By now, you’ve likely heard of the metaverse. Perhaps you’ve even heard talk about it being the future of the internet (or something). But, like many, you might still be wondering what even is this metaverse, anyway, and why should I—a designer of things in the real world—care? Turns out the metaverse is already here, and it’s shaping the architecture and design industry in a big way. As this new digitally enabled future continues to evolve, architects and designers will have a big role to play in determining its impact—not just on our industry, but on everyone who interacts with it.

It’s only been 10 months since Facebook became Meta, revealing its bet on the metaverse as the Next Big Thing. But technically the metaverse is an idea that has been around for a while: In his prescient 1992 novel Snowcrash, science fiction author Neal Stephenson proposed a shared, virtual world that could exist alongside our physical one. Today, that vision is taking shape as a highly immersive version of the internet. Tessa Bain, cofounder of Digby, a tech startup and industry consultant, explains it in simple terms: “We have multiple different platforms right now in different tools: social media, Zoom, virtual reality. Metaverse is a combination of all of those platforms into one space.” (Digby, for one, refers to the concept as “metaverse,” sans article.)

In the metaverse, everything is interactive, and live participants take the form of digital avatars. You can engage in real-world activities, like collaborating with work colleagues, before teleporting to a luxury boutique or joining friends from around the world for a concert—and, just as in life, this activity carries on even after you’ve logged out.


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