NFTs — Coming to a Television Screen Near You in 2022

NFTs — Coming to a Television Screen Near You in 2022

One of my favorite memories of visiting my grandparents’ house is of pulling the photo albums from the shelf and flipping through the pictures. I’d imagine the backstories behind the black and white prints from the 1930s and 40s. I’d laugh at the pictures of my dad as a child. I’d look for pictures of my younger-self, hoping to rekindle happy memories of moments in my childhood.

I’ve witnessed the same joy as my kids explored my parents’ photo albums. Some of their enjoyment likely comes from the same things that tickled me. Some of it’s likely also down to the novelty value; there’s a distinct lack of photo albums in our home.

Like many of my generation, in spite of having ready access to exceptional camera technology, it’s as though the desire and habit of displaying the pictures we capture has been lost, almost completely.

I have a digital camera on me at all times, that which is built into my smartphone — it’s the norm for most of us these days. Mine incorporates cutting edge lens-technology and a wide array of filters which together ensure pictures of reasonable quality, in spite of my lack of talent as a photographer.

My latest composition — ‘Meals I have eaten’ (Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash)

The photos I take are seldom printed and rarely organised into an album to be enjoyed or displayed on the wall. They’re more likely to be shared on social media or remain in storage on the phone, only occasionally viewed on the phone’s screen to pass idle moments.

That was until recently when it became possible to display photos on Smart TVs in a revolving slide-show. The ubiquitous TV screen that adorns many rooms in the average home can now be easily used as a photo frame to display the numerous pictures that we each capture on a regular basis.

And following a recent announcement from Samsung it seems that NFTs — digital images (for the most part) that are tokenised on blockchain computer networks — will also be displayable via Smart TVs too.

Samsung is bringing NFT functionality to three models of their Smart TV in 2022.

Owners of the devices will also be able to browse NFT marketplaces and buy, sell and trade NFTs — all via native functionality built into the TVs.

Understanding the importance of this innovation requires a basic understanding of what NFTs are. Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

NFT 101

An NFT owner somewhere in the world has likely already taken their JPG and copied it onto their Smart TV for display — but that’s not quite the same as what Samsung are doing with their new TVs, or at least that’s not all they’re doing.

To understand the significance of their innovation demands a little understanding and appreciation of what NFTs are at a fundamental level.

The specific point of NFTs (short for Non Fungible Tokens if you haven’t already encountered them) is to denote and recognise uniqueness and originality in digital creations that might otherwise be easily copied and shared.

Digital creations can be duplicated without restriction, but there’s always an original — the challenge is in how to recognize and legitimize that first and original copy.

Consider conventional art…

There’s only one actual Mona Lisa and it hangs in the Louvre Gallery in Paris.

A talented artist could try and replicate it, and then attempt to pass-off their copy as the original. But the genuine article, hanging on a wall behind a sheet of bulletproof perspex and watched over by a vigilant guard, acts as its own ‘token’ of originality. Layers of physical security protect it further. Legitimate copies are produced (liberally) and we can buy a print and enjoy the artistry, but that copy is clearly not the real deal.

With digital creations it’s not that easy.

A creator may apply their skills and artistry for many hours to perfect a digital artwork, and upon release of that original (whether by selling it, or publishing it online for free) it’s immediately susceptible to being copied.

Right click — save image — done.

The core purpose of NFTs is to create a unique token of originality for a digital creation, stored immutably and for all time on a blockchain network. The blockchain tracks the custody of the token from the moment it’s created (a process known as minting) and through all subsequent sales and transfers of ownership. The holder of the token is acknowledged as possessing the original item, regardless of how many copies are taken or distributed in future.

This has conceptual appeal and practical application for creators of digital artefacts, whether they produce images, text, audio, video or pieces of code. That they can create an NFT for each of their creations gives them a way to denote and recognize the original ‘thing’. It also gives the creator a means of restricting access, enforcing scarcity and ultimately, of selling their creations to the highest bidder.

