In tech terms the word metaverse refers to a pervasive, always on, digital multi-dimension, that you can see and interact with, think of the internet with millions of web pages you access through a browser, now imagine the internet on everything around you, you can see it, touch it. Also, it’s not one virtual world or dimension, its many, no one company will own the metaverse.
You switch on your AR glasses, and you see a virtual, real-time, overlay of the metaverse, graphics that you can touch over your real world. You can jump in and out of this digital twin universe, it’s AR, VR, you flick through services, apps ways to communicate and collaborate, on/off.
That’s the visual internet or Metaverse dream.
But you’ll get that sort of description anywhere as to most of us as users, this is the metaverse we’ll actually see and interact with. But what is going on under the metaverse UI (User Interface)? What we wanted to quickly go over now are the top tech trends that are the fundamental technologies that are driving us towards a new – something – it’s these trends and technologies that all point us towards – The Metaverse.
1 – Blockchain
I’m not talking NFT or Crypto Currencies, true these are all service offerings that use the blockchain and are fascinating. But the real value is the blockchain itself. Put simply, the blockchain is a distributed ledger (meaning it lives in no one place, instead it is distributed on many servers) and is a way to encrypt, store and share information.
It’s a real tough cookie to crack apparently, although there are plenty trying, the blockchain can be used to create secure contracts of ownership of virtually anything. From a physical boat in a shipyard to a new digital weapon for your game character, to indeed a token of currency (Cryptocurrency).
The metaverse will certainly crash into blockchain and many metaverse services will employ blockchain to add new user features and value.
2 – USD Unique Scene Description
This one is the HTML or XML of the metaverse. Like how html web pages can be seen on any browser, a USD is a common file standard being adopted by 3D creators to make interoperable (read / write/ play anywhere) 3D assets.
These can be buildings, even AI powered digital people, dragons, cars, if you can think it up you can make it using USD. The USD file format is then used to render 3D VR/AR and Screen Viewed worlds that will make up what humans see in the metaverse. USD is open source, free to develop with and it holds the most potential as a common 3D file protocol for developing new visual immersive services and experiences.
3 – Real-Time Engines
Realtime rendering has been happening in the games industry for ages, now it is crossing over to the VFX and film industry too. Many TV shows and Films now use real-time engines such as Unity, Unreal Engine and now NVIDIAS Omniverse framework, to render graphics in real-time.
These engines have an advantage that they already have a level of adoption with developers. But there is nothing stopping others from building their own real-time 3D render engine. The point is the technology to build real-time render engines is out there and we could be in for some surprises.
4 – Interoperability
But that ok as no matter what engine you are running users should still be able to access your creations and virtual meta worlds thanks to the use of the USD file format and other interoperable standards that are available. Interoperability is a fundamental value for building the metaverse.
5 – Edge Computing
One that’s close to our hearts, building our own GODBOX power edge computers. Real-time interaction with the metaverse requires immediate user feedback. This is to sustain the illusion of a solid user experience between the real and meta world.
If the computers doing the bulk of the processing are in a cloud datacenter, say in London, and your application is being accessed in a studio being run thousands of miles away, your users will get lag.
That’s what we call it when the processing takes too long and breaks the real-time user experience. The answer to this is powerful computers running distributed software architectures, closer to the point of interaction. Reducing the time, it takes for user system requests to get processed and sent back to the user.
6 – 5G and Fiber to the Home
Basically, more people are getting connected to high-speed data services. This enables developers to build richer interactive services. Sure, a lot of the world needs to catch up, but in mature economies consumers are signing up and looking for services.
7 – Artificial Intelligence
Although not exactly a critical foundation technology for building the metaverse, it’s suer to come into it. You’ll be interacting with AI avatars, shown products based on AI algorithms and your entire experience will be monitored by AI.
The biggest challenge for AI is getting the distance to compute reduced enough for a real-time user experience to take place, AI uses masses of data. Now AI is moving to the edge too.
8 – The Death of Net Neutrality
Another thing that’s driving the desire in developers to build a better internet, and why not make it a 3D metaverse while we are at it, is the loss of Net Neutrality. If I was an ISP, why wouldn’t I want to offer faster data transport to my biggest customers?
Well, because that’s not good for little Johnny doing his homework, because his ISP has sold the bandwidth to Amazon, so that Wendy, Johnny’s next-door neighbor, can shop for fluffy slippers. That’s why. It was a promise that the ISP broke in favor of profits. The best way to understand this is to watch this video. But to sum up, the death of Net Neutrality has urged many developers to start working in new ways of connecting new dots.
9 – Devices to access the metaverse
If you want to experience VR, dive in now, get a decent VR computer and spend some bucks on a good headset. But VR for consumers lacks the content required to keep users happy. As a developer VR is amazing, as a trainer and designer, same, but for someone who is not a developer, VR has a long way to come with its offerings for consumers.
Developers are now designing, deploying, both VR and AR real-time experiences that could be the start of the first metaverse applications. Cool AR glasses are here as well now, and big bucks are backing their adoption. You can use your Phone, AR glasses, Laptop, PC and the VR headset yes, all these devices will be your gateway to the metaverse.
The metaverse will connect your car, or your bike helmet. Or you’ll be all in, fully immersed either by visual devices or a neural link. As the price of LED starts to drop, some are even working on bringing holodecks style rooms to our homes.
Buckle up, here comes the metaverse.
CTO / Director of Virtual Production