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How metaverse is ending barriers for architects

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Everyone mentions the Metaverse, but no one can really agree on what it is. It remains enigmatic for the time being, but it seems like its ambiguity is its strength. There are articles and videos on this topic that try to persuade people that Metaverse will unavoidably enter our daily lives soon on a daily basis. Since it is a spatial innovation that necessitates a 3D redesign of the Internet, architects and designers are crucial participants in the ongoing discussion.

When architects consider this new world within the constraints of real-world architecture, they initially celebrate the "unlimited possibilities" of the Metaverse. Structure, materiality, and cost, according to Leon Rost, director of BIG, "all go out the window" in the metaverse, whereas Rashed Singaby, senior project designer for HOK, thinks that "between designing for the metaverse and leveraging its capabilities, the potential is almost limitless." For architects, who have been designing as though resources were limitless for decades but are now being forced to limit their imagination due to the current ecological and economic crisis in the world, the metaverse feels like a light at the end of the tunnel as an infinite realm. Nevertheless, creating a virtual environment


1.) Budget, still the main issue.

Considering that the environment and buildings in the Metaverse won't be physically built, architects won't have to worry about hiring contractors, managing projects, or dealing with disgruntled clients who gripe about the costs. This time, however, architects will still work in a team to create virtual habitats with UI-UX designers, software developers, and coders who also require time and resources to build a virtual environment. The Department of Computer Engineering at MEF University's Dr. Tuna akar, an expert in augmented reality and virtual reality, reminds us that money is still a major barrier, particularly as Metaverse's architectural designs become more interactive and personalized.

It would be a missed opportunity if architecture in the Metaverse did not take advantage of the potential of cutting-edge technologies like big data, AI, and AR/VR. However, it becomes more time- and money-intensive if the architectural design is combined with programming, coding, or computation. Although Metaverse architects frequently overlook financial concerns, creating a virtual universe may be just as expensive as creating a real one.


2.) Doppleganger of real-life or a new universe?

Although Metaverse has been described as a brand-new digital universe brimming with opportunities, its primary activities—for the time being, given the explosive growth of cryptocurrencies—are almost identical to those of our everyday lives: shopping and business. The primary activity of the existing metaverses primarily revolves around buying and selling, whether it be real estate or clothing. Even the parcelization systems in this novel world, where a ruler divides a virtual map into grids, mimic the long-established cartographic techniques. For some people, the metaverse will be like a duplicate of reality, complete with all the flaws and details that come with it. But does it make sense to invest so much time and effort in mimicking real life?

Teddy Bergsman, co-founder of Quixel, argues that it is essential to reconstruct the digital world by scanning real-world objects in order to produce more immersive habitats. Quixel aims to scan the entire world in order to produce convincing digital environments. The company's goal of scanning, for example, every rock in the Canyons of Utah is legitimate up to a point because the main goal of creating immersive virtual worlds is to deceive our brains into believing what we see is real. But what if "novelty and uniqueness," rather than resemblance to real-life, is what motivates people to carry on with their daily activities in the digital world?

According to Alper zyurtlu, co-founder of Timelooper, a company that creates virtual environments for clients all over the world, we are still in the early stages of the Metaverse, and this demand for realistic environments does not reflect virtual trends everywhere in the world. However, in nations like Japan or South Korea, where consumers persistently seek novelty, innovation, and novel digital environments rather than exact replicas of the real world, expectations are drastically different from those in the Americas, according to zyurtlu.

Users generally strive to be extraordinary when it comes to their bodies in the digital world, regardless of where they are. Our bodies will be represented in the Metaverse as avatars using all the versatility and options that technology offers. Avatars, in contrast to virtual structures, expand the realm of possibility. In a paradoxical way, you and your friends could gather at a virtual campsite that looks just like a real one, complete with fancy wings or a huge monster head. Then they ascend a virtual tree house that is precisely a replica of the real-life one that was originally created nearly a century ago. Similar to real life, virtual world architecture appears to be adjusting to new technologies more slowly than other fields.


3.) Circulation, teleporting

Experts have neuroscientific explanations for why they want to replicate the real world in the Metaverse. According to recent studies, our brain interprets new images by equating them with memories of earlier events. We still need to use these elements of real life to persuade our brains, at least during the transition period, even though you do not need a door in digital life to enter a space or the pillars of a bridge to span. Of course, the Metaverse has its own set of rules even though it does not always adhere to architectural traditions. If there is a chance to teleport, why would anyone walk through a lengthy promenade or climb a modern ramp that extends for meters?

Given the limitations of current technology, teleporting is an action that restricts the spatial experience because it involves pressing a button to move your avatar from one location to another while omitting the enjoyment of movement. However, it is also implausible to attempt to walk a considerable distance in a small area while wearing a headset.


4.) Gravity, only when necessary

Architects are bound by gravity. When structural engineers enter the conversation, dreams of exceptional architecture frequently need to be restrained and grounded. In the Metaverse, there won't be any gravity, which pleases architects. Nevertheless, gravity is yet another device to deceive our minds into believing the virtual environment is real. Gravity is one of the most profound emotions we experience, even in our dreams. In a VR demonstration, users who successfully cross and jump down the plank feel a genuine sense of falling, making it impossible for people with a fear of heights to do so. As a result, a bridge in the Metaverse can have more slender columns because a structural engineer won't be needed and there aren't any geophysical concerns.

To keep people from falling, railings are still required. In addition, it is extremely difficult for an architect to create spaces as though there is zero gravity, as Galina Balashova, the designer of the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz, noted. When developing the other facets of digital life, gravity serves as a life-saving rule while complicating things when building structures.


5.) Energy

The main problem with architecture in the Metaverse is that, in order to fool users' brains into thinking they are actually in a real-world setting, the digital built environment must be intricately modelled to reflect real-world limitations like gravity and weather that don't apply in the virtual world. However, rendering the details and textures of a virtual environment that will be frequently used by thousands of people is much more difficult.

Additionally, there is ongoing discussion about how to supply the energy needed to render realistic multi-user environments without further endangering the environment. Even though the result is virtual, Metaverse will still need to use a lot of resources unless it is created from scratch with a deliberate design strategy. For a better future for the planet, the digital representation of virtual architecture needs to be rethought, especially in light of how much energy every rendering that runs CPU fans requires.

Architects have the chance to create a hybrid universe of inherited images with the emerging ones for this new realm, as opposed to welcoming this new universe as a limitless territory that will only help to accelerate the existing crises the planet currently has. The same obstacles to actual architecture will persist in the Metaverse unless we, as architects, work with software developers and engineers to develop a new language that does not demand a significant amount of resources.


This article has been deeply inspired from archdaily's metaverse edition.

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