Escape from Reality
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First there was Zuckerberg’s failure. Then came the hope for the development of metaverses, where a “square” of land is worth as much as an airplane, and with the help of virtual technologies, you can even negotiate with a real estate agent within the simulation. The world is not going crazy, it simply ceases to be real.
In simple terms, a virtual tour is a digital model. To understand which windowsill is best for placing your favorite delicate flower that doesn’t like too much sunlight, you can play with an interactive simulation. With the help of a computer, smartphone, or, for example, VR glasses and a headset, you can observe the frequent change of owners of a shop that once stood in the place of the famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s house. In general, you can immerse yourself in history and glimpse into the future – explore a corner of your new apartment.
The first stage of creating a tour is shooting. Initially, photos/videos are taken from different angles, which are later combined into a single looped panorama during the second stage – processing – using special equipment and software. This allows potential clients to have a more realistic experience “around” them. Later, interactive elements are added to the work: buttons, navigation, information windows, and audio comments that can dictate what to do or simply voice the weather outside. In some cases, there is the possibility of quickly transitioning to the manufacturer’s website, for example, Calligaris chairs, if they were presented in the interior design presentation and you happened to “fall in love” with them.
The final stage of creating a tour is project publication. The virtual tour is uploaded, for example, to a website.
It’s important not to get confused when using seemingly identical terms: 360⁰ virtual tour and VR tour. In the first case, actions are limited to the space that surrounds you – meaning you can zoom in on a certain spot or “jump” through a wall, but only through interactive “points”. Sometimes, due to poorly rendered pixel images and weak internet connection on a smartphone, clients can get stuck in panoramic landscapes.
On the other hand, VR tours provide complete freedom of action: you can take an elevator, walk in an inner courtyard, and even use products from the refrigerator to prepare breakfast. Furthermore, the client can be involved in the project from the moment the concept is conceived – even when the object is not yet built. Architects and developers create virtual models of future houses or apartments and allow clients to explore them in a VR environment. When decisions are made, but the client is unsure about the color scheme of a room or doubts the practicality of stretch ceilings, virtual reality comes to the rescue.
Among the obvious advantages of VR tours, there are also drawbacks: calculations are done in real-time (light, shadows), which can make the process heavy. For this reason the tour cannot be hosted on a website. Therefore, 3D modelers have to optimize the image to preserve the recently purchased VR headsets, which reduces the load on processors but slightly compromises image quality. Of course, to avoid regretting poorly invested money, cardboard glasses can also be used. Some companies don’t want to fall behind in the innovation race, so they also develop cross-platform technologies.
There is an enthralling book by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman that captivates readers from start to finish. In this book, the characters wish to remain children forever because adult life constantly requires them to escape from reality. Reality seems unbearably harsh to them – every second, they have to make decisions: which swimming pool to send their child to, how to write a review for IKEA tape, and how to rob a cashless bank while threatening an indifferent cashier.
The main character comes up with a reckless and absurd idea, which leads to a whirlwind of absurd events. The result of this blockbuster is a hostage situation in one of the houses where people are attending an apartment viewing on New Year’s Eve. Some are there to resell the “squares,” some find it amusing, and others are ready to accept the offer, but they are interrupted by “competitors.” However, the topic of buying quickly takes a backseat when the attendees find themselves at gunpoint.
In such a situation, most people would probably want to pinch themselves and find themselves outside the new and improved Quest-3 headset to confirm that it’s all just a simulation. The most daring might enjoy such an unusual interactive experience – going through a quest while demonstrating their soft skills to preserve their “hp” and, as a result, experiencing intense emotions.
Drawing a parallel with the main problem in Backman’s story, although not in such extreme conditions, one can imagine being an adult burdened with millions of questions about the layout, interior, and design of a future apartment because you are planning to buy one for the first time. You need to find answers urgently: how to make the kitchen as functional as possible, how not to hit your pinky toe on the bed corner, and where to place the light switches. Being busy, you are not particularly eager to spend time meeting with a meticulous real estate agent.
