NEAR’s June Town Hall Highlights: Live from Consensus

June 22, 2022

June has been a groundbreaking month for the NEAR ecosystem, with major announcements and platform enhancements coming at breakneck speed. NEAR’s June Town Hall encapsulated much of that excitement. It was also the first-ever live Town Hall from Coindesk’s Consensus conference in Austin, Texas.

NEAR’s June Town Hall was one for special guests and appearances. NEAR co-founder Illia Polosukhin gave a special State of NEAR address, while the foundation introduced a new NEAR CMO. And superstar actress Mila Kunis also joined to discuss the Armored Kingdom fantasy metaverse being built on NEAR. 

Here’s everything you need to know about NEAR’s live June Town Hall from Consensus, Austin.

The State of NEAR address

Things kicked off with NEAR co-founder Illia Polosukhin, who shared thoughts on ecosystem progress and where things are likely headed. He noted some exciting milestones, including that NEAR is currently the second fastest-growing Web3 developer ecosystem in the world. 

“Over the past 12 months, the protocol had 19 upgrades on the network without skipping a beat,” Polosukhin continued. “The focus of the team has been on stability and performance, making sure that we’re continuously running under any circumstances.”

He went on to share some positive news in the area of developer experience. Thechunk-only producers feature is now complete, and major WASM performance improvements make a JavaScript virtual machine (VM) possible. Illia also confirmed the impending rollout of a JavaScript Software Development Kit (SDK). This feature will make it possible for any JavaScript developer to ship code directly into NEAR.

“With the improvements over the past year, we’ve been able to achieve fully compatible JavaScript running on NEAR with smart contracts,” Polosukhin explained. “This means any JavaScript or web developer can now come in and build on NEAR. This is really exciting because we’ll see lots of experimentation happening.”

Marieke Flament, NEAR Foundation CEO, bookended the State of NEAR address with a deep dive into recent ecosystem successes. Flament noted that in June alone, both the NEAR Balkans Regional Hub NEAR Hacker House launched.

Watch Illia’s and Marieke’s talk here.

NEAR introduces a new Chief Marketing Officer

Next up, NEAR’s new CMO Jack Collier introduced himself to the community. He then provided an overview of some significant announcements coming out of Consensus.

“Over the last four weeks since I joined NEAR, I’ve spent most of my time meeting and listening to people within the ecosystem and beyond, including many people here at Consensus,” Collier said. “What’s really struck me is just how passionate, vibrant and diverse our ecosystem is. I’m hugely excited to be joining the NEAR Foundation and be a part of taking Web3 mainstream.”

Collier then moved on to the three major announcements coming out of Consensus. First, he unveiled Armored Kingdom, a new major entertainment franchise built on NEAR. This immersive science fiction-fantasy world encompasses trading card games, animation, comic books, and film. Armored Kingdom founders include acclaimed artists and producers from the US and India, as well as renowned Hollywood actress Mila Kunis.

Jack alsoannounced that SWEAT recently broke the 10 million wallets created mark—a sign that the movement economy is in full swing on NEAR. 

“It’s a huge milestone in bringing Web3 to the masses and reinventing how people can generate value for themselves in a move-to-earn economy,” Collier said.

Finally, Collier announced that the privacy-first browser Brave will be leveraging Aurora to launch its own Brave wallet that will bridge the Ethereum and NEAR communities. This integration will mean that Brave users can buy, sell, and store Aurora tokens directly in their Brave wallet.

“With the new wallet, there will be a host of Web3 functionality supported such as NFTs and swaps,” noted Collier. “All of which will be under the protection of a privacy-preserving, in-browser wallet.” 

See Jack’s full talk here.

NEARCon and Other Upcoming Events

Live events in the NEAR ecosystem will continue to ramp up after Consensus. Yadira Blocker, Experiential Marketing and Events Lead at the foundation, joined the Town Hall highlight upcoming events. This includes an even bigger and better NEARCon in Lisbon as well as NEAR’s presence at EthCC, Paris.

“At NEARCon we’ll be doubling in size this year,” Blocker explained. “e’re going to be at a gorgeous waterfront warehouse right across from the Time Out market. We’ll be featuring everything from protocol news, upgrades, updates, and dev technical workshops. We’ve also opened up the call for speakers, so head over and get your application submitted!”

