Designing A Framework For Metaverse Architecture

Sheng Kai Tang Graduate Institute of Architecture, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University
June Hao Hou Graduate Institute of Architecture, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University

Metaverse, first coined in science fiction “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson in 1992, is interpreted as a virtual universe separated from the real one (Wikipedia, 2021). It is a simulated world, where people get in to escape from their daily lives. In the metaverse, people can interact with each other to create, socialize, play, and trade via customized avatars (Ball, 2020). With the advancement of wearable optical see-through display technology, the metaverse is no longer an isolated virtual world (Grimshaw, 2014) but a digital multiverse where virtual worlds superimpose on the physical one. People, spaces, and activities in the format of both virtual and physical are seamlessly integrated (Microsoft, 2021). Architecture is a container of people, spaces, and activities. Architectural elements, such as horizontal elements, vertical elements, closure, and openings are arranged to define spaces, guiding people to conduct required activities (Alexander, Ishikawa & Silverstein, 1977). However, the metaverse, where virtual and physical worlds coexist and collocate, creates dual nature of representation for people, spaces, and activities. The emerging duality of virtual and real is going to change not only the architectural requirements but also the nature of architecture in terms of form and function. Computational technologies were seen as architectural design tools, which assist design thinking, design communication, and construction management (Bertol, 1997). However, mixed reality technology, which was mostly adopted to enhance design visualization and simulation, could be no longer a design tool but rather a new architectural material. Holograms could be used in the same way as wood, glass, concrete and steel to create brand new architectural elements, reshaping the way people interact with architecture in the metaverse. Hence, the goal of this research is to create a new design framework for the metaverse architecture by answering the two key questions: 1. What are the new architectural requirements that would serve the needs of metaverse? 2. What are the characteristics of hologram that could form a new type of architectural element? We adopt the Human Center Design (HCD) approach to make a four step design and research plan. First of all, we interview eight potential metaverse early adopters to collect the design requirements. Secondly, we analyze current wearable mixed reality devices and technologies to realize the technical capabilities and limitations of hologram. Then, we adopt physical and holographic elements to develop architectural patterns, fulfilling the collected requirements. Finally, we turn the patterns into Wizard-of-Oz prototypes and invite the eight interviewees to try the experiences in the MR headset. In our preliminary framework of metaverse architecture, people, who are either real or teleported, are guided by viewable and tactile architectural elements to participate in collocated and remote activities. In our prototypes, real people and avatars interact with each other, physical and virtual spaces are seamlessly stitched, and collocated and remote activities are woven together. After trying the prototypes, the subjects feel that metaverse architecture changes their perception and expectation to architectural form and function. By stitching virtual and physical architectural elements, the metaverse architecture enables people to conduct better synchronous remote collaborative activities. This research is revealing a possibility that the metaverse is no longer a notion in gaming and consumer electronics industries but a vision of architecture to change the way people live. Reference Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., & Silverstein, M.: 1977, A Pattern Language: towns, buildings, construction, New York: Oxford University Press. Ball, M.: 2020, The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find it, Who Will Build it, and Fortnite, (access 25th September 2021) Bertol, D.: 1997, Designing Digital Space: An Architect’s Guide to Virtual Reality, New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. Microsoft:. 2021, Microsoft Mesh, (access 25th September 2021) Grimshaw, M.: 2014, The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 702. ISBN 9780199826162. Wikipedia: 2021, Snow Crash, (access 25th September 2021).

Keywords: Metaverse, Mixed Reality, Architectural Pattern

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