In this case, VR technologies can serve as an alternative, allowing you to access the services of a realtor remotely, even if you are on the other side of the planet. This is also a significant advantage for foreign buyers and tenants who value visual assessment.
Before you are apartments – a former duplex – assembled like Tetris, consisting of six units, with a total area of 13,000 square feet. Inside, they include a room solely for your shoe collection, and after a workout in the gym, you can enjoy rejuvenating procedures in the separate spa salon.
It seems like the dream of feeling like an icon or pop star is about to come true, especially since you have decent savings in your pocket for a long-awaited vacation – it’s time to go on a trip. However, Airbnb offers a maximum option labeled “rare find,” where the house has recently been renovated, the rating is impressive, and the corresponding reviews. Reality offers a bright spacious kitchen with a breakfast bar, a cozy living room with a minimalist double bed, conveniently located bedside table, and, of course, a plasma TV for evening entertainment. In the backyard, there is a barbecue grill for any gastronomic cravings. Everything is included, but without much extravagance. But the price is satisfactory because you are not Elton John, who listed an apartment in the Park Place on Peachtree condominium for $5 million.
But what if you could manage to book the same apartment for a night in a metaverse or even buy your own house to rent it out later?
Interest in the virtual world intensified after Mark Zuckerberg’s unrealized ambitions to shake up the world. The media mogul’s failure resulted in losses of $24 billion. But the “crazy” timer was still set, so over time, investors started looking at metaverses, including investing in real estate on their platforms.
Speaking of leaders in this field, the best land sales are considered to be Decentraland, Sandbox, My Neighbor Alice, PlayDapp, and Bloktopia. They will definitely make you go bankrupt. Here, economic laws are similar to those in the real world, although making a deal is much easier somewhere in the vastness of OpenSea (the metaverse) – without intermediaries and mortgage loans.
However, it is still unclear how prices are formed for digital assets. In the physical world, everything is much more transparent. The only factor that metaverses have borrowed from the still prevailing reality is good/bad location or, jokingly, “proximity to the subway.”
For example, a relatively budget and down-to-earth option compared to major deals in the history of metaverses (no offense to Snoop Dog) is the acquisition of land adjacent to Kelvin Brodus Jr. on The Sandbox platform. A digital plot of land cost someone $458,000. Whether this cost included organizing joint barbecues in the inner courtyard for networking and whether they had to pay for their own alcohol is unknown. By the way, catering in metaverses is also not cheap, but that’s a whole different story.
If we set aside the jokes, The Sandbox metaverse is rightfully recognized as a giant in terms of deals. To make these deals, you need a thick token wallet with the internal currency SAND. For example, the company Everyrealm, which owns 100 digital real estate properties in 25 digital parts of the world, bought a plot of land for $4.23 million on the platform and managed to turn one of them into a resort called Fantasy Islands. Many villas were placed on the “islands,” and they sold the Metal Flower Super Mega Yacht for 149 ETH (about $250,000). Interestingly, the list of investors in this business project includes not only major funds but also American celebrities such as Paris Hilton, rappers Nas and Lil Baby, actor Will Smith, musicians The Weekend and Marc Anthony, and KISS bassist Gene Simmons.
For transactions in the decentralized virtual world of Decentraland, built on the Ethereum blockchain, the MANA token is used. It was with 618,000 units of MANA, equivalent to $2.5 million, that the Canadian company Tokens.com once paid for a piece of land measuring 6,090 square feet (as of the end of 2021, the cost of one square meter was about $13,000). The deal in the Fashion Street area became the largest. The company speculated that with the hype surrounding metaverses, retailers and popular brands would want to build their virtual stores in Decentraland, so users could glance at Nike Air Jordan 1 while passing by the storefront or even purchase a Louis Vuitton handbag.
My Neighbor Alice and Bloktopia have slightly different formats. The concept of the latter is built around the integration of different startups and exchanges located in a 21-story “skyscraper” building. Each office lives its own life – big projects are claimed, new employees are hired, and corporate culture thrives with its rules of preparing breakfast for colleagues every Thursday.
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