Posted by Steve Lettau on Jan 10, 2023

By Juana Maria Serrano Marin, president of the Rotary Club of Metaverso, District 2203, Spain

A few months ago, a guest speaker at my husband’s Rotary club told the group about the vast possibilities of the Metaverse as a virtual meeting place. Not long after, a person on our district’s membership committee suggested that my husband form a new club – in the Metaverse.

The Metaverse is a collection of online spaces where users can explore virtual and augmented reality. Users can create avatars to represent themselves, then interact virtually with objects and settings. Wikipedia defines the Metaverse as “a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.” Early components of Metaverse technology have been used in video game design for at least two decades. But increasingly, businesses and other entities are using the technology to reach people and create social connections online.

My husband and I are both familiar with the Metaverse. We don’t have any specific interest in virtual reality, but we’re intrigued by the possibilities for using the Metaverse as a meeting point and a place for easily accessible digital information.

A platform in Spatial

Not long after the club meeting, I began dabbling (with my husband’s help) on a 3D metaverse platform called Spatial. I started building a virtual space for our proposed club. As the idea rolled forward, we attracted more and more interest and gathered enough prospective members to propose a Metaverse-centered club to our district officials.

After an in-person training session in Alicante on 12 November, along with other necessary procedural steps, we were ready to announce ourselves as one of the first Rotary clubs in the Metaverse. We were admitted into Rotary on 28 November, with 15 women and six men. Our club’s average age is 42, with two members who are 20 years old, one having transferred from a Rotaract club.

This meeting format has real advantages. Flexible and innovative, it attracts a diverse membership base and helps us reach new demographics. That’s in keeping with President-elect R. Gordon R. McInally’s desire for new clubs that will allow Rotary to exist everywhere, in a style that suits everyone who wants to be part of the organization and help us do good.

The club isn’t just another E-club. Meetings are held in our virtual space on the Spatial platform. There are virtual meeting spots, places to view greetings from other members, and areas where you can learn about Rotary and our local and international projects. Visitors can create their own avatars and move around the space, interacting with the environment and other visitors. They don’t need headsets or any other dedicated equipment to join in. The controls can be manipulated with a keyboard or simple mobile device menus.

Avatars unite

What makes this platform so immersive is that, after just a few sessions, people identify with their avatars online and experiences become “personal.” It’s quite different from just taking part in a Zoom meeting or videoconference.

Of course, while our regular meetings are held in our virtual space, we also plan to meet face-to-face. We all like to hug, talk, and share moments together in person. We had an in-person training session on 12 November, and everyone who came was very excited. It was so gratifying to see how much interest there was and how much people wanted to learn.

I’m sure our meetings and offerings will grow and adapt as the metaverse grows and adapts. Just like any other club, we plan to serve and seek out projects that better our communities in the real world. In the future, no doubt, we’ll also find causes we can address in the virtual space. To explore this exciting new venture, come check us out.