For Evelyn Mora, chief executive officer and founder of VLGE, the word “metaverse” is over, but not the concept of spatial computing it represents. That’s still very much alive and kicking — in fact, during her online fireside chat with WWD’s Miles Socha at Fairchild’s Tech Symposium in June, she called it an inevitability.
The tech world has been abuzz about spatial computing for years, but the idea landed in the spotlight in early June, when Apple brought it up during the Vision Pro augmented reality headset announcement. The term applies to interactions where people engage with 3D assets and data, and the machine understands the physical space and items in the user’s environment. The most obvious example is augmented or mixed reality. It’s a digital-physical blend, a type of computing without the computer, and experts wonder if this could be the thing that finally breaks humanity of its addiction to screens.
Getting people to look beyond the small black rectangles in their pockets would be no easy feat. But that’s the space VLGE has operated in for years.
As head of VLGE, the L’Oréal-backed Web 3.0 platform formerly known as Digital Village, the Finnish Paris-based tech executive believes the world is heading toward a “post-smartphone future … [although] I don’t necessarily agree with the name or word ‘metaverse,’” she said. “I think we can come up with different terminologies.”
Whatever it’s called, the tech is already fueling immersive mixed reality experiences and those are poised to spread practically everywhere, according to Mora, as breakthroughs in artificial intelligence require users to have even less technical literacy.
She pointed to ChatGPT as an example: One could ask the AI bot in everyday language to write a book covering fashion’s most exciting moments, instead of using a forced lexicon of commands or writing it manually. Think of it as a more humanized approach to technology. VLGE’s offerings are similarly easy to use, allowing partners to use no-code, drag-and-drop tools to create virtual spaces or host activities.
With spatial computing tech becoming more accessible, Mora sees metaverse priorities shifting. It will be less about how to create and more about what is being created, putting content, community and connection front and center.
“The storytelling and how you transmit that purpose and impact through your content [matters],” she explained, “and how interactive it is and essentially what kind of emotions and impact it creates for users.”
Devices like the Vision Pro will likely become influential to spatial computing as it evolves and, perhaps, becomes more affordable. So will AI, particularly as a business tool. (”It’s not here to replace creatives,” she said, “but rather empower them and make their processes more efficient.”)
While tech makers like Mora believe the metaverse and its growing spate of technologies continue to hold enormous promise for digital fashion, there is admittedly still one drawback for its designers: They don’t get the appreciation they deserve for their craftsmanship.
With a bespoke suit from Armani, “you would respect the work of the tailor. You would be patient and you would be appreciative of the material and all the cuts and buttons and pockets and everything,” she explained. “But if you would order a suit in 3D, you wouldn’t have that same appreciation necessarily.” People assume that, as a tech project, it must be fast and easy to crank out designs. “We see that industry-wide.”
The tech tools apparently cut both ways, empowering artists on one hand and sometimes devaluing them on the other. Mora bristled at the thought. “These are still real people, artists, designers, many of them have actually a fashion degree, and they are designing, rendering digitally,” she added. “So it takes time, it takes effort. It is like sculpting in its own way.”