Second edition of the “cultural places and metaverses” think tank

11 January 2024

A NewImages Hub and CLIC project

On November 24, 2023, the Forum des images hosted the second session of the Think Tank “Métavers des musées”, co-hosted with the CLIC, this time questioning technologies and tools relating to metavers, with their underlying ecological, territorial and social impacts. If you missed the first Think Tank session, feel free to read the report here!

As a reminder: the “lieux culturels et métavers” think tank is a series of 4 working groups inviting museums, cultural venues and historic monuments to work together to imagine the future of cultural institutions in the metaverse.

“The idea of the think tank, co-piloted by the Forum des images and the CLIC, is to create a crossroads between cultural institutions and French tech companies” – Michele Ziegler

What technologies are involved? What production formats, what interoperability? What platforms for what sovereignty? How can these projects be made compatible with sustainable development?

With over 70 institutions and companies having already agreed to take part in the Think Tank, its aim remains to prepare French cultural institutions and venues for a potential call for projects, France 2030.

During this 2nd session on November 24th, our 3 French metaverse representatives took the floor once again to talk about the management and distribution of their content:

  • Clément Merville, founder of Manzalab
  • Thomas Tassin, co-founder of Mira World
  • Louis Cacciuttolo, founder of VRROOM

But also new speakers, such as :

  • Vanessa Rabesandratana, co-founder of Ocel

OCEL is a project in development that aims to create digital twins for the metaverse. Running on autonomous headsets, network portability is planned, with a public launch in 2025. The OCEL experience will enable free navigation between virtual places, offer immersive experiences with AR in VR, and interaction with guides or other visitors. Collaborating with renowned institutions such as the Musée Granet, present at this Think Tank session 2, OCEL invites us to February 2024 for the integration of their new digital twins!

  • Pierre Friquet / PYARé, founder of ELIXR and director of NIGHT iMMERSiON

Pierre Friquet, who has been creating VR experiences for over 10 years, represents the ELIXR union, a collective of over 300 creators of digital and immersive experiences. During this session, he presented his NiGHT iMMERSiON project, an immersive VR installation that reinvests swimming pools by transforming them into spaces for artistic expression, as well as his collaboration with Jean-Michel Jarre as part of his virtual event on VRROOM in 2020. Pierre Friquet has also worked with the SAT and the Cité des sciences, and is no stranger to Epic Games’ development tools!

  • Mathieu Giannecchini, Executive Vice President, SIMPLON

Simplon is a committed digital school that has trained more than 28,000 people in 10 years, promoting employability without diploma prerequisites. In partnership with Meta, Simplon offers training in immersive technologies, training technicians and offering a bac +5 diploma in “Designer-integrator of virtual reality and real-time 3D applications”. Since April 2023, Simplon has been exploring a responsible metaverse, highlighting the social and environmental impact of the digital domain, with a free downloadable white paper.

This article is a summary of the discussions and reflections that took place during the Think Tank session on November 24, 2023.

II – Content and platforms

  1. Metaverse architecture: content or container?

In the metaverse, cultural institutions and venues are particularly interested in digital twins and the creation of imaginary spaces to integrate pre-existing museum collections. Clément Merville highlights the ambiguity of the term “content” in this context, which includes both the container (the architecture of the metaverse) and the content itself (pictorial works, sound, VR 360, and interactive works).

  1. Platform development and ecological impact

In the metaverse, platforms such as Unity and Unreal Engine offer a variety of choices for creating metaverse containers; for example, Manzalab and OCEL use Unity, while Mira World uses Unreal Engine. Each tool offers advantages and disadvantages: Unreal for greater rendering precision and freedom, Unity for greater functional freedom.

“The Unity / Unreal debate is like the Mac versus Pc debate from a few years ago!” – Thomas Tassin

In ecological terms, the development platform has a limited impact on the environmental footprint. According to Vanessa Rabesandratana, the major impact lies in the distribution and reception of metaverse platforms. Players are striving to choose “clean” game engines and reduce the digital weight of experiences. For example, hybridization with VR in live performance or art exhibitions reduces the carbon footprint by favoring virtual rather than physical representations, and limiting transport.

  1. 3D asset interoperability

Interoperability is essential to ensure that files are compatible with different metavers. For some, 3D models need to be realistic, while others prefer freer interpretations to reinterpret heritage. In all cases, whatever the aesthetic bias, the museum can change a sculpture, a carpet…with the click of a button.

Whatever the creative platform (Unity, Unreal), museums can integrate and enhance their digitized content in different metaverse environments. For example, Mira works with institutions that have pre-existing assets, such as 3D models of objects, digital twins or textures… and integrate them into their platform!

III – Platforms, distribution and reception

  1. A number of partnerships between cultural institutions and web3 platforms have recently been announced:

In France, there are several collective autonomous platform projects with group experiments in the form of “pre-metavers“, or “collective metavers“. Louis Cacciuttolo stresses the strategic importance of choosing a platform that supports the philosophical and economic sovereignty of the players based in Europe. However, developing one’s own platform can be costly and complex, and some opt for existing solutions such as Fortnite editor.

OCEL points out that Europe respects the RGPD (“General Data Protection Regulation”), unlike the United States, which also severely restricts metaverse activities. Meta offers little creative freedom for very specific projects, limits on APIs (“application programming interface”) and closes its helmet ecosystem exclusively to Meta (just like Google).

