The metaverse is an immersive, 3D digital space where individuals and technologies interact with each other and data, enhancing real-world experiences rather than replacing them. This 3D space can be a force in urban planning, presenting an innovative approach to creating virtual replicas of cities and simulating urban development scenarios. Within this digital environment, planners gain access to accurate 3D models of cities full of historical and real-time data that allows for a better understanding of urban evolution.
The 3D internet becomes a playground for scenario planning, enabling the simulation of various development possibilities, from infrastructure changes to zoning regulations. Digital twins and virtual reality (VR) simulations within the metaverse are also particularly impactful for testing traffic flow and transportation planning or viewing the design of public spaces, offering real-time insights and optimization opportunities.
Enhancing architectural visualization
Architects and developers can use the metaverse 3D for immersive architectural visualization, revolutionizing the traditional design and planning processes. 3D models of proposed structures can be built in the metaverse, allowing multiple stakeholders to explore and interact with the designs in a virtual environment through desktop applications or VR headsets. Metaverse models offer immersive, real-time interactions, enabling collaboration and instant updates. In contrast, traditional 3D models lack these immersive qualities, often relying on file sharing, and may not offer engagement, collaboration, and broad accessibility.
Advanced rendering capabilities in the metaverse also enable the creation of highly realistic virtual spaces, providing an immersive experience that closely mirrors the intended real-world aesthetics. Architects in the virtual world today are building using metaverse designing tools like Blender, Unreal Engine, Unity, and Twinmotion. Other tools tailored to architectural design and modeling, like SketchUp, are also popular for creating models of buildings and structures that can be integrated into the 3D internet.
The benefits of virtual walkthroughs of architectural structures
Enhanced understanding: Stakeholders, including clients, investors, and community members, can gain a comprehensive understanding of the proposed architecture by navigating and exploring the virtual space. This goes beyond static renderings or blueprints, offering a more intuitive comprehension of scale, spatial relationships, and design details.
Early design feedback: Virtual walkthroughs facilitate early-stage design feedback, allowing stakeholders to provide input and suggestions before construction begins. This iterative process contributes to more refined and well-informed design decisions.
Optimizing layouts: Virtual walkthroughs enable architects and developers to optimize the layout of spaces based on user experience and functionality. Decision-makers can assess the flow of the environment and make adjustments to enhance usability and efficiency.
Material and lighting evaluation: The metaverse allows for the simulation of different lighting conditions and material choices, aiding in decision-making regarding the most suitable design for the proposed structures.
Creating 3D projects in the metaverse for urban development offers investors a powerful visualization tool. Developers can showcase upcoming projects through immersive virtual tours, allowing global investors to assess the impact of projects through realistic simulations. These simulations allow decision-making and streamline resource management by identifying and addressing potential challenges beforehand. Virtual replicas of proposed projects have better visual aids and dynamic data, making it easier for global investors to engage with initiatives and confidently contribute to the region's economic growth.
For instance, the global design and architecture firm HOK utilized VR and AR to showcase proposed spaces to clients and investors by immersing them in virtual simulations like a digital stadium or hospital office. These simulations allow stakeholders to assess the structure’s performance and integrity in multiple scenarios. The firm has also modeled New York City to visualize what the city will look like if sea levels rise or the population grows, which can be a helpful tool for building urban spaces and infrastructure.
Besides using virtual spaces to simulate physical projects and attract investments, the allure of owning digital properties within the 3D internet is also gaining massive traction. These digital parcels of land are becoming popular among investors and users due to the potential benefits of offering a virtual space for creativity, building social connections, and earning a return on investment. Virtual real estate markets within the metaverse offer a dynamic arena for developers, builders, architects, designers, and content creators to acquire, develop, and monetize virtual land and structures using platforms like Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and Somnium Space. These virtual real estate projects have economic value in the metaverse as individuals can buy, sell, or rent to earn revenue from the property’s price volatility in virtual markets.
This unique investment method opens up new avenues for developers and creators to monetize their metaverse projects. For instance, Skylum, an ambitious virtual residential tower project in the UAE, showcases the potential of the 3D internet for virtual real estate ventures. Investors can buy and invest in virtual residential property through the project, providing a novel way to participate in and contribute to the evolution of urban landscapes within the digital realm.
Spanning an impressive 10,200 square miles, NEOM is set to be a groundbreaking megacity powered by renewable energy sources and designed to be a hub for global trade and innovation. Saudi Arabia's NEOM is a $500 billion city on the Red Sea that uses the metaverse to enhance its urban development and construction processes. A digital twin of the project in the 3D internet provides architects, engineers, designers, and other stakeholders with collaborative experience to develop the city. The virtual twin will also allow individuals to visit the place digitally before investing to help investors make informed decisions.
One Human Reality
As a part of the One Human Reality initiative, the Dubai Municipality is collaborating with investors and private-sector companies to build a digital twin of the city. The project aims to give residents better accessibility to services and immersive spaces to connect. This digital twin can also be a powerful tool to simulate the real-life functioning of a city and offer a way to make better strategic plans and decisions.
Damac’s metaverse projects
The Damac Group, the parent company of a prominent property developer based in the UAE, is working on establishing its presence in the metaverse. A division called D-Labs will run the project with plans to invest $100m to build digital cities. The idea is to offer virtual, augmented, and extended reality (VR, AR, XR) experiences to individuals to experience ‘living.’ The project encompasses the creation of virtual homes and digital properties. As a part of the metaverse experience, users can also visit Mandarin Oriental Resort Bolidhuffaru, part of Damac’s hotels, resorts, and serviced apartments portfolio.
Future Prospects and Integration with AI
Speculating on the future of the metaverse in the urban development of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, combined with advancements in AI technologies, reveals exciting possibilities for reshaping the city planning and development landscape.
Here are some ways AI and the metaverse will shape urban development in the GCC:
1. AI-driven smart cities
Developers can leverage AI technologies to transform GCC cities into digital twins within the metaverse. Smart infrastructure, such as sensor networks, autonomous vehicles, and energy-efficient systems, could be simulated in the metaverse and optimized through AI algorithms. Urban planners can also visualize and test the efficiency of infrastructure changes before implementation, leading to more sustainable and technologically advanced real-world cities.
2. Dynamic simulation of urban scenarios
AI algorithms within the metaverse could dynamically simulate various urban development scenarios based on real-time data, such as population growth, economic trends, and environmental factors. Planners could use these simulations to predict future challenges, optimize resource allocation, and proactively design resilient urban spaces that adapt to changing conditions.
3. Predictive analytics for infrastructure maintenance
AI-powered predictive analytics within the 3D internet could use digital twins to simulate the long-term maintenance needs of urban infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and utilities. This foresight can aid in planning for the sustainable development of infrastructure, optimizing maintenance schedules, and minimizing disruptions to city life.
In summary, the metaverse is revolutionizing urban development in the GCC, offering transformative tools for planners, architects, and investors. Architects and designers can use immersive architectural visualizations and create realistic renderings of projects to assist in the decision–making and planning process. Developers that offer virtual walkthroughs of properties through the 3D internet can encourage investors to commit funds for a project. Several initiatives in the GCC, like NEOM City, Damac Group’s digital cities, and One Human Reality’s digital twin city, showcase how the industry is leveraging the metaverse for urban development. As the sector grows, the metaverse’s convergence with AI presents exciting prospects for smart cities, dynamic simulations, and predictive maintenance of urban environments and infrastructure.
Are you a property developer, architect, urban planner, or government body looking to use technology to enhance urban projects? We can help you build and scale your project in the metaverse to improve visualization and decision–making. Get in touch with us!
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