Ok, so, THE METAVERSE. So much buzz, so many questions. We are the forefront of a massive movement right now. It’s making headlines today, but this has been quietly building for years. It is happening.
As a designer, fairly involved with online industry groups, I am hearing the questions, seeing the trepidation and feeling the excitement.
When the topic came up at a seminar for interior designers I attended recently, I decided that I needed to get my head around it. So, I began researching, and went down a total rabbit hole. I started taking notes, just for myself, but then realized this may be helpful information for others. I’m in deep now, and it’s truly exciting and full of opportunity. Not for the faint of heart, I will tell you straight away.
On that note, I’m also seeing quite a bit of fear mongering going on. Don’t let the naysayers discourage you. This is new and different and you must be brave to enter.
It’s all moving so fast, I know by the time this is published there will be something new and something will have changed. There’s so much more than I’ve written, but I have to stop somewhere or I’ll never come up for air. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
The metaverse is a network of online virtual worlds where you can interact, experience, buy and sell. This is Web 3.0, the new 3d version of social media, marketing and commerce. To get in, you’ll need to buy some cryptocurrency, set up a digital wallet, create an account on the platform of your choice, make your avatar, and jump in. Once in, you can walk (or fly, or jump) around, teleport to different lands, view and buy digital art and assets, attend concerts, go to meetings, play games, pretty much whatever you want. You can buy or rent land, where you can then build a house, create an experience or game for other users, or you can flip that digital real estate for profit. You can also create and sell digital product (assets) that others can wear, or use on their land or add into their game experiences. I am now offering services in Virtual Architecture, Digital Assets, NFTs and Land Development.
Here’s me (my avatar) dancing at a party in Decentraland.
The Metaverse Concept
“An alternate digital reality where people socialize, work, play, and transact. Metaverses built on the blockchain are self-contained virtual cities and economies that simulate real-world interactions.” – Republic Realm
As defined by Facebook: “The ‘metaverse’ is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.”
To start, the Metaverse doesn’t totally exist quite yet. And, there’s not just one. It’s definitely coming though, and people are definitely cashing in.
A metaverse is an ecosystem of 3d virtual worlds focused on social connection. Essentially, it’s the next iteration of social media. The vision is of a new internet that becomes a single virtual world. Right now these are accessed through smart phones or computers, but the long term vision is for full 360 immersive worlds accessed through VR headsets and augmented reality. Think “The Oasis” in the film Ready Player One, but *hopefully minus the bleak dystopian real world. Right now, this is most easily relatable to open world real time multiplayer video games such as Roblox and Fortnite. More on those later.
In these virtual worlds, people interact as avatars; their online virtual twin, alter ego, spirit animal or what/whom ever they want to be. You can visit art galleries, got to parties or meetings, attend concerts, experience recreated historical events, own land, build houses and even own a yacht. Major artists like Justin Beiber, Ariana Grande and Travis Scott have performed as their avatars in virtual concerts. I myself have attended several DJ parties (see image.)
This really is a whole new world. Think back to the early 90’s when we all first got line, through the screaming of the modem, likely via America Online. It was weird and clunky and confusing at first. No one knew where to go or what to do.
But look at us now y’all.
Humans want connection and community. Here is new way, full of endless possibility. The global pandemic has kept people apart, and shown us that we can adapt and find new, creative ways to be, and work together. I don’t believe people will ever give up on the real world or physical human interaction, we need real shelter and real human contact. This is supplemental, adding to and enriching our life experiences.
Money. There is money to be made here. Digital Real Estate, NFT’s and Digital Assets are selling like crazy for incredible prices.
Text based 2D internet vs 3D Immersive Experience. Why just look at a photo and read a description of the new Nike sneakers, when you can try them on in AR?
Present day social media has become saturated with ads. We’re trapped in their algorithm maze. We’re tracked and stalked at every turn. The vision of the metaverse is not ad-driven. Oh brands will be there, they already are. But in the Metaverse, users will interact and mingle with brands at their leisure, through “organic” experiences. Sort of like product placement in film and tv; it’s there, we see it, but its not an over targeted ad bombarding us on every channel. Here’s me taking a walk where I came across a billboard.
When you buy a luxury item in real life, you may have go onto a waiting list, then keep it at home, in a safe. In the metaverse, you don’t have to worry about that. You can wear it and show it off at any time. In fact, wearables are a major part of the NFT market.
It’s happening. It can’t be denied.
Video killed the Radio Star
This is a battle royale, only one can win.
Cable TV, for example, didn’t just improve the resolution of broadcast-era television, it enabled more niche, serialized, and expensive television, thereby enabling series like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and House Hunters, as well as the establishment of brands like HBO, AMC, and HGTV. When video games moved from arcade to console, it was feasible for a game to be saved, and for a single user to play for hours at a time. This is why the console-era is defined by titles like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy VII, rather than just high-fi versions of Pacman and Galaga. Online, meanwhile, enabled fantastical worlds to be persistent and massively multiplayer, hence World of Warcraft and EVE Online.
