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How metaverses can enrich the public space

How metaverses can enrich the public space

Photo: Gheorghita Constantin/iStock

Whether the metaverse, a potential next step for the Internet, will change the layout of the physical living environment? Participants in the Summer City Affairs session have no doubts about whether the metaverse will have an impact, but how. Virtual environments can take many functions from the physical world. This provides opportunities for a greener, more accessible and clean public space.

The idea behind the metaverse is that the physical and virtual worlds merge seamlessly, without using different devices or screens. Through glasses or lenses, users see a digital layer over the real world. And from anywhere, it is possible to visit the specially designed worlds in “virtual reality”, where you try to dress up or hold a meeting. “Space and distance no longer matter with the Metaverse,” says Jan-Willem Wesselink, Program Director of the Future City Foundation.

In collaboration with the Stadszaken editors, Wesselink organized a summer session on the impact of the metaverse on choices and expectations of the physical living environment. Seventeen civil servants, researchers, and other interested parties participated in the topic to reflect on the opportunities for this step in further digitization.

The idea was presented to us for several years by big technology companies, such as Meta van Mark Zuckerberg. According to predictions, the Metaverse will be released in ten to fifteen years. What exactly it will look like is not yet certain, but this possibility is already raising questions about how our relationship with space and distance will change. How do we organize our public space if we can also visit it virtually and design it ourselves?

in vertical Wesselink identifies the metaverse as a concept that has a far-reaching impact on spatial planning and area development. “The Internet has already fundamentally changed notions of space and distance, and the metaverse is adding a huge boost to that.”

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good as one

“Once the metaverse becomes a reality, it will become less and more about arranging for citizens and more about arranging with citizens,” says a participant in the Summer Session on City Affairs, organized by Stadszaken and the Future City Foundation. Last Friday, seventeen civil servants, researchers, and other interested parties pondered the impact of the metaverse on our choices for the physical living environment.

According to proponents, the new stage of the Internet provides a new space for interactions. Additionally, the physical world is still dominant, but may no longer be with the metaverse. For this reason, the metaverse is sometimes called the multiverse, where the physical and virtual enrich each other and are actually one for the natural user.

For this reason, the metaverse is sometimes called the multiverse, where the physical and virtual enrich each other and are actually one for the natural user. “No matter what world you live in, you want relationships and reciprocity to remain central,” says Jan Wester, a strategy and innovation consultant. As long as the (additional) services in the metaverse adhere to this condition, it is believed that there is less reason to necessarily continue the distinction.

Wesselink also suspects that virtual worlds render many travel movements unnecessary. “You can be in the same virtual world of Randstad as in the rural area.”

Cleaning public places

Anyone who really wants to meet someone in a physical environment will make a more conscious choice in the future. There seems to be a consensus on this among many of the summer session participants. This raises the question of whether consumers and citizens will still want to physically visit the store and continue to meet each other physically in restaurants and in the park.

Participants say that the physical public space will not become barren due to virtual picnics. The metaverse provides opportunities to make it more social and conscious. If we can display everything in our gardens and yards, you can play table tennis and bowling without the need for a specific space. Then you have more room for greening and more open space to walk in, according to one participant.

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Another participant adds: “A la Marie Kondo maybe we can clean up the public spaces a bit. No place needs to be created for specific groups like kids or seniors. You can fill that in later via augmented reality. So you get more space for openness and greenery.”

Impact on the workplace

The diverse backgrounds of the summer session participants provided space for a broad exposure of the topic. For example, a participant from the infrastructure sector raised the question whether it still makes sense to invest millions in expanding a physical bridge or a new bridge connection, if we don’t know to what extent virtual mobility is replacing physical mobility.

There is no immediate cause for panic in the retail sector either. Of course many people will enjoy being able to shop from just about anywhere, but still enough people will want to try on clothes in a real store. Just as we keep visiting restaurants and want to meet friends or family in a “real” way, according to another participant.

In his column on the metaverse, Wesselink concludes with a call for further discussion on the impending enrichment of the Internet: “It is interesting to see where the opportunities lie and how we can use them, while at the same time confronting the flaws (…) how to transform the metaverse into a world that truly benefits us as a society.