In the early 70s, Star Trek fans were introduced to the immersive fantasy of what came to be known as the Holodeck. Today, technology is turning that fantasy into reality. Recently, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta, introducing the world to the Metaverse. Drawing on the technologies of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and the immersive experiences of online gaming, the Metaverse aims to bring people together in virtual spaces and augment the real world.
How will the concept of Metaverse help designers and the realm of Healthcare Design
The concept of the metaverse offers designers many opportunities to provide clients with better, immersive experiences earlier in the design process. We can invite stakeholders into virtual spaces to give feedback or to experience proposed materials and environments. AR and VR can also deliver better outcomes for end users, especially in healthcare settings.
The metaverse promises to be a new frontier in architectural conversations, by providing designers and clients with an immersive engagement with the environment and each other. By incorporating building information modelling (BIM) software, like Revit by Autodesk, designers can deliver a richer experience for stakeholders. Iterative decisions can be instantly rendered in a digital model, without users having to leave the platform to make notes or changes elsewhere. As hardware costs become more affordable, (and design software integrates higher resolution and faster processing capabilities), teams, clients, and stakeholders will be able to explore virtual spaces that feel like the real world in order to ideate and ultimately deliver spaces that more fully meet the needs of a facility’s users, faster than ever before.
“The metaverse will allow designers more interactive and immersive user participation. It will create an authentic experience that will help us explore, communicate, and collaborate more effectively,” says Parkin healthcare planner, Melinda Lobo.
We’re already seeing this in action as BC Children’s Hospital is exploring the use of VR in a three-year pilot project that will enable kids to connect with friends while they’re away from home. It is proving to help them endure painful procedures by diverting their attention away from any pain or discomfort they may experience.
The BC Children’s Hospital has also transformed the waiting room experience for its young patients. Interactive video walls let kids and their families explore and interact with three BC marine environments. Patients can interact with the virtual aquarium through gestures that move them through the virtual exhibit. This project creates a calming atmosphere at the Emergency Department at the Teck Acute Care Centre.
VR can help designers create spaces for children by putting them in the mindset of the children who will use the environment. Using VR headsets, teams can move through a proposed ward or room as their child-sized avatars view and interact with the space from the viewpoint of a child.
3D modelling and VR walkthroughs are also useful for hospital team members to have a sense of the proposed space and to give feedback.
A glimpse into how the Metaverse could benefit Parkin
Parkin Architects has three offices across Canada, meaning that in-person, collaborative meetings can be expensive and difficult to plan. The immersive power of the metaverse may be able to give our teams richer meeting experiences where ideas and mock-ups can happen in virtual spaces, even when team members are geographically separated across the country.
We are exploring the future of architecture and design beyond simply immersing people in a 3D model. The same technology can be used to enable hospital team training, while AR can improve visitor experience to a healthcare facility. From Pokémon Go-like games that can keep children occupied to simplified wayfinding apps that help patients and visitors orientate, these technologies will improve the experience of healthcare design.
The Future of Architectural Design
“The future is already here. Architectural practices now have the chance to impact how spaces and cities will look in different corners of what we call Metaverse,” argues, Parkin Associate Farshad Jamali. “As architects and designers of space, we may not have the same opportunity in a few years. In other words, time is ticking—this is serious business.”
The metaverse itself will need architects. As we move into a Web 3.0 world, visual and interactive spaces will be needed as meeting spaces and beyond. A designer’s wildest dreams could be brought to life in the virtual world. Beyond video games and immersive experiences, architects will be needed to design and plan the virtual spaces that will be used by businesses, students, healthcare professionals, and more. Using the same skillsets we use in the real world, we will design the virtual world of tomorrow.