  1. Data calculation and distribution servers

Server localization raises similar issues to platform choice. Working with French servers can be complex when it comes to reaching North American audiences, often leading to locations outside Europe.

Where is the information needed to run the platforms calculated?

  • It is possible to enable local computation; in this case, the servers, which are only multi-user, are very energy-efficient.
  • Often, calculations are hosted on external servers, which raises issues of latency (speed of response to information), impact and cost. External servers are more powerful, but generate high carbon emissions.

The local approach is nevertheless technically demanding: calculating images locally for each visitor has the advantage of being more economical, but for Teemew it offers a less advanced graphic quality than Mira World, for example. Optimization strategies, such as managing and deleting content, limiting storage or deleting unused worlds, are all ways of limiting the carbon footprint.

  1. Hardware production and receiving terminals

The production of VR headsets and platform receiver terminals requires considerable resources, with the use of heavy metals and the extraction of vast quantities of land, posing major challenges for the digital industry. Headset ecosystems, held mainly by tech giants such as Meta and Google, create a monopoly on which users depend. Although helmetless platforms such as Teemew exist, many museum experiences favor virtual reality for their collective metavers. Clément Merville stresses the importance of accessibility for all audiences, but not all metavers are cross-terminal (mobile, tablets…). Device manufacturing is therefore a central issue to be integrated into all strategic decision-making, and is an essential factor to be considered in any comprehensive reflection on responsible digital.

L’empreinte environnementale du numérique | Arcep

“In this context, the terminal production phase seems to occupy a special place, as it accounts for 70% of France’s digital carbon footprint, according to the same report.”

Mathieu Giannecchini points out that immersive technologies have a significant ecological footprint, not least because of the ultra-rapid obsolescence of terminals. Solutions exist, such as taking back VR headsets to promote circular use, and encouraging headless VR experiences. To reduce the impact, the responsibility of the entire hardware chain is crucial; if obsolescence is so problematic, large groups should work to maintain the functionality of older headsets, to keep them around longer.

Creators can therefore act by adapting their material usage to access their metavers in :

  • Favoring a logic of universal distribution (all receivers); adapting content to the reception medium.
  • By limiting video streaming, which, as Pierre Friquet reminds us, is extremely costly in ecological terms.

IV – Social functions and content management

  1. Accessibility and audience redirection

Are metavers cannibalizing audiences, redirecting them towards the virtual instead of promoting in situ visits? One of the main obstacles for institutions is that, with collective metavers, they could gradually replace the physical public with the metaverse, thus emptying museums of their audience.

The speakers at this Think Tank present the new opportunities offered by metavers as an addition rather than a substitution of experiences. The metaverse experience would make people want to experience the physical reality, and the producer would have to cancel an event (e.g. a concert) altogether for people to go to metavers in substitution.

The virtual tour is an asset in several respects:

  • The ticket price, which is lower with a virtual visit, encourages the public to acculturate.
  • Accessibility, as Pierre Friquet reminds us, is a real design issue, and one that needs to be put back at the heart of our practices. In particular, metavers enable transmedia porting, unlocking experiences for new audiences.
  • Content customization, which makes it possible to update experiences without changing the entire narrative, thanks to a brick-by-brick construction process.
  1. Avatar interoperability

The avatar is one of the pillars of immersion, and a central element in the user experience of collective metavers:

  • If a user creates an avatar on one of the major metaverse platforms in the U.S., is it transposable and usable on the platforms of French players?
  • Would it be possible to create bridges with existing social networks? And other metavers?

Ready Player Me, , with its “cartoonish” rendering, is the most universal avatar system, used by OCEL, Teemew and VRROOM, although others exist such as MetaHumans (used by Mira), which offers “full body” avatars. Teemew plans to integrate Avaturn, which has a function that reproduces head movements and facial expressions with the computer’s webcam. 

Gateways to social networks already exist, enabling experiences to be shared directly from the metaverse; in VRROOM and Mira World, users can share a live selfie on social networks, and for OCEL (which uses facebook), a virtual tablet provides access to this kind of function, with a UX under development.

  1. Content management and back office

Content management is another challenge for institutions, which once again don’t necessarily have teams of specialists dedicated to metavers in-house. The Think Tank speakers were reassuring with regard to cultural venues, and in particular the question of back offices (the part used for the design, management and administration of platforms, as opposed to the front office, the part visible to users):

  • With access to platforms via SDKs (software development kits), particularly for Unity users, enabling anyone to edit the metaverse using the software (as in the case of VRROOM).
  • The ability to manage certain back offices themselves, and even to add layers of AI in the future (for OCEL).
  • Simplified back offices linked to metavers, where it’s not possible to change everything, but to customize only a part of it, depending on the stage of development, with environments, video content and 2D images, for example.

One of the challenges facing French metavers in the design of platforms for institutions is the creation of containers and content via the front office, which would not require specific development skills.


This second session of the Think Tank “lieux culturels et métavers” offered a comprehensive overview of the technical issues raised by metavers, while taking a close look at their environmental impact, with a view to reducing the carbon footprint of metavers, particularly in the context of the “France 2030” plan.

The next session will take place on January 16, 2024, and will focus on the uses and economic models of metavers. On this occasion, we’ll be giving cultural institutions the chance to have their say: what are the experiences and uses of collective metavers?

In the meantime, feel free to explore our speakers’ projects and platforms!

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