Think about the shift from vinyl to to cassette tapes to CDs to digital to streaming, to now where nearly 30 million people attended Travis Scott’s virtual concert. No other platform has this sort of reach.
Or what about the the early days of the internet? Remember the first time you logged on to AOL?
Then there’s the basic phone call which is now more likely to be a Facetime.
The Super Technical Description
The Metaverse is based on Web3. Web3 (Web 3.0 or web3) is a new iteration of the WWW based on decentralized Blockchain networks. This differs from Web 2.0 that we are accustomed to, where content and data are centralized in a small group of Big Tech companies. Essentially, right now most of the internet is 2 dimensional. The Web3 metaverse is 3 dimensional.
You can access the metaverse using your smartphone, computer or VR headset. The full visionary experience is dependent on VR headsets though, and has limited wide scale adoption at this time. However since Meta (Facebook) acquired Oculus, this is no doubt being remedied.
There’s not just one metaverse. So far, there’s no standardized tech. Each platform uses their own proprietary code, so there’s not much interoperability just yet. There are efforts underway however to change this. Universal Scene Description and OpenXR are open access specs that are gaining support by tech companies including GPU maker Nvidia, Microsoft’s HoloLens, Meta Platforms (Facebook) & SteamVR to name a few.
What is Digital Currency?
Digital currencies are decentralized monies, meaning they are not part of a central bank or controlled by single administrator. They can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer network without need for intermediaries. Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a publicly distributed ledger call a blockchain. There are tons out there, and new ones pop up every day, but the 2 main, and most long standing are
Most metaverse platforms are based on, and require, Etherium. Many also have their own forms that are used exclusively within the platform.
What Are NFTs?
An NFT is a digital file that you can own. NFTs can be artworks, game or metaverse assets, digital land, virtual architecture or furniture, just about anything digital. NFTs are collectible and conceptual art. These can be fine art, or the equivalent of a Beanie Baby.
Non Fungible Tokens = Unique digital files. The “things” you buy and sell in the metaverse. Sort of like in game purchases, but you actually own it and can sell it if you want.
Non-Fungible = An asset that is not mutually interchangeable like currency or gold. Gold is fungible since a specified amount of pure gold is equivalent to that same amount of pure gold. All dollars or bitcoins are fungible and equal, but each NFT may represent a different underlying asset that may have a different value.
An NFT is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, which can be sold and traded. The NFT can be associated with a particular digital or physical asset (such as a file or a physical object) and a license to use the asset for a specified purpose.
NFTs are created when blockchains string together records of data with previous records of data, creating a chain of identifiable data blocks. There is a fully traceable record of every transaction involved. This digital provenance is why NFTs can be individually owned.
A Phygital NFT is a digital file plus it’s corresponding physical object. When you purchase these you get both.
NFTs must be minted and sold through one of the marketplaces.
If you buy a physical painting, you know it’s real because you see the artist’s signature on the canvas. Somebody can photocopy the painting, but they don’t own it — you do. Before NFTs, digital assets were like photocopies: You can see who posted something, but you can’t see who owns an Instagram post, Pinterest Pin or Reddit meme.
NFTs are like a signature for digital items: They authenticate ownership of digital assets like art, collectibles, music, videos, in-game assets, and more. Just like physical certificates, they document:
Who created it
When it was created
Who bought it (and when)
The price(s) it sold for
Who owns it now
Real Estate (Land)
There is a new land rush… online.
Buying virtual land is pretty simple, you either buy directly from the platform in a land sale, or through a broker or reseller on the open market. Investors build on their land and make it interactive.
Land is a digital piece of real estate where people can build experiences like shops, museums, games, venues, meeting places, etc. Each piece of land is a unique NFT. Prices have soared 500% in the few months since Facebook re branded to Meta, announcing they were all in for the future metaverse.
Real estate developers, agents and brokers are even specializing in digital land sales and portfolios. Tokens.com just bought a $2.5 million patch of land in Decentraland. Republic Realm bought a $4.3 million parcel in Sandbox, adding to their portfolio holdings in 24 metaverse platforms. They are developing shopping malls, fantasy islands and an online university. Celebrities, Corporations and Influencers are getting in on the game too. Snoopdog has a large parcel in Sandbox he calls The Snoopverse. He’s selling early access passes for $2577, to become an insider to the development of his metaverse presence.
