Demystifying the Metaverse

08/16/2022 3:06 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF) is an organization that brings together a community of real estate leaders on the latest trends, strategies, projects and provides networking opportunities. The organization hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, discussing what the metaverse means to the architecture, design, engineering, and construction industries; how it influences the built environment; and how these industries are implementing the virtual world.   

Matt Stern, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Mira, served as the moderator for panelists Marcela Oliva, Architecture and Environmental Design Professor at LA Trade Tech; Jake Black, Co-Founder of Glossi; GuvencOzel, Founder of Ozel Office; and Kathleen Cohen, XR Immersive Strategist at The Collaboratorium.   

Understanding the Metaverse  

According to WIRED Magazine, the term metaverse doesn't really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad, and often speculative, shift in how we interact with technology.   

“The metaverse can include virtual reality characterized by persistent virtual worlds that continue to exist even when you're not playing—as well as augmented reality that combines aspects of the digital and physical worlds. However, it doesn't require that those spaces be exclusively accessed via virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).”  

Kathleen Cohen, an XR Immersive Strategist at The Collaboratorium, explains the metaverse in three categories: worlds and environments, people and avatars, and the economy and markets we all play in.   

“It is not a single company creating the metaverse or a single device, but rather a large collaboration and convergence of several technologies,” explains Matt Stern, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Mira. “Together, these technologies create an immersive, 3-dimensional environment where users can interact with their surroundings as if they were in a shared space.”  

The Extended Reality Space Explained 

Augmented reality (AR) is the integration of digital information with the user's environment in real-time. Unlike virtual reality (VR), which creates a totally artificial environment, AR users experience a real-world environment with generated perceptual information overlaid on top of it.  

“It’s all about synchronizing information between the physical world and the virtual world,” says Guvenc Ozel, Founder of Ozel Office. “Previously branded as ‘cyberspace’, we all know this as a space where we all interact with each other through information technologies or some kind of technological interface.”   

Ozel believes a lot of these interfaces are very primitive and suggests a reason many people struggle with anxiety after spending too much time on their phone or staring at a screen for too long is because those environments are not very suitable for natural human communication.   

“When these environments become more spatial, they will be more occupiable by humans,” says Ozel.   

Seamlessly Blending Worlds: Digital Twinning Explained 

A digital twin is a real-time virtual representation of a real-world physical system or process that serves as the indistinguishable digital counterpart of it for practical purposes, such as system simulation, integration, testing, monitoring, and maintenance. 

“I think one of the long-term goals is to seamlessly dip in and out of a virtual space to real space,” says Jake Black, Co-Founder of Glossi. “By constructing digital twins of our environments and the places and buildings within them, we can do that.”  

Black suggests there are two ways to look at digital twinning: one is in a professional context of how it can improve our lives from the standpoint of engineers, architects, developers, construction workers, etc., but two, how we can enhance the lives of consumers in the long-term.  

Implementing the Virtual World into the AEC Industry 

There is a very simple definition for the metaverse used by architects, engineers, developers, and construction workers – the devolution of space. Worldbuilding in the metaverse is synonymous with the built environment as explained by industry experts.   

“There are about 450 technologies that are going to make this ecosystem,” says Marcela Oliva, Architecture and Environmental Design Professor at LA Trade Tech. “Interoperability is the biggest breakthrough right now. We are beginning to talk to each other for the very first time in architectural engineering about moving into the gaming engine and seamlessly blending all of these worlds together.”  

Oliva believes the innovation of these technologies introduces a unique opportunity to achieve social equity and is excited to see the industry blossom into something that can be used for the good of all people.    

In conclusion, as virtual worlds and immersive online spaces continue to develop, we are enlightened with the ever-growing opportunity to enhance and share our lives, work, leisure activities, travel, and wealth in ways never before experienced. Buckle up, the ride only gets more advanced as time goes on.   

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