Seven Fun and Interesting Use Cases for Bitcoin's Lightning Network

Siamak Masnavi

Bitcoin's Lightning Network (LN) is a layer 2 solution for Bitcoin (BTC) that allows for fast, scalable, and low-cost payments. Since Californian startup Lightning Labs released the beta 0.4 version of Lightning Network Daemon (LND), its implementation of the Lightning Network protocol, Bitcoin's Lightning Network has been experiencing "lightning fast" growth.

In fact, according to the latest data from Lightning Network analytics startup 1ML, the number of nodes, channels, and network capacity (in BTC) have increased 16.63% (to 6,578), 36.8 (to 29,960), and 27% (to 721.87 BTC) respectively in the past 30 days.

This article looks at seven fun and/or interesting use cases for Bitcoin's Lightning Network: buying from vending machines; online gaming; buying art; ordering food over the internet; paying for cab/taxi rides; giving tips for social media posts; and feeding animals remotely.

Buying From Vending Machines

Perhaps, one of the earliest and most well-known examples in this category is software developer David Knezić's Bitcoin-powered candy dispensing machine, which was first demonstrated in May 2018:

And here is Knezić explaining how this prototype worked:

Since BTC payments are too slow and expensive for this type of application, he decided to upgrade his candy dispenser in order to be able to receive Bitcoin payments via the Lightning Network, and he demonstrated his new prototype in June 2018:

Since then, this candy dispenser has been demonstrated (by Coin Center) to members of U.S. Congress (on January 21st) and getting continually improved in order to get it ready for a small production run.

Online Gaming

There are various online games that you can pay to play that accept Bitcoin payments over the Lightning Network. Three examples are Pokémon, roulette, and chess. 

João Almeida, who is Co-Founder and CTO of Bitcoin payment processor OpenNode, has developed Poketoshi, which lets you play Nintendo game Pokémon via the Lightning Network. The game is hosted on live streaming video platform Twitch. Users enter commands via Lightning-powered virtual game controller; each command costs 10 satoshi. These Lightning payments are made with the help of OpenNode.

The game is hosted on live stream video platform Twitch and works just like the rest of ‘Twitch Plays Pokémon’ games. The games work by reading commands entered into the chat room by users. In Poketoshi, the commands are instead entered through a Lightning-enabled virtual controller. The users can enter a set of commands through the controller and have to pay 10 Satoshi per command through Lightning Network. The payments are made through OpenNode, a Lightning-enabled Bitcoin payment processor for merchants.

Almeida demonstrated Poketoshi in June 2018:

Another OpenNode employee, Rui Gomes, launched roulette game called Lightning Spin in June 2018. This Lightning app (lApp) lets a player bet between 1,000 satoshis and 500,000 satoshis per round. So far, this game has seen 2,791 players, 100,166 spins of the roulette wheel, and 905.2 million satoshis wagered. Here is a video of the game being played:

On February 5th, startup Koala Studio launched its first Lightning Network-powered game, Lightning Chess. This game lets you wager satoshis against other players. These payments are processed by OpenNode. Here is what the user interface of Lightning Chess looks like:

Buying Art

In Decemner 2018, artist "cryptograffiti" sold "Black Swan", "the least expensive artwork in history", for one millisatoshi (roughly worth $0.000000037 at the time) to the lowest bidder in a "micro auction." 

Here is a video showing the process of creating this artwork:

And here is "cryptograffiti" explaining his motivation for creating this artwork:

More recently, we have the very cute story of a nine-year-old boy named Dennis who wanted to have a Nintendo Switch game system, but was told by his dad that he would have to earn the money himself. So, his dad setup a WordPress and OpenNode powered website called Lightning Pictures, which allows people to buy Dennis's drawings and pay for them via the Bitcoin Lightning Network. After you have paid, the drawing you asked for gets emailed to you. There are two options: a "Quick Sketch" costs 29,000 satoshis (around $1.19) and an "Awesome Picture" costs 290,000 satoshis (around $11.92):

Lightning Pictures Screenshot.png

Ordering Food Over the Internet

On February 13th, crypto startup Fold launched a website called Lightning Pizza that allows people anywhere in the U.S. to order (takeout or delivered) Domino's Pizza and pay for it with bitcoin via the Lightning Network:

This is a testimonial from a satisfied customer:

Paying for Taxi Rides

In December 2018, CryptoGlobe covered a story about one London taxi driver who loves Bitcoin (BTC) so much that not only had he been accepting Bitcoin for his taxi services since 2017, but he had also started selling Bitcoin from the back of his cab to his passengers. Taxi driver "Dave Jenkins" (his pseudonym, not his real name), who has been given the nickname "crypto cabbie", carries in the back of his cab a small point-of-sale (PoS) terminal that is distributed and sold by UK company AAO Technologies Ltd (with "FastBitcoins.com" as one of its trading names). This touchscreen device reportedly processes cash-based purchases of Bitcoin in real time, and then prints a paper receipt.

On February 18th, Decrypt Media reported that this Bitcoin enthusiast was now using FastBitcoins to accept payments for cab rides using the Bitcoin Lightning Network. Jenkins told reporter Tim Copeland:

“There’s no two ways about it, Bitcoin doesn’t scale to be used as a day-to-day currency. Even if you could put a cab journey or a cup of coffee on a blockchain for all time, why would you really want to? You need the Lightning Network and I am a big fan of its potential.”

Tipping on Social Media Platforms

Earlier this month, Spanish computer game developer Sergio Abril (@eiprol on Twitter) created an extension for the Google Chrome browser (and an add-on for the Firebox browser) called Tippin that adds a "tippin" button to every tweet (this button is placed to the right of the "direct message" button); this work was done as part of a personal project of the same name that has the aim of increasing awareness and adoption of Bitcoin's Lightning Network.

Abril sent out this teaser tweet on February 6th:

And he released the Chrome extension and Firefox add-on around a week later.

On February 20th, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who is a huge fan of both Bitcoin and its Lightning Network, delivered his very short review of Tippin with this tweet:

In the future, Abril plans to add support for other social media platforms.

Feeding Animals Remotely

Although the idea of using crypto to pay for remote feeding of cute animals like chickens, baby goats, and ducks has been around for a while, it was not until recently that we came across the website Pollo Feed, which describes itself a "Bitcoin Lightning Powered Chicken Feeder", that we got the ability to use the Lightning Network to pay for remote feeding of chickens, and thanks to Lightning, the cost of making these payments (3,000 satoshis per order) is "chicken feed."

Here are a couple of screenshots from the Pollo Feed website that show a snapshot from the chicken coop livestream as well as an example Lightning invoice that gets generated when you click on the "Feed" button:

Pollo Feed - Image 1.png

Pollo Feed - Image 2.png

Earlier today, Pollo Feed gave a little status report via this tweet:

Pollo Feed seems to have many happy users, but perhaps the best testimonal so far comes from Alistair Milne, the Monaco-based Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of cryptocurrency-focused hedge fund Altana Digital Currency Fund(ADCF):

 

Featured Image Credit: Photo via Pexels.com