NFTs give buyers of the digital artworks the means of doing what buyers and collectors of art have been doing for all time — to be able to boast and flex that they own original versions of creations and not mere copies.

Show and tell

Art has enjoyed a long and dubious association with the world of criminal money laundering and with high-net-worth individuals looking to shelter money from taxation. In 2013 The Economist estimated that up to $100 billion of artwork was under secure storage in Geneva, a tax haven.

But aside from art being used as a means of storing wealth (a function that NFTs also fulfil equally well), a significant part of the appeal of art is for its owner to be able to view it and display it to others.

Art collectors and fans want to admire and appreciate creations, taking in their beauty while experiencing the emotions evoked within them.

Art collectors also want to show-off the pieces that they own. It fulfils multiple purposes (mostly ego related):

  • They can enjoy the status that comes with ownership of something unique;
  • They can enjoy others enjoyment of something they own;
  • Displaying it helps to build desire in others who may want to buy it — that desirability is part of what gives art its value.

What this tells us, is that a means of displaying artworks is almost as essential as the art itself.

The options available to NFT owners for displaying their collection to others has generally been constrained to either placing the work in a gallery, on an NFT marketplace, via the screen of a phone or laptop or by sharing it (or more often, copies of it) via social media platforms. Many have used their NFTs as a profile picture or avatar.

Now, Samsung are giving NFT collectors another option — the hundreds of millions of owners of modern Samsung TVs will likely be able to display NFTs on existing devices assuming software updates are deployed.

And buyers of select new Samsung TVs (currently their MICRO LED, Neo QLED and The Frame models) will be able to display their collections on screen, just as their creators intended.

The briefing from Samsung suggests that their TVs will automatically adapt settings using a smart calibration feature. According to a Samsung representative, TVs will adjust settings “to the creator’s preset values, so you can have peace of mind that your work looks impeccable, with true-to-the-original image quality.”

This seems particularly important given that while many NFTs (such as one of the OG projects — CryptoPunks) are extremely rudimentary, being little more than 24 x 24 pixel images. Others however, are incredibly graphically rich and complex.

The adaptive display functionality is also important given that many NFTs are either animated, or they evolve and change over time thanks to generative code that means the image and its constituent elements are constantly shifting.

The simplest example of this would be what is acknowledged to be the first and original NFT — ‘Quantum’ created by Kevin McCoy in 2014.

Displaying such NFTs on a TV will likely be far more impactful to onlookers than they might otherwise have been on the screen of a smartphone.

An integrated and aggregated marketplace

The crowning glory of Samsung’s new offering is likely to be integration with NFT marketplaces.

Right now, NFT buyers can go to a number of commercial sites such as OpenSea or Cent to browse NFTs for the sake of looking, or to buy and sell them. The process of trading is relatively simple with a rudimental understanding of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. In many ways, sites like OpenSea are equivalent to an eBay for NFTs.

As part of their new TV line, Samsung are promising to aggregate NFTs from multiple sources and sites, enabling buying, selling and trading of them but natively within the Smart TVs functionality.

An NFT within every home?

The presence of NFT technology in Samsung TVs could represent a significant stepping stone to NFTs entering the consciousness of a whole new group of potential collectors, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

The presence of the app doesn’t guarantee adoption of course — my own Smart TV incorporates an Amazon Prime TV app for example, but I don’t subscribe as routine and hence don’t use it. Even when I’m given a free month by Jeff Bezos, I still use the app on my phone and bounce it to the TV via another device. The technology existing doesn’t guarantee its use.

But many NFT owners who want to show off their collection to visitors to their home, are likely to go out of their way to obtain one of the new devices when Samsung release them this year, just to be among the early adopters. Time will tell how successful the launch is, but as a way of stirring up interest and awareness of NFTs it seems like a move of genius.

I’ll watch how it goes, with interest.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

Previously Published on Medium

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