All aspects of society today are becoming increasingly more digital. Our interconnectedness and speed at which we are able to search and transfer information have made us more accustomed to exploring new ways that technology can impact our lives. Over the last few years, the rise of bitcoin, blockchain, and now the metaverse, has caused architects and designers to reconsider the notion of physical and virtual space. But beyond that, there’s an “in-between” of spaces that will be designed to support the technological escapism that the metaverse and web3 offer. While these virtual worlds are on the frontier of the digitization of everything, architects will play a huge part in designing the real-world physical spaces that can support them.
One of the more recent notions of how our physical space can support highly digital activities was the dawn of esports arenas. The design of these arenas came from the rising popularity of both professional and amateur online sports which created a need for large event spaces to host events. These venues are often outfitted with high-speed internet, advanced technology structures, massive viewing scenes, and powerful mechanical rooms to ensure that the experience for fans and players is seamless. Oftentimes, esports arenas are converted buildings like big-box retail stores and concert venues that needed to transform during the COVID-19 pandemic, showing how the rise of the digital world has quickly created a need for a new type of physical space.
Late last year, Mark Zuckerberg proposed that one of the first steps towards building the metaverse would be to create physical spaces to support the virtual ones. The idea was to open retail stores around the world that would introduce people to the devices made for the metaverse and to demonstrate how to “enter” it. Through VR headsets, AR glasses, and other products, users could understand how to move seamlessly from a physical world to a digital one.
Even global brands are begging to explore ways to integrate themselves into the metaverse in their already existing brick-and-mortar locations. Fashion designers are exploring ways for people to digitally try on clothes that can be purchased in real life, and even the inverse, try on clothes that their metaverse avatar can own and wear. They’ve even gone as far as revaluing certain items, knowing that the worth of things in the real world could be dramatically different from that in a virtual one. There’s an opportunity for other types of retailers and restaurants to do the same. By using metaverse-supported technology, it can bring in consumers to explore products and experiences in a new way. We’ve already been seeing this in immersive-type experiences. The Museum of Ice Cream brings tech to an everyday dessert and the Color Factory encourages visitors to translate the physical environment into a digital one, as it’s become the main attraction for Instagrammers around the world. Although these are at a much smaller scale, it shows how technology needs physical space to thrive.
Essentially, the creation and expansion of the metaverse have provided opportunities for retailers to compete with e-commerce platforms through the demonstration of products and the ability to bring people in to showcase what a virtual world can offer. This comes with new methods and opportunities for advertising, selling goods, and blending the world of entertainment and technology. Although the metaverse lives online, it’s perhaps best experienced and shared in the physical world with stores and other real-world infrastructure that can excite consumers.