The top second industry that suffered the most during this pandemic is entertainment. Cinemas and theaters are closed, live concerts and festivals are canceled. This pandemic caused a lot of financial loss for the industry, but it also created a space to reinvent, reimagine and branch out to alternative digital realms.
Feeling connected it is a very important component of preserving the sense of normalcy. So, could architecture professionals recreate familiar environments in the digital world and facilitate chance encounters online? Most likely – yes. With the help of gaming professionals, architects can create a platform that closely resembles various natural environments of the city for people to virtually meet and connect. The key differentiating aspect of such space would be chance encounters – not planned, not programmed nor scheduled virtual hangouts, but also planned and organized digital meetups and events. The platform will provide a sense of meandering through space and an opportunity to program your own experiences and encounters.
Such a platform is currently under development and is called re:connect. Once fully designed and launched, it will test its capacity and incorporate multiple programmatic layers to make a richer range of experiences. First and foremost, it will allow users to explore either familiar settings or artificially created 3D environments. Re:connect will allow each user to create an avatar and explore the space digitally. Many people in isolation lack social interactions, but they also lack the sense of novelty that getaways and hangouts with friends used to bring. It is important to have a support network, but it is also important to attempt and preserve something that we used to have before the pandemic.
The inspiration for re:connect came from one Zoom call with friends. Once all games were played and all life updates discussed, the group decided to show each other places they’ve been to on Google Maps. That experience brought an unexpected amount of joy and excitement as it sparked a forgotten sense of novelty and unpredictability. Over one zoom call a group of four managed to visit 3 countries, schools, parks and bars that they used to hang out before the pandemic happened. The environment was digital and did not even feel close to VR or AR, but what it triggered psychologically was worth exploring further.
First of all, it was a sense of connection with people you know, then it was the layer of familiarity, novelty and excitement. It was also a trigger of good memories and having “somewhere to go”. Based on those pillars that the digital experience brought – the re:connect idea was born.
Once the platform is past the MVP stage, it will invite other industries to its digital environment. Entertainment, travel, shopping – all that could be a part of the new re:connect digital ecosystem that would resemble the life before the pandemic. Architects are creating the 3D environments, game and UX designers are creating avatars and the back end of the platform. Such an ecosystem will allow users and entertainment industry professionals to come together and form a meaningful connection in the familiar setting online.
Many of us experience distress due to the current situation, but this is the time for us to think out of the box, think of the ways to help each other and be there for each other in all possible ways we can.