As an intangible asset, bitcoin can be hard to picture. Yes, you know what it is, you’re familiar with how the blockchain works, and you’ve probably tried (and failed) explaining it to an elderly relative. Every conceivable facet of bitcoin’s underlying technology can be monitored, analyzed, and charted – that’s the beauty of a public ledger. But graphs and charts can only tell you so much. If only there was a more evocative way of depicting bitcoin. Enter the Blockchain 3D Explorer.
Virtual Reality Meets Virtual Currency
Despite the fanfare that greeted the first VR applications, the technology hasn’t always lived up to the hype. To date, only a fraction of gamers have transitioned to virtual reality, and retention rates are low. Months after forking out for Oculus Rifts and HTC Vives, many users have tired of 3D and returned to the comforts of the two-dimensional realm. One area where VR has been gaining traction, however, is data visualization.
Kevin Small has created a blockchain explorer that enables anyone to view the bitcoin blockchain in 3D or VR. The British developer is planning to take his creation to London’s Blockchain Summit on November 28. Although the explorer is still being perfected, a working model is already up and running. It allows data detectives to zero in on a specific address and trace the flow of bitcoins as they move along the blockchain.
Whether you’re trying to monitor the holdings of bitcoin whales, reconstruct the dying days of Mt Gox, or work out what happened to those bitcoins you bought in 2012 and stupidly sold, the explorer brings it all to life.
Turning the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary
Data scientists can geek out over the real-time rendering and flow visualization, while armchair enthusiasts can marvel at all those geometric shapes passing through time and space. It’s hardly the stuff that popcorn-fueled nights are made of, but as a means of transforming the abstract into the (almost) tangible reality, the explorer does a great job.
The free software can be downloaded for Windows, Mac, Android, and Linux and is easy to operate. Systems that support virtual reality can display the blockchain that’s generated in VR – it even works with Google Cardboard. Otherwise, the 3D version still looks pretty good.
Upon startup, there’s a choice of viewing a random address/transaction or selecting one specifically. Bitcoin addresses appear as red cubes; transactions as blue spheres; and inputs/outputs are shown as arrows. Keep clicking on objects and the deeper you’ll dive into the matrix. There are more adrenaline-fueled ways to spend an evening, it’s true. But for anyone with an unhealthy interest in blockchains, the 3D Explorer is that rare thing: a VR app with a genuine use case.