The metaverse is set to disrupt our lives – its evolution should not be taken lightly.
Their construction should not be rushed by a few companies. They must be careful, calculated, thoughtful, and most of all, cooperative.
This was the main takeaway for a panel discussion on technical standards and building blocks for the Metaverse at this week’s MetaBeat event.
“When you create something large that involves many parties in the world, it is imperative that you have good standards to build on; otherwise it will not be successful,” said Rev Lebaredian, Vice President of Omniverse and Simulation Technology at Nvidia.
As a starting point, the Khronos Group is an open, non-profit consortium that develops, publishes, and maintains royalty-free interoperability standards for 3D graphics, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), parallel computing, vision acceleration, and machine learning (ML).
In June, the group created Metaverse Standards Forum [subscription required]. Neil Trivett, president of Khronos, explained that the motivation is pervasive confusion about standards. He said the organizations were basically coming to Khronos for guidance and saying, “Standards community, do yourselves.”
He said the goal was to create a forum where the many ad hoc groups of standards that were being formed could communicate and coordinate. It started with 37 joint-stock companies – and only a few months later, there are now 1,800 companies involved.
“This speaks to the fact that there is a real interest, a real interest and the need to engage with the standards community, a willingness to engage,” Trivett said.
He explained that the forum is now divided into working groups.
Ultimately, the effort will provide “a great input funnel for experience, and a great billboard for visibility.”
Leppardian acknowledged that developing standards is undoubtedly difficult. There is always controversy and politics. But he noted that in the early days of the web, standards emerged because people worked together to create protocols like HTTP and HTML.
“Without standards,” he said, “the metaverse wouldn’t be possible.”
What’s going on now, Leppardian said, is “quite similar” to the evolution of the web: It took off because it was accessible to everyone.
“The metaverse is the network of these virtual worlds, the equivalent of an experience, a three-dimensional spatial thing,” he said.
Everyone needs to participate and contribute to the expansion of metaverses. Without standardization, only a small group of people will build it, which will limit its size and value.
“I don’t see any way this would exist if we didn’t start from the beginning with interoperability standards,” he said.
Given the technology and the amount of content required to make the metaverse a reality, “one company can’t do it all,” he said. “No matter how big you are, you are not old enough”
It’s also important, Trivett emphasized, that organizations move slowly and carefully – and not get ahead of themselves. For example, metaverse creators can learn from the history of the web in an effort to bring 3D to the masses.
Early platforms tried to define a lot, like runtime behaviour, which at the time was taking off and changing rapidly. He noted that one of the first successes was OpenGL for Embedded Systems, an application programming interface for rendering computer graphics for 2D and 3D graphics initially released in July 2003.
Then WebGL was released in 2011 — and it worked because it’s low-key, Trevett said — and Vulkan only shipped in 2016.
Likewise, it is important not to confuse the market; He pointed to the rivalry between DVD and Blu-Ray, for example, that has slowed the development of home viewing technology.
For the metaverse to work, “it has to work everywhere,” Trevett said, with capability on any device. The technology has to be spread widely, which he acknowledged is “not a trivial task, no small feat”.
Buckle up for an exciting ride
We also have to realize that it will constantly evolve and change – just like the Internet, Leppardian said. “The internet didn’t quite come to an end as we had hoped in 1993 and 1994,” he said, noting that the big players are still competing, and that startups are constantly disrupting the space. Geopolitical forces must also be accounted for.
Leppardian said the metaverse is “the most computationally challenging computer science problem ever”.
Trevett predicted that the first wave of standards would be around “hot topic” areas, including identifier, geospatial capabilities, avatars, and 3D asset formats (including global landscape description and gITF.
He said the overarching principles would include free and fair competition, privacy and ethics. Also, many agree that some kind of decentralized identity will be necessary, but it is not yet clear how this will happen.
“Building an entire ecosystem — it can be a very exciting journey,” Trivett said. But, “You have to be patient.”
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