The Coming Age Of Digital Collectibles: CryptoPunks

Larva Labs’ new creations, collectible digital CryptoPunks, are available for a simple gas cost and are backed by the Ethereum blockchain.

As part of the new evolution of collectibles, 10,000 unique CryptoPunks have been designed by John Watkinson from the team at Larva Labs.

CryptoPunks are 24×24 pixel art images which are algorithmically generated and predominately male and female humans with a smattering of other characters such as zombies, apes, and aliens. ETHNews had the opportunity to find out why Larva Labs endeavored to create non-physical keepsakes from Watkinson.

“We always loved the idea of digital collectibles. And we like the idea of them being somehow computer-generated rather than simply ‘digital copies,’ which feels like a cheap imitation of physical collectibles.”

Larva Labs will give the easily obtainable CryptoPunks away for free. According to Watkinson, the only expense is the transaction’s gas cost on Ethereum, which currently equates to around $0.11. The punks themselves are too large to store on the blockchain, so a composite image of all of them was created and embedded into the executable distributed code contract (EDCC) that governs them. The lab says CryptoPunks are “almost an ERC20 token” in that they can be viewed in a wallet, though “none of the other methods are the same since you’re not transferring a simple balance, but need to reference which specific Punk you want to work with.”

Watkinson said it makes sense to explore different ideas about what form a collectible can take since CryptoPunks aren’t manufactured or printed. Part of the inspiration came from preexisting digital collectibles. “We have tossed around ideas for digital collectibles for a while, but once we started reading about Ethereum, and how it was used to make ‘Rare Pepe,’ we realized that this could be the ideal home for the concept.”

Larva Labs chose the Ethereum blockchain because it supports the generation of unique ERC20 tokens rather than a simple numeric balance. “Something like the Bitcoin blockchain doesn’t have enough expressiveness for this kind of project. Ethereum seemed like a natural choice, with its popularity and its very general Solidity contract language,” said Watkinson, referring to the code behind EDCCs on Ethereum, which can be programmed to suit a number of applications.

In the future, Larva Labs might give the CryptoPunks the ability to create offspring, but current limitations on what the Ethereum network can compute prevent this feature. Watkinson explained that computations must be simple or they can’t be included in a block.

Meanwhile, Larva Labs will be focused on more blockchain based digital collectibles, perhaps even creating its own blockchain to support users who require a simpler interface without the complexities of addresses, EDCCs, transactions, and gas costs.

Anyone who would like to create their own collectibles based on Larva Labs’ code is invited to follow the open source progress on Github.

Jeremy Nation is a writer living in Los Angeles with interests in technology, human rights, and cuisine. He is a full time staff writer for ETHNews and holds value in Ether.

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