In a nutshell, the metaverse is nothing more than a 3D world where users can reside online. And although we are still at the beginning of all the developments, Walter Bokern (technology director of the consultancy Springco) will explain what the metaverse can mean for the field.
Although the term ‘✱ metaverse‘ can be misused as buzzword, its disruptive potential cannot be underestimated. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes in a virtual universe where we work, shop and meet friends. But these new worlds are already being snapped up by investors, so will it be okay with the dream democratization that comes with them?
Because that was the promise of Web3 in general: decentralization and then democratization. With distributed systems (“distributed computing”) and encrypted data (“encryption”), stored on the blockchain, supporters hope that this type of Internet could return power and profits to the end user. The 3D virtual universe in which the user roams with his own data and properties and interacts with other users is called the “metaverse”. So tech entrepreneurs think virtual reality goggles, for example, will blur the line between the physical and virtual worlds.
I take stock of what the Metaverse can mean for the development of the area and what applications are already being experimented with.
Decentraland and the Sandbox
I like it real estate magazine explained this spring, it is expected that as people spend more and more time in virtual worlds, they will become more and more interesting commercially. Major retail chains have already opened showrooms in the metaverse. Companies also want to build virtual stores and offices in worlds like ‘Decentraland’ and ‘The Sandbox’. Therefore, the question arises to what extent the vacancy in the local commercial street can continue as a direct result of this.
Individuals are also increasingly finding their way into the virtual housing market. This has already created a virtual land market in the metaverse where millions of euros are paid for virtual land. the search VICEjournalist Tim Fraanje to an ‘affordable’ virtual villa in ‘Next Earth’ (a 2D metaverse) is fascinating in that context. Anyone hoping this won’t be a problem in a world without scarcity will be disappointed. Amsterdam’s canal belt already appears to be completely in the hands of speculators. This digital asset isn’t worth much yet, but it will increase in value tremendously if Next Earth becomes the most important metaverse, or one of the most important. Investors are already figuring this out for this.
Life jacket for the real estate market
The fact that there are several virtual worlds in which people shape their lives may have long-term consequences for the physical housing market. Because why would he still believe the broker with his ‘location, location, location’ if his life largely takes place in the metaverse? If your company has opened a virtual office where you meet with colleagues during the day and your favorite artist gives a concert at night where you go with friends from all over the world, the physical location of your home has no value. This approach also offers a solution for, for example, informal caregivers who prefer to live further from their physical office and closer to their loved one. Of course, this is a dream, but if the metaverse catches on, it could change the real estate market.
On the other hand, this beautiful dream can also turn into a nightmare. Because cities exist by virtue of the so-called ‘agglomeration effects’, simply put, that people come together to trade. Bundling them together is a very good idea for several reasons. When people live close to each other, economies of scale arise. The business cases for certain facilities, such as public transportation, suddenly become feasible. At the same time, liveliness and versatility are the main characteristics of the city. But what will become of those economies of scale (think of Jane Jacobs’s theory of lively streets and social control) if our lives increasingly take place in that metaverse?
Furthermore, the Internet (especially personalized Web 2.0) has kept people in their own bubble. Online, you mostly watch the news that fits your worldview and talk about it online with people who share that worldview. This has contributed to polarization in our society. As more and more of our lives are spent online, it is not inconceivable that this bubble formation will continue to grow.
Interestingly, the push for Web3-like solutions also stems in part from general discontent with how polarized our society has become. Time will tell if this technology will actually solve or worsen this entrenched social problem.
Cover: ‘Metaverse virtual world’ by naratrip2 (Source: Shutterstock)