In a first, the Durga Puja festival of Kolkata is entering the world of Metaverse- a computer-simulated 3D environment- which will enable people to virtually tour four big-ticket community pujas, communicate with other such 'pandal hoppers' and even click photos. The 3D platform created for this purpose, xpand-land.com, will allow visitors to enter a shared social space where people from across the world can come together from the comfort of their homes.
This is an initiative of Indian start-up XP&D, its group company Metaform and another firm, Spatial. This year, there will be no fee to enter the platform which will be thrown open on Thursday.
The visitors will be able to enter two north Kolkata puja pandals - Ahiritola Sarbojanin and Tallah Prattoy - besides two from the southern part of the city - Deshapriya Park and Ballygunge Cultural Association.
"This is the first time in history that such a massive festival of devotion has been twinned in the Metaverse. We are piloting it with four pandals this year," XP&D Co-founder Sukrit Singh said.
He said they have plans to work with over 100 puja pandals next year and, "in the near future, every single pandal on the ground will have a metaverse twin for people to experience and enjoy".
Users can voice chat with each other and make a meta-realistic avatar of themselves in minutes on the platform which can be accessed by smartphones, tablets, and wearables. VR (virtual reality) headset wearables will give the optimum experience.
Suveer Bajaj, co-founder of Metaform, said the project will also help popularise the new Web 3.0-based technologies like blockchain, virtual reality and NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
NFTs are unique cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and cannot be replicated.
"This year, we are keeping it free from charges but monetisation will happen from the next puja," Mr Bajaj said.
Ashish Sen, an Indian software professional working in Germany, expressed happiness that Durga Puja is becoming part of the meta world.
"I am unable to come to Kolkata this puja. But this will provide me a great opportunity to connect with my family and friends on a metaverse platform for a near real experience," he said.
Metaform had earlier created a dugout experience for Gujarat Titans, the first IPL team to have a metaverse presence.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)