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Arthur Camara on the product-minded culture at Dapper Labs, building voice-powered AI apps, and the future of digital assets
Product State Q&A
Arthur Camara is the VP of Product and a founding team member at Dapper Labs. He’s held product & growth leadership roles at Dapper Labs and Axiom Zen. He was a co-creator of CryptoKitties and was formerly the Founder / CEO at Toby.
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EC: You’ve been experimenting with building apps with GPT. How do you think it realistically changes how products will be designed and built in the not-too-distant future?
AC: Building apps with GPT has been such a mind-blowing and interesting experience! I genuinely think it's a game-changer, as it enables people to get more done with less effort. It's like giving a whole new generation of creators superpowers and boosting the productivity of already talented folks. Just like with most technological innovations, GPT expands human potential — and it's exciting to be part of that.
Back in college, I was already dabbling with AI for my bachelor's thesis in Computer Science. I worked on human-like CSS generation using AI and Evolutionary Natural Computing. Even though AI wasn't as advanced as it is today, I was able to create an algorithm that could mimic website styles quite well. But it still needed lots of heuristics to make it look more human-made and creative. It was better than other design and CSS code generation attempts I'd seen, but still not on par with what a web developer could do.
Fast forward to my Master's, about 8 years ago, I worked on a project called Spice —which integrated web development code generation, voice commands, and AI.
It was cool, but we still had a long way to go. Users could talk to a website and change styles, backgrounds, and text sizes, among other things. We were at a point where AI could determine intent, but applications were limited. And, users often had to speak very clearly and robotically.
Looking back, the results might seem underwhelming now, but I was super excited about the technology's potential at the time.
Recently, I built an app that is similar to that one and lets you describe an entire site using your voice — and GPT takes care of coding the site for you.
It feels like magic, being able to control coding with just your voice!
And there's so much room for improvement: Real-time interaction, multi-page and fully functional sites with backends, easy exporting and deployment, group editing, and more.
I've actually used it for prototyping at Dapper Labs. The coolest part is that I coded most of it using ChatGPT, which saved me a ton of time.
EC: The Dapper Labs studio model has resulted in successful products and companies. What’s been the key to your success?
AC: Working at Dapper Labs from the start has been such an honor. I've been privileged to start and lead industry-defining products like CryptoKitties, which started the entire NFT industry, and NBA Top Shot, which brought over a million people into the world of digital ownership and collectibles.
Both projects have shown the potential of marrying powerful, cutting-edge technology with consumer use cases and ease of use. They democratized access to a technology that was in progress but not accessible.
Today, I lead Product at the company and we have a team of talented PMs, designers, and engineers focusing on building world-class products on Flow, a consumer-centric blockchain that is ideal for what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re partnering the technology with strong IPs, and creating engaging consumer products.
We're relentless explorers, always focused on impact and user experience. Our product principles are all about deeply understanding the ‘why,’ seeking bold discoveries, and building magic into every step. We encourage everyone to be product-minded, have a strong founder mentality, and stay focused on creating impact. We strike a balance between process and innovation, so everyone's on the same page, but there's still room for creativity.
At the time of the CryptoKitties launch, there was some criticism around building consumer blockchain applications. And I see a lot of parallels with AI in terms of democratization of technology, because there's also been some criticism around ChatGPT and the hype it generated.
But the thing is: Hype and a killer marketing launch make people dream and imagine what the future could be — creating pressure for innovation and attracting capital, talent, and human effort towards a certain direction. This only accelerates progress.
It's the same with blockchain: our work democratizing access has spurred interest, better projects, user experiences, scalability, payment options, and passion with both our customers and developers alike.
EC: CryptoKitties was an early validation for the rise of NFTs. How did that product evolve and where do you think NFTs go from here?
AC: CryptoKitties was definitely an early validation for the rise of NFTs. Our co-founder and CTO, Dieter Shirley, authored the ERC-721 standard on Ethereum back in 2017, the Non-Fungible Token Standard.
CryptoKitties was the first project to implement it and obviously popularize it.
Today, there are thousands of projects using the standard and people know what NFTs are, in large part thanks to CryptoKitties. Since then, many other projects have adopted the standard, and even more standards have been built on top of it.
You see, most of the world isn't fungible.
We have unique objects that we own, buy, collect, and love. In the digital world, NFTs enable meaningful digital ownership, which wasn't possible before. I can see NFTs being integrated into numerous use cases in the future — like digital-physical counterparts, metaverse assets with on-chain ownership, digital identities, and more.
They can become the backbone of media creation and management of digital assets beyond what we have today.
With AI, there are fascinating use cases:
First, when people say ‘blockchain will bank the unbanked,’ we should be talking about AI agents, not just people in emerging countries with limited access to banking. Blockchain could be the banking system for machines, allowing them to participate in the economy more actively and make intelligent, autonomous decisions. An AI agent can’t transact like you and I can, our systems aren’t made for them. But blockchain and smart contracts could be absolutely perfect for autonomous agents to participate in the economy.
Second, specialized and unique AI agents could be encapsulated into NFTs, allowing them to be traded and hired like star athletes. They could interact with a digital economy through smart contracts and NFTs, just like I said above, but not only that, the agents themselves could be owned, transferred, hired. In fact, my great friend Benny Giang recently worked on an EIP that enables NFTs to own digital currencies and other NFTs. This could be really interesting for AIs to utilize in the future.
And third, creators are already starting to merge digital assets with blockchain — like the artist Grimes. This allows fans to create derivative assets on top of an artist's work and establish an economically viable model on-chain. NFTs and blockchain are perfect for that.
“We encourage everyone to be product-minded, have a strong founder mentality, and stay focused on creating impact.”
- Arthur Camara
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