The blockchain-based IBM AR gaming system is dangerously false


It may be difficult to point out a service that combines productively the use of augmented reality (AR), machine learning and blockchain, but this does not seem to bother IBM.

The company has filed a patent application for a complex AR gaming system, designed to ward off players from potentially dangerous physical spaces. To this end, IBM intends to use machine learning and blockchain technology to build this new system.

But does this approach make sense? Well, let's examine the patent file.

Within the patent

According to the patent (identified by CCN), the system will alert players whenever they approach an area marked as undesirable (such as "h"high-risk places, culturally sensitive places, places marked by owners ") IBM hopes this will help players get away from trouble.

The documentation notes that once players have agreed to keep track of their location data, the system will be able to compare the location of users with a database of physical spaces marked as unwanted. Whenever a player enters such areas, the system will inform users who are walking on a potentially dangerous turf.

Considering the litany of trespassing in incidents that we saw during the Pokémon Go craze, creating a system that takes players away from restricted areas sounds like a good idea on paper. But there are a number of technological challenges to consider – starting with the use of blockchain by IBM.

The problem with the use of blockchain

IBM states that it intends to use the blockchain to establish "trust" in "real places" and prevent malicious players from providing misleading position data for personal gains.

"A blockchain is a distributed database that maintains an ever-growing list of hardened data records against tampering and overhaul, "reads the patent." The blockchain system tracks, securely stores and maintains position-related transactions along with other metadata of position. "

But there are some pretty big question marks with this implementation.

For one, the use of blockchain does not protect itself against the possibility of recording misleading (or straight) data. It simply means that once registered, the data will be immutable (unless the blockchain has embedded backdoors). But this does not mean that the system will be immune to manipulation.

For example, malicious actors will still be able to provide incorrect localization data to the IBM blockchain system, unless they are supplied with oracles: sensors designed specifically to validate events occurring outside a blockchain. Worryingly, there is no mention of an Oracle implementation in the IBM patent application.

To create this kind of "trust", IBM will have to develop sensors that can adequately confirm the authenticity of any position data in the real world before storing it on its blockchain.

Machine learning blockchainifying

Even more confusing is IBM's plan to use machine learning to interpret location data stored in blockchain and warn users of potential risks.

The patent suggests that, thanks to advanced neural networks, the system will be able to perform risk prediction tasks with "varying degrees of confidence". These forecasts will then be forwarded to all users who may be at risk or in the vicinity of risky areas.

IBM emphasizes that users will also be able to use this feature to specify what they would like to be protected from. For example, a diabetic player can ask the system to alert them whenever they have strayed from any possible help.

But without the oracles, it could be too easy for cheaters to abuse the system. In fact, an attacker could label safe areas as "risky" to keep players competing away from certain locations. Alternatively, scammers could abuse the system to mark otherwise risky areas as "safe" and lure unsuspecting victims into dangerous situations.

IBM and the blockchain

Apart from these problems, IBM still has to indicate how serious its patent is. In any case, blockchain may not be the best choice for this particular application.

As with most patent applications, it is not known when – if anything – IBM will make the concept of development public. But if it does, it is better to address these problems before it puts someone at risk.

And for what it's worth, I sincerely hope that the other initiatives related to the blockchain of IBM are a little better.

Published November 5, 2018 at 17:28 UTC

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