And as for EthCC, Blocker announced that Aurora will be a sponsor at this year’s event. At EthCC, Aurora founder Alex Shevchenko will host a session on one of the stages. The NEAR ecosystem will also host a co-working lounge similar to the one at ETHDenver, but with a Parisian flair. Close to the venue, the lounge will be place for NEARians to work, connect, or simply take a break from EthCC.

Catch Yadira’s full talk here.

Panel with Mila Kunis and the Armored Kingdom team

Perhaps the most thrilling portion of NEAR’s June Town Hall was a live panel with Mila Kunis and the Armored Kingdom creative team. Hosted by tech columnist and metaverse thought leader Cathy Hackl, it included producers Sharad Devarajan, Lisa Sterbakov, and Lindsey McInerney.

Kunis began by explaining that she developed a passion for video and board games early in life. After a successful foray into NFTs, she decided to challenge the gaming industry with Armored Kingdom.

“We want to create IP and a world that has a multi-use to it,” Kunis explained. “The idea behind Armored Kingdom is that it’s based in story, character, and theme. So we’re putting out the comic book, which will serve as the origin story for all of our species and who they are. Then there’s going to be the card gaming element which will be dropping in a couple of months where players can duel each other, followed by armors and toolboxes, and eventually an animated series. We really are building out an amazing multiverse in Armored Kingdom.”

Sharad Devarajan, co-founder and CEO of Liquid Comics, said that when Kunis came to him with the vision behind Armored Kingdom, he immediately jumped at the chance to become involved with the project.

“I think a lot of people are creating stories very linearly. They’ll create a TV show, film, or comic and then license that to other partners,” Devarajan said. “But the goal and mission of this are re-thinking all of the pieces from the ground up.” 

“The future of the metaverse is going to be some sort of unique storytelling combination where we take people into worlds,” he added. “And that’s what was so amazing about what Mila shared with me: thinking about things world-first and how the narrative would enhance every part of the gameplay.”

Kunis added that the main reason the team chose NEAR for Armored Kingdom was its accessibility. 

“We didn’t want to alienate the normies or for it to feel like it’s an elitist game only for people that understand Web3, crypto, or NFTs,” Kunis explained. “We want this to be a game that a 20-year-old can play just as easily as a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom. And that’s the thing with NEAR—the UI is incredibly easy.”

Sterbakov and McInerney added that NEAR’s commitment to sustainability, long-term vision, and developer-friendly experience contributed to the decision to build on NEAR. 

“My dream is to create a world in Armored Kingdom that’s rich, that can be mined from and be built from,” Kunis concluded. “The ultimate plan would be that, hopefully, people in Web3 will join the community and they themselves do things with it. And that’s the beautiful thing about Web3 is that Armored Kingdom can launch itself into other aspects that people can build on top of.”

Watch Mila and the panel here.

Consensus on the ground with David Morrison

Community lead David Morrison took to the floor to gather insights on ecosystem developments, project funding, and education.

“We started in August 2018. The crypto market was going down and continued to go down. And so compared to where we were then, right now is not a bear market. At the same time, I think that any kind of shakeout or correction is good in a way. It allows people to focus on creating sustainable, long-term models and businesses.”

Illia Polosukhin, NEAR co-founder

“As compared with other organizations in Web3, I’ve found that the NEAR foundation is especially bullish on diversity and equity inclusion. Not just as something that you check off a box, but as something that’s really integral to creating a decentralized future.”

Nicole Tay, Funding Strategy and Communications Lead, NEAR Foundation

“I think some of the projects that are really exciting that we’re working on within the NEAR ecosystem, and that we’ve recently supported are Mintbase and some of the projects they’ve been building in the NFT space. Not to mention Paras, a secondary marketplace, which has been exciting.”

Josh Daniels, Head of Funding, NEAR Foundation

“Apart from the great tech that NEAR has, I think the welcoming community plays a huge role in terms of inclusivity. I think it goes to the culture of what NEAR is trying to create, from the Foundation perspective percolating all the way down to communities. NEAR is inspiring a lot of people to play the hand-holding role and be the mentor that you never had in your life.”

Shreyas Kutty, Education Lead, NEAR Foundation

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