Discover 2042 in the heart of the city

Kaylah Joelle Baker

Stepping 20 years into the future has never been easier thanks to Melbourne’s very own The Metaverse Store on Little Collin St, but the time for it to close is drawing near.

The store, which has been open since May 27, is part of the City of Melbourne shopfront activation program, a program designed to help revitalise the city centre through using vacant shop fronts to showcase creative and unique ideas.

The brainchild of Futurology, a futurists arts collective, with Melbourne interdisciplinary artists Ahmed (Ace) Salama and Anna (A. Ray) Reeves, The Metaverse Store serves to provide a glimpse into the endless possibilities of a future virtual world.

The imagined future of the store is designed with a “protopian view” and according to Ms Reeves, it has been created under the premise that “wonderful human ingenuity and innovation will have kicked in” and resulted in positive climate change action.

“We are imagining that one of the ways we might reduce our over consumption is to go into virtual consumption and access that through a metaverse,” Ms Reeves said.

“The result of this is we obviously need the basics and some products to help navigate this world.”

From the initial stages of the idea through to the in-depth research undertaken into real-world research projects and companies currently developing similar products, the store has become home to 80 new products that could potentially be seen in 2042.

Although all is not a reality just yet, with examples of the potential products displayed on iPad screens around the store, accompanied by small descriptions of their uses.

Through openly displaying the products, and walking people through their uses and potential, Ms Reeves said interesting conversations had naturally evolved.

“There are some products that we may not want, and we have had discussions about how we may not want these ‘black mirror’ moments, and there is critique around cybersecurity and mental privacy,” she said.

To help visitors work their way around the store, the products have been divided up between subsections of realiceuticals, safety and injectables.

The realiceuticals include a product called the ThirdEye pods, which is not too dissimilar from the Zed-Eyes seen in popular dystopian science-fiction program Black Mirror.

“[The ThirdEye pods] reference the Apple aesthetics and consumer technology language that we are familiar with," Ms Reeves said.

The product itself has many options for use, but among the imagined uses is the ability to allow people to see through one another’s eyes, or to access a place where First Nations culture can be preserved and explored – but only after first seeking permission from Earth Elders.

The safety products then look at how we can preserve our mental privacy and memories, while the injectables can allow for safe ways to explore the intensities of different emotions with a central product of “mind wash” which returns users to a state of calm and peace.

This wide exploration into the future possibilities has been an exciting endeavour for the team at The Metaverse Store, and one that has only encouraged them to continue to have open conversations with every single visitor coming through its doors.

Among the collected statements from the 5000 approximated visitors, are phrases such as “thought provoking”, “inspired”, “engaging” and “made me think”, which has continued to encourage the artists involved that they have served their purpose in the city.

“We thought the shop was only going to be a small pop-up but the response has been unbelievable and blown us away, and in speaking with shopfront activation [organisers] they said the precinct has been reactivated and we have played a significant part,” Ms Reeves said.

“It’s been humbling to think about because it is exactly what we wanted to do.”

In addition to providing endless amounts of information to visitors on the workings of each product, The Metaverse Store team has also provided Thursday talk sessions on different topics.

But after 10-plus sessions, it has come time for the store to move on come the end of this month.

While no set date has been officially confirmed, CBD News was advised by a team spokesperson that the store would be moving on following the second to last weekend of October, before it once again becomes home to a jewellery store.

“We feel like we did our job [of reactivating the street], and having this concept of people coming from a busy street outside into the future, even just to have that imagination, was so special,” Ms Reeves said.

The Metaverse Store is currently located at 318 Little Collins St, and is open from Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

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