Imagine this: you are walking down the streets of New York City at night. You stop at Times Square and look up. Through your augmented reality glasses, overlaying the bright lights and bustle of the physical scene, you see a virtual landscape filled with graphical icons, avatars, and digital critters floating and flitting about. Autonomous digital objects. You reach out with your hand and grab one of these objects. It disappears from the virtual sky, now captured in a wallet on your phone. You open your wallet to reveal a digital coupon. You can redeem it, share it, trade it, sell it, gift it, set it free again, or just add it to your collection.

This is not a scene from Blade Runner or Minority Report. It’s not science fiction, and it’s not the future.

This is today.

Or rather last month at the National Retail Federation Big Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York. That is where BLOCKv, an innovative blockchain development team, released hundreds of coupons in the form of digital butterflies. The attendees captured them via their smartphones in a digital treasure hunt and redeemed them for goods and services. Not all of them were caught and redeemed right away. A few of the little beasties escaped out of the Javits Center and into the Manhattan landscape.

We saw BLOCKv’s presentation at January’s North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami. At a Bitcoin conference where there are so many wallets and financial platforms for asset creation, trading, and tokenization, BLOCKv’s project was different. It stood out as a truly creative and elegant application of blockchain and marketing because they’re using blockchain technology to create something new — autonomous digital objects.

The secret sauce is the idea behind Ethereum’s ERC721 standard for NFT’s — Non-Fungible Tokens. Other blockchains have or are developing a similar standard. This allows for the creation of tokens that are natively digital collectible objects (remember CryptoKitties?) or can even provide a unique physical object with a digital counterpart. BLOCKv takes that digital object and gives it some autonomy.

For example, it can be programmed to move randomly or freely within a certain pre-defined boundary on a map application. That location could be within a single store, a chain of stores, a mall, a park, a convention center, or a city. Wherever a business would like its potential customers to find them.

BLOCKv is blending blockchain technology with the traditional idea of a coupon or ticket. These virtual objects, BLOCKv calls them Vatoms, provide an experiential layer on top of the blockchain. The result is a personalized and gamified shopping experience with all the benefits of blockchain — verifiable, unique, programmable, and transferable digital assets. It’s an order of magnitude improvement over today’s garden variety digital coupon. Every interaction can be recorded on the blockchain for the benefit of the user and the issuer. It brings marketing to a whole new level with almost limitless possible uses and new levels of engagement between retailers, service providers, and consumers.

Now, where did that butterfly go?