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What Is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is an immersive digital universe accessed through the Internet that, according to one definition, “combines aspects of social media, online gaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and cryptocurrencies to allow users to interact virtually.” Users choose avatars to represent them in the virtual worlds that make up the metaverse. They can play games or engage in other activities in a virtual world to earn cryptocurrency. That cryptocurrency has value in the real world as well as in the metaverse. Even big-name companies like Heineken, Louis Vuiton, Nike, Tinder, ROBLOX, and Spotify have a commercial presence in the metaverse.
Real Estate in the Metaverse
New virtual worlds are being created all the time, and each of these platforms has its own chosen cryptocurrency with which users can shop, engage in various recreational activities, or buy and sell real estate, from either the platform or a virtual developer. They can even build homes or commercial structures by working with a virtual developer or contractor.
The prices of virtual properties can vary greatly, and–as is the case with real-world real estate–location is a big factor. A private island in a popular virtual world, such as Decentraland, Illuvium, or Sandbox, can sell for millions because of the potential to develop it as a resort that can produce cryptocurrency income for the owner. On a more modest scale, an investor might purchase virtual land and have a builder put up a high-rise apartment building that will produce rental income and appreciate in value over time.
Metaverse and Construction
Obviously, there is no actual construction of buildings going on in the metaverse. Every structure in the metaverse is the result of the efforts of a metaverse construction team. The interactions among team members and between a metaverse construction team and its clients are not unlike what happens on real-world construction projects, though their specific activities involve the manipulation of visual and technical components rather than cement and steel.
The process begins when a client or strategic partner brings an idea for a building to the team operating a metaverse platform. That team may create the building itself, or refer the client to a production studio in the metaverse that provides virtual construction services. The production studio employs specialists who are skilled in the various disciplines involved in transforming an idea into a virtual structure on the client’s virtual land.
The simplest virtual construction projects use pre-made editable blocks to assemble a building in as little as an hour, and then add links to social media and other resources. Depending on the client’s purpose, a simple algorithm can be programmed in to create some interaction between a virtual visitor and the structure, or the finished building can be sold for a profit in the virtual world’s cryptocurrency.
A mid-size, somewhat more sophisticated virtual construction project, let’s say a retail establishment that will take orders for actual products to be shipped to customers in the real world. The project will require the services of a programmer with working knowledge of the API (application programming interface) and crypto wallets and a designer experienced in the use of 3D modeling tools and will take perhaps a month to complete.
The biggest, most challenging metaverse construction projects require a large team with a variety of production skills, including:
- A back-end programmer to handle API and database management tasks
- A front-end programmer with gaming experience
- A 3D modeler to translate the client’s ideas into 3D models
- A 3D animation specialist to create animations within and around the building
- An event manager to greet and provide guidance for users
- A blockchain programmer
- A team leader to coordinate all activities
How Does Metaverse Construction Help Real-World Builders?
At this point, dabbling in the metaverse will be most helpful in understanding how people can interact virtually with 3D models. Being able to experiment in the metaverse, where the laws of physics don’t apply, enables architects and engineers to try out designs in a risk-free environment. Most significantly, metaverse designers can create digital twins—virtual representations of physical structures—to model systems, construction techniques, and how people will interact with the space in a way that BIM alone cannot. Being able to see how things will work before they exist in the real world has interesting implications for the future of the construction industry.
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