Milan moves forward on the road to the future: the Arch of Peace is the first monument in history to enter the Metaverse

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Recently, we have been hearing more and more about the Metaverse, especially since the inventor of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that he wanted to change the name of his famous social channel to Meta. At first, this new universe seemed so strange and distant, as if it were just material for cinema or TV series.

But the Metaverse is already here, today.

Milan has shown the way to the whole of Italy towards a way of realising the Metaverse applied to art. But let's see together in detail what Metaverse is, its origins and what this extraordinary Milanese artistic project consists of; and finally, let's peek together through the blanket of reality, towards a possible future (not so far) in which you and your avatar will wake up and face a "normal" day in the Metaverse.

The origins of the Metaverse

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In 1992, American writer Neal Stephenson wrote a book Snow Crash, a work of cyberpunk science fiction in which the term Metaverse first appeared.

Snow Crash is about a future set entirely in a shared virtual reality, the Metaverse, in which everyone has his or her avatar represented in three dimensions. For Stephenson, the Metaverse is an immense black sphere cut in two by a circumference at the height of the equator that creates a monorail road with 256 stations. The avatars live in the Metaverse as they wish, in a reality very similar to ours populated with shops, offices, cinemas and nightclubs. The social difference between people is evident in the resolution of the avatars and their access to exclusive places

Gas: I ran a petrol station. Ted: You still run a petrol station, right? Gas: Only at the most pathetic level of reality

Film: eXistenZ

What is the Metaverse?

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Going beyond its literary antecedents, we now ask what the Metaverse is and how it can exist in our reality.

The idea of the Metaverse applied to our world is not very different from that of Stephenson's work: a 3D virtual reality where we can carry out all our daily activities impersonating an avatar. The experience becomes totally immersive thanks to some technological tools (visors, smart bands, and 3D glasses) that allow us to feel totally part of the new reality.

Zuckerberg has already educated us to create our own avatar on Facebook: through our profile we show the world our favourite music, indicate what we like, comment, publish photos, meet other people, and ultimately live a parallel life that accompanies us constantly throughout our day, thanks also to the mobile version.

But the Metaverse will be much more: we will be able to attend concerts where artists will perform in the form of avatars, avatars will be our colleagues at meetings that we could hold without moving from home, we could organise a dinner with friends in New York by sending our avatars there.

The possibilities are endless.

Art applied to the Metaverse

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The Metaverse is a new frontier land yet to be explored, but the settlers have already prepared their caravans and are on their way to the new virgin lands to be conquered.

In the world of music, the hugely popular video game Fortnite has gone from being a shooter to a 3D world: Travis Scott's Astronomical concert was staged in April 2020, the first concert event of its kind, attended by 12 million avatars.

Gucci opened the Gucci Garden on Roblox in May 2021, a virtual space dedicated to gamers where it is possible to buy limited editions of virtual bags sold and worn by the game's avatars at stratospheric prices. Ralph Lauren and Balenciaga are also working in this direction along with car gurus like Maserati, Aston Martin and Tesla who are launching virtual models of their vehicles in games like Game for Peace.

In the Metaverse it will be possible to buy art objects with virtual currency and to unlock exclusive content by purchasing NFT (Non-fungible tokens): works of art, collectable films, monuments, all interactive.

Innovation is not the enemy of tradition, but a passionate and faithful accomplice.

Curatori del progetto

The Arch of Peace in the Metaverse: the project

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The project was born from the initiative of an Italian start-up dedicated to crypto art, Reasoned Art: thanks to them, the international collective Ouchhh, on 30, 31 December 2021 and 1 January 2022, covered the Arch of Peace with an innovative 3D sculpture, transforming the famous monument into an immersive experience. The work of art, called Al Datatprotal Arch of Light, was created in collaboration with the City of Milan.

The work will later be transformed into a NFT: in this way it will be included in a project to enhance the Italian cultural heritage.

The proceeds of this project will be used to create a space for discussion and reflection on the future of art in the digital world, in line with other European projects. Scholarships will be created for young artists to cover a training course aimed at the technologization of Italy's artistic resources.

Al Dataportal Arch of Light

The installation

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On 30, 31 December 2021 and 1 January 2022, the Arch of Peace in Milan was covered with a 360° digital sculpture called Al Dataportal Arch: it thus became the first monument in the world to enter the Metaverse.

The installation was visible to the live public on Thursday 30 December and Saturday 1 January, from 6pm to midnight, while the whole world could view it on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube channels.

The Arch was enveloped in an embrace of light and invested by a flow of images generated by an artificial intelligence system, creating a real second skin. Each cycle of images lasted 11 minutes, preceded by a 5-minute countdown.

The images represented 20,000 works of art spanning different styles, from Byzantine to Renaissance, created by 320 artists. The entire digitised Italian literary heritage and the entire map of the Italian firmament collected by NASA were included in the work.

The Al Dataportal Arch of Light is the digitised history of Italy.

A glimpse into the future?

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Imagine waking up on a normal February morning and starting your day in the Metaverse.

After breakfast, your avatar will have its daily meeting with virtual colleagues and present its holographic project through augmented reality.

Your avatar will communicate with avatar colleagues in every corner of the globe, work in a state-of-the-art office with a view of a rainforest or a glacier and have access to all the technology necessary for his or her work just by reaching out a finger. While you, you haven't moved from your sofa.

On your lunch break you can pop down to Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and do a little shopping for a unique limited-edition dress from some famous brand that you saw a French avatar wearing just this morning.

At the end of the day, you can have a margarita with your friend who moved to Brazil and take a walk together on Copacabana beach and watch the sunset. A little later you can dine with your friends on a New York rooftop before attending the concert of your favourite singer-avatar performing on a global platform accessible from all over the world.

Does all this seem far away and unreal?

Know that many major companies are investing big money in this direction such as Nvidia, Microsoft, TikTok and Facebook.

The future is closer than you imagine.

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