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The planning process has been, arguably, slow to adapt and adopt new technologies: It is perhaps only now that it is starting to move into a more digitally focused era. Yet, it is not the current thinking around the digital that is going to change planning; it is the emerging metaverse. It is a change on the near horizon that is there but is currently largely unseen in the urban planning profession. The metaverse is, at first sight, a mirror to the current world, a digital twin, but it is more than this: It is an inhabited mirror world where the physical dimensions and rules of time and space do not necessarily apply. Operating across scales, from the change of use of a building up to a local plan and onwards to the scale of future cities, these emerging metaverses will exist either directly within computational space or emerge into our physical space via augmented reality. With economic systems operating via blockchain technology and the ability to instigate aspects of planning law, interspaced with design fiction type scenarios, they represent a new tool kit for the urban planner, spatial, economic, and social. We explore these emerging spaces, taking a look at their origins and how the use of game engines have allowed participation and design to become part of the workflow of these 3D spaces. Via a series of examples, we look at the current state of the art, explore the short term future, and speculate on digital planning using these incoming metaverses 10 years from now.

Part of the paper is a look at the current state of ‘digital’ planning – the paper is open source and free to download directly from Cogitatio Press.


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