3D Web-based computing, or 3D VR/AR fusion as imagined by VFX pioneers like John Gaeta, is a natural fit for the concepts in this article. The term “metaverse,” popularised by the book and movie Ready Player One, was first used in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, according to historians and sci-fi fans alike.
The evolution of the internet from flat-screen text and image webpages to one in which the physical world is augmented by the digital and is experienced in (at least) three dimensions is depicted by all of these concepts.
Augmented World Expo founder Ori Inbar describes the AR Cloud as “a persistent 3D digital copy of the real world to enable the sharing of AR experiences across multiple users and devices.” Even though this was written in 2017, the descriptions have remained consistent.
Building Blocks of Metaverse
In an interview with NAB Amplify, Rodric David, the founder and CEO of XR producer Thunder, describes the metaverse: “The Metaverse is… the culmination of streaming, interactivity, and social media into a single medium of communication. Spatial presentation of content, communication, and interaction creates deep, evocative experiences that influence consumer behaviour and brand value.”
In an interview with Protocol, Roblox’s chief business officer, Craig Donato, discusses the company’s business strategy “When it comes to information, the metaverse will do for social connections what the internet does for knowledge. When it comes to who I interact with or how I represent myself, I’m no longer constrained by physical distance or all of these other constraints…. It’s a massive inconvenience.”
No one knows when it will be finished, but proponents are fervent in their belief that the next generation of the internet will have a profound impact on nearly everything. According to David, it will become the dominant global platform for the creation and viewing of live content, “with features like interactivity, real-time transactional functionality, branded promotion and integration, game mechanics and functionality, integrated socialisation, blockchain and NFT [non-fungible token] capability, and… gamification tools,”
We will not be debating in this article whether much of today’s activity in the metaverse is simply a continuation of Big Tech’s capitalist drive to own more of the information we share, our money, and our souls (there, I said it). We must, however, acknowledge that the internet’s second coming is currently being fought over.
Whether it’s open or closed,
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney sums up the battle by saying that if the value of the metaverse (monetary, creative, and social) is to be realised, the current walled gardens of Facebook and Google must be demolished. Sweeney tells The Washington Post that “we’re now in a closed platform wave,” and that both Apple and Google are riding it. When we emerge from this, everyone will realise that they were taken advantage of for the past ten years.
Beyond the Epic Games’ own walled gardens like Fortnite, it is widely acknowledged that the potential of the metaverse requires cross-industry alignment on “a constellation of standards, guidelines and best practises to enable the consistent creation and distribution of scaleable cross-platform 3D and XR content,” according to the abstract for Neil Trevett’s Nvidia presentation.
Task Force for Standardization
Sweeney believes a collaborative approach is required, similar to the Internet Engineering Task Force that was established in 1986 to develop and promote internet standards. A comprehensive set of standards is required, and the web is built on several of these, including HTML, according to him. “Metaverse will need a lot of these, such as 3D scene file formats and networking protocols for describing how players interact in real time. There is a networking protocol in every multiplayer game. Even though they don’t all agree, it’s time to get them together and force them to talk.”
Persistent and ubiquitous virtual simulations are made possible by interoperable standards and tools, including protocols, formats, and services. Matthew Ball, managing partner of EpyllionCo, and Jacob Navok, CEO of Genvid Technologies, write on Ball’s website that “without them, there will be no Metaverse—only a more virtual and immersive version of today’s mobile internet and app stores.” “It will also be less profitable, dynamic, and healthy than the original. As a result, new platforms will be more difficult to develop, and the metaverse itself will be more difficult to construct.”
As a general rule, most writing on the subject assumes that the metaverse is a single entity. A browser-based URL and a unique avatar will be the primary means of gaining access to the metaverse, much like the internet today has hundreds of millions of individual homepages or applications. In a metaverse environment, “people can use [those] to navigate with a mobile device using typical game engine mechanics,” David explains. “Our virtual avatars will hold our keys, wallets, and identities,” says the author.