with developing the software infrastructure of the posemesh.