Between environmental costs, COVID and criticisms of digital nomads hurting local economies, the world is questioning the magic of travel — and increasing the time spent in front of screens. Although the meager form the metaverse has taken today can’t replace the smells, tastes, or exact luminescence that make discovering new corners of the world so thrilling, it may soon be dropping local adventures from far away lands into our living rooms.
While the guided tours of museums and online concerts that we all tested out during lockdowns were often glitchy and underwhelming, the beginning of 2022 has seen regional cultural initiatives from around the world flocking to the metaverse, a virtual reality world where people can interact and have experiences as they do in the real world.
“One of the qualities we have in virtual reality is embodiment, that sense of being present in a different environment,” said Louise Claassen, an executive fellow at Henley Business School Africa, to Forbes. “Your body is responding to where your mind believes that you are. There are all sorts of very interesting opportunities that this convergence into the metaverse present.”
From learning the Catalan language to Bollywood performances, here are three breaking examples of cultural institutions developing projects that offer the kind of total digital immersion in their community’s art and heritage — experiences that were, until now, accessible only by boat, train or plane.
Promoting Catalan language and culture virtually
This autonomous region in Spain is famous for its die-hard investment in keeping its language and traditions alive. Now, the government of Catalonia and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce are launching a virtual world to promote the Catalan language and its culture.
Spanish daily La Vanguardia reported on the launch of the Catalan metaverse, named “CatVers,” in January. CatVers is a digital space where avatars can go to art galleries, concerts and even attend university classes. It all happens exclusively in Catalan.
For the first two months, entry to this digital Catalan world will be free of charge. But organizers hope they will soon be able to offer accessible rates, and they eventually hope to have their own currency within the Catalan metaverse.
Bollywood’s next big move is virtual
Looking for a new way to engage audiences and fans, India’s renowned Bollywood industry is making moves in the metaverse, reports The Economic Times of India.
Pooja Entertainment, one of the country’s leading movie companies, paid over $5,000 for a plot of virtual land in the metaverse. They subsequently made the first-ever Indian film announcement within the metaverse for BadeMiyan ChoteMiyan, its upcoming film, which will be an immersive experience.
Meanwhile, actors such as Deepika Padukone and Kamal Haasan have created metaverse avatars, and NFTs of film art for upcoming Indian movies from major production houses are about to drop.
South Korea hopes to become a Metaverse superpower
In January, the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT announced an investment of $7.5 billion into developing both AI and its own metaverse. Culture is very much a part of the program, as the space will include a Korean language institute.
With the aim of becoming the fifth largest metaverse market in the world within the next five years — which seems plausible, given that they currently harbor the fourth biggest video game market — the government is clearly hoping to export Korean culture en masse with the “K-metaverse”.