Part 5: The Future Is 'Phygical'
You might have come across the word 'phygical' – which means physical plus digital – but what exactly does that mean? What has something in the physical world got to do with the digital world?
The Digital Millennium
First came the age of the computer. Then came the age of the Internet. Then came the age of social media. These were the trends in the past three decades, that created what we now recognise as the digital world.
I remember using CDs and Diskettes on my computer when I was young. When we were talking a matter of 1.44MB in floppy disks, and then 700MB in CDs, I remembered storing files and photos on them and thinking this will be my treasured assets. Never did I imagined that I carry around GBs with me daily (mobile phone), and most files today being stored on the cloud rather than physically.
The early digital was very much data in silos, but the Internet was what connected everything – data, information, knowledge, people. That allowed social media platforms to happen and created really a second life in the digital world. Yet, we can still very much differentiate what is online and what is offline.
The Phygical World
The phygical world bridges the gap between online and offline, and make it feel like a seamless transition.
For example, if we were to refer to my Metaverse example in Part 4, where immersive meetups are possible, we can essentially jump from one gathering to another without leaving out home.
8AM: Live news forum (metaverse)
9AM: Meeting room 1 (metaverse)
10AM:: Work room 1 (metaverse)
12PM: Lunch break
2PM: Work room 2 (metaverse)
5PM: Get offline, spend time with family
7PM: Call with overseas friend (metaverse)
8PM: Poker night with friends in the metaverse
Can you imagine how our lives will revolve around the metaverse? Give Ready Player One a watch if you haven't.
But the Metaverse is still digital. What if the items, the people, the environment in the Metaverse is integrated into your physical world? With augmented reality, this can already happen – where the camera takes in the physical environment and add a layer of virtual filter on top of it. Imagine your cat or dog running around you while you're hooked on your Oculus, and these become part of the game or world you are interacting in – how would that feel?
One of the closest I've seen to phygical is the work by RTFKT Studios. They have an upcoming 20,000 avatar project called Clone X, and that Avatar is meant to represent you in both the physical and digital world.
Digitally, that avatar can be used across different virtual worlds, and even on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Physically, what the avatars wear e.g. clothes, accessories, sneakers, can be forged into the actual items in real life that you can wear. It becomes a reality where you can look exactly like your digital avatar in real life. Of course, there are more possibilities in the virtual world that can defy the laws of physics, but I digress.
NFTs are just a tool that creates verifiability, that allows people to trade and transact with one another. It can be art. It can be tokens. It can be collectibles. It can be a virtual asset – but to just confine these within the digital space would be limiting its possibility.
In my opinion, NFTs are just the base layer for many more things to happen on top of it. I envision a phygical world, although it'll definitely take some time to become a reality.