Just like in real life, digital real estate is all about Location, Location, Location. Areas where people congregate, near major companies, luxury districts or cultural zones, are very valuable, esp to advertisers and retailers. For example, in Sandbox, you can only teleport to land plots 3×3 or larger, so if you want to get traffic to your game or experience or shop, you need to be near a portal. Someone recently paid $450,000 to be SnoopDog’s neighbor. Villas in Exclusible’s new luxury district in Sandbox are selling for 4 ETH each, and that world hasn’t even opened their Alpha 2 yet! Sandbox Alpha2 is set to open March 3, 2022.
Sandbox World Map
Is It Risky?
This is much like gambling, or day trading in the stock market, it’s all calculated risk, forecasting and speculation. You should only invest capital that you are ready to lose. Crypto is volatile, but high risk can bring high reward. People are flipping lands and assets for major profit. Republic Realm sold 100 private islands for $15,000 each which are now selling on the open market for $300,000 each. People who bought in during the original land sale in Sandbox paid $1500 for a single plot (one tiny green square on the map). These are now selling upwards from $12,000. The most expensive parcel for sale on OpenSea right now is a 3×3 plot, listed at $16.8 million. (But will they sell it, you may be asking. Who knows, but if they do…)
Why am I taking the risk? Because I have a crystal ball = my teenagers. They spend all of their free time right now in the metaverse. My son can navigate any world, he can code and build servers, and has made friends all over the world. The last 2 years of pandemic have proven to me that this is not “the future”, this is now.
Metaverses - Where Do I go?
Annilee in Spatial
Annilee in Decentraland
Annilee in Sandbox
Sandbox.game – The Sandbox is a virtual gaming world where players can build, own, and monetize their gaming experience.
Decentraland.org – Buy and sell LAND, Estates, Avatar wearables and names in the Decentraland Marketplace. The virtual destination for digital assets.
Spatial.io – Experience virtual NFT art exhibitions, meetups, and live events together with lifelike avatars. Customize beautiful 3D spaces.
Roblox.com – Allows users to program games and play games created by other users. “Roblox is a global platform that brings people together through play.”
Fortnite – A free-to-play Battle Royale game with numerous game modes for every type of game player. Watch a concert, build an island or fight. https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/home?
Metafluence.com – The first influencer platform in the metaverse. An influencer-centric ecosystem in the metaverse where SM influencers, brands and their audiences are easily engaged in a transparent and incentivized manner. On a mission to convert SM influencers into metaverse entrepreneurs (metapreneurs) through an influence-to-earn platform.
Upland.me Is an NFT metaverse that is mapped to the real world where users can import NFTs from other blockchains. There are drivable cars, residential and commercial property development, and the introduction of businesses.
Architecture & Design
In the metaverse, people need places to go and things to do.
A Virtual Architect is a designer that builds the 3d worlds in the metaverse. Using various 3d modeling software a designer creates buildings, furnishings, décor, and landscapes. These can be sold as assets for games and experiences or as collectible digital or phygital NFTs.
There’s no limits, no restrictions, no laws of physics. Only creativity. What happens in the real world doesn’t matter here. No one cares that a metaverse building doesn’t meet code, or that a metaverse shower has framed artwork and a pendant fixture inside it. Realism is not the point, necessarily. I mean, in some worlds the avatars don’t even have legs, they just float and fly around and no one questions this at all. You can build, decorate, renovate, buy or sell whatever you want, it’s just pixels and code.
That being said, there is also a growing market for crossover products. Digital Twins are a metaverse version of a real life person, place or thing. You can build a replica of your office to hold virtual meetings, or your second home can be a luxury virtual mansion.
ONE Sotheby’s has just announced the first “MetaReal” mansion. The sale includes an 11,000sf real world home to be built in Miami, and a digital twin for the Sandbox metaverse. They’ve partnered with a Virtual Architect and a General Contractor to build the digital and real world home.
“In the future, we think it will be commonplace to have a metaverse extension of your home. As experiences become more and more immersive, the lines will continue to blend until reality and the metaverse are nearly indistinguishable. Over the next several years, you will see NFT technology used more and more to transact real world assets.” virtual realtor Gabe Sierra
Artist Krista Kim sold her virtual “Mars House” for 288 ETH, that’s over $500,000, in an NFT auction. The owner received a digital file to upload to the Metaverse of their choice, and the opportunity to commission Kim to manufacture physical versions of the furniture. Mars House was the inspiration behind Kelly Wearstler’s venture into digital design, however so far her virtual garage for Labron James’ Hummer is just images. There’s no virtual tour, and it has not been minted for sale. (She got a lot of attention for it, but it’s not really metaverse, yet.)
German architecture firm Shift/Space just sold their first luxury mansion for Sandbox, called The Aurora Project for 19,582 Sand (The Sandbox currency, 1 sand = $3.77). That’s around $73,824. Yep.
In December, a virtual copy of the New York Stock Exchange building sold for $23,000 in Upland.
