ELEVATION — Time for Our Metaverse Dress Rehearsal

Nandi Nobell June 30, 2021

ELEVATION: Raising the Bar for CRTKL’s Digital Innovation

Elevation is a collection of stories, thought leadership, and unique experiences from CRTKL’s Design Technology Group (DTG) on the frontlines of architecture, engineering, and design (AEC). Today, Nandi Nobell shares his insights on the Metaverse and how we evolve in the AEC industry.

The Metaverse is a growing term for embodied digital experiences — seamlessly integrated as the spatial Internet.

How we move between experiences, spaces and realms, in this context, is not yet defined. What is known, is that architects have done very little to form an essential part of this vast — maybe infinite — inhabitable realm of endless spatial opportunity and services thereof.

We all produce data: consciously, laterally, unknowingly and so forth. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) can help us move through all this in some ways, but is primarily adopted to persuade us into buying something — whether a concept or product — unless we are the ones seeking to harness A.I. to push an agenda of our own. It is a give and take — deep fake and beyond.

Consider all the interfaces we already use to access Internet technology: how we talk to our phones, lamps, radios, cars, thermostats and the like. With all this data, innumerable products to purchase, oh-so-many places to be, and ever-growing opportunities to express ourselves, screen-based digital access is just not enough for excellent communication and orientation. This is why spatial interfaces, amongst others, have the potential to form a serious frontier.

credit: Nandi Nobell

Major tech firms speak of a screen-free future in favor of extended reality, while our devices are growing smarter by the sentence. Screen-free effectively means immersive — as opposed to on-screen interfaces and experiences that, essentially, are lists under lists: Instagram is a folder structure. Once immersed, the scope of possible experiences and services expand drastically.

New types of interfaces means user experiences are becoming more human, and, because of extended reality paired with a host of converging technologies like AI, (brain-computer-interfaces,  gesture control, eye-tracking, smart contracts etc.) many immersive experiences are likely to offer us access to entirely new capabilities – “superpowers,” if you will. This might sound radical, but think of it this way — a smartphone holds plenty of functions that would have been sci-fi not long ago — all inside of that little, connected box. Immersive technology empowers the user with an even greater number of capabilities while removing the box, thereby merging the physical and digital realities.

With this in mind, let us envision our future spaces as places that are ALSO interfaces because the separation of digital and physical attributes is becoming old — fast. How much longer is a BIM (Building Information Modelling)-free, digital twin-unprepared, building a viable product?

Future forecasting for the next five years is most often based on anticipation by the numbers. Therefore, building for The Metaverse seems like a valuable trajectory for everyone who enjoys transcending distances, having superior digital meetings and experience art from home — in the city and online, at any time. We can play and watch sports in new ways, immerse in spatially aware media forms, encounter games that crossfade in real life, live in houses with views and balconies that transport us into realities we love — or have never seen before — in both the physical and digital lives we live. That’s the direction humanity is pointing towards: are we watching the finger or the stars?

With this magic infrastructure at our fingertips, how do we choose to serve our world with enjoyable spaces made for the spatial continuum we inhabit?

Those who appreciate eliminating the separation between digital and physical retail can quickly see how brand owners are selling in all formats — whether physical or digital. As the Immersive Internet becomes an ever-more prominent reality, we have all the reason to cater to both.

In the case of retail, it could be as simple as shifting our view of what we do from retail spaces towards interfaces to retail – this way we are better prepared for the reality in front of us. A banner on an architectural publication becomes an adjacent space — is this a digital marketing dollar or retail fitout? Are we invited to the conversation?

credit: Nandi Nobell

Instead of asking ourselves if virtual workplaces ever can be as good as the physical counterparts we know how to provide, we will all benefit from thinking of how we can deliver virtual workplaces that are an improvement to both physical and digital experiences as they increasingly transcend. This approach will also help attract the talent we need to be a modern design practice in the age of persistent digital advancement.

The more we co-create a great future, the more relevant we are to that future. And, should we decide not to form part of the spatial continuum, we will have to purchase these services, one by one, instead of banking on the same.

Try to apply this mentality to your practice area to see how many ideas for tools and services you can invent — then check how many of these are already in development. The time is now. We already live inside of a game engine — some more than others.

CRTKL’s Design Technology Group (DTG) is a team dedicated to advancing every aspect of the firm’s technological and digital capabilities. This team is integral to the success of existing project work and client ventures, but they are also focused on future horizons. Not only does the DTG promote advanced methodologies and processes for traditional architecture services, but they are exploring what the future of our practice and profession will be.

Author Spotlight

Nandi Nobell
Nandi Nobell is a Senior Associate in CRTKL's London office. He is an interdisciplinary artist and designer with a futurist mindset striving to see beyond the horizons of human creativity in order to envision new lifestyles in a time that is yet to manifest itself. In his practice and research, Nandi creates experiences -- mixing media that are digital, physical or perceived in states of hypnosis. He thinks of consciousness as the only real material as every other element involved (animate or inanimate) is a prop, device, actor or agent in the shaping of experiences. Regardless of the true fabric of existence and the technology at hand at any given time, Nandi targets what any audience or customer can actually perceive -- the experience itself -- using or developing the means to do so. Interfaces to human experience are the basis of Nandi's practice.