These particular buildings are not meant to, and are not planned to be built in the real world. It’s the new age of environmentally friendly production. Aside from the electricity used to run the computers, there’s no carbon footprint at all. And the bit that is there is WAY smaller than real construction.
Will this hurt the Architecture and Design industry? No.
People will still need real buildings, furnishings, experiences, connections and communities. They will still need to buy a real house to live in, a real bed to sleep in and real sofa to sit on. No real life client will expect us to build a fantasy home that defies physics and common sense, in the real world just because they saw it in the metaverse. (Any more than they already do… amiright?)
Most of the current data and info on product sales come from the fashion industry, with a few early adapters from the A&D community jumping in.
The fashion industry, in it’s fashion forward way, has been the first group to really embrace virtual products for the metaverse. Luxury brands are finding that they can sell virtual versions of their analog goods in the metaverse for big bucks. Some companies are digitizing their existing products, some are creating exclusively digital items, some are doing both. Dubbed “Phygital” some NFTs come with a digital and a physical version.
Digital products are gaining appeal from a sustainability point of view as well. One study from DressX shows that a digital garment requires 97% fewer carbon emissions and 872 fewer gallons of water.
By using no raw materials, and very little labor or overhead, digital goods are almost all profit.
Gucci sold digital versions of their some of their real products in the game Roblox for a small amount of in-game currency. Once the exhibition ran out of digital assets to sell, gamers began to put up the branded items up for auction, inflating their cost tenfold. The virtual Dionysus handbag, sold at auction for $4,100, which is $700 higher than the retail price of the real-life version. That is not even an NFT. It was purchased in game, with Robux which is not even a real cryptocurrency and only good inside Roblox. This means that bag has no value outside of the game Roblox. Why does this matter? Because it goes to show that people are investing, they are spending money, they want ALL THE THINGS in their digital world.
Gucci Dionysus in Roblox
Balenciaga has partnered with Fortnite to sell signature items from its collection that will be used as Skins and accessories for game avatars. In real life, people can go to the Madison Square Balenciaga store and shop the Fortnite x Balenciaga collection.
Karl Lagerfeld is selling a Phygital shoe collection on Dematerialized. Collectors receive a pair of digtal shoes and a virtual AR version that you can try on, along with a custom made-to-order physical pair.
Dolce & Gabbana set a digital-fashion record with the sale of a $5.7 million, nine-piece NFT collection on UNXD.
Nike has built its own metaverse experience called Nikeland on Roblox’s platform and recently acquired the virtual sneaker and collectibles startup RTFKT Studios.
Jason Phillips of The Phillips Collection has minted his Quantum Shadow Table as an NFT. For sale on Rarible for 1 ETH (~$14,000), you get renderings and the 3d model.
Quantum Shadow Table
What’s in it for the Archtecture and Design industry?
What can we, as designers, architects, manufacturers do here?
We can design and decorate and sell products just like in real life. People are spending millions on land, villas, yachts and luxury fashion. They are buying luxury branded avatars and dressing them(selves) in Gucci and Dolce Gabana. So, why wouldn’t they also want a professionally designed virtual mansion, furnished with luxury furniture brands and celebrity designer backed products. This is a new version of a high end lifestyle.
What am I doing here? AKA What can I do for you?
A little build experiment in Decentraland
As a designer, I’ve been using 3d modeling technology for 20 years. I knew right away that giving my clients a 3d view of their home was much more valuable that an old fashioned blue print. The experience of knowing what their ideas will really look like is incomparable. Technology has advanced incredibly since I started. My 3d models are now highly accurate down to the finest details, and can be virtually walked through using a VR headset.
I am on board this movement. I am taking my designs and my skills straight over to this new frontier. My skill set is uniquely transferable and I see many ways that I can offer my services.
Virtual Architecture – I can design and virtually build 3d architectural models for uploading to metaverse platforms. These can be digital twins of existing real world buildings, or new designs. Building designs can be digital, or phygital.
Asset Production – Do you have an analog product you’d like transform into a NFT or digital asset?
NFT’s – Virtual versions of your products and designs that you can sell on the various marketplaces as digital and phygital products.
Digital Real Estate Development – I can help to plan your digital land and build the structures to put on it
Photo-Real Rendering – I can take your existing 3d models (or build them for you) and create beautiful photo realistic renderings, 360 panoramas, and walkthroughs for your marketing, drops, and marketplace listings.
Throw Pillow voxel digital asset
BFA Studio Art, Landscape & Figure Drawing
BS Interior Design
Registered Interior Designer
Certified Professional Building Designer
21 years design and construction industry
30 years computer graphic design
20 years 3d architectural modeling
17 years working exclusively remotely with clients worldwide
Virtual Architect for world’s first Virtual Designer Showhouse
“The only way the metaverse becomes interesting is if there are things to do and people to see and places to go when you get there.” -Janine Yorio, The Real Deal