The Metaverse has the potential to change life as we know it – and it’s getting closer to becoming a reality. But what exactly are we aiming to create? What can we expect?
If the Metaverse comes to life as imagined, we’ll all have our own digital identity that can travel across platforms hosting virtual worlds, enjoying experiences in real-time - at any time because the Metaverse will never sleep. There’ll be no limits on the number of people who can enter the Metaverse or on the number of experiences on offer. We’ll be able to own digital property and then buy and sell it in a fully functioning digital economy that covers the whole of the Metaverse. Sometimes our experiences will be purely digital, and others will blend the digital with the real world.
But making this happen depends upon one important factor: it’ll be critical that a single, open Metaverse develops, rather than a series of stand-alone virtual worlds with barriers between them and an inability to work together. Metaverse success depends upon interoperability – the technical ability of platforms to ‘talk’ to each and work together that will drive seamless movement across worlds.
We must avoid multiple Metaverses
A lack of unification and interoperability could well be the Metaverse’s biggest weakness, simply because of the huge range of organisations, technology companies and governments that are involved – with each of them working individually to push towards a functioning Metaverse.
And yet it would be a serious error to think that the future of the technology is based on one idea or one platform. It’s these multiple strands of innovation, these different angles of approach, coming from a wide variety of organisations that will power progress.
But we do have a template for how to navigate this situation in the invention and development of the internet – and we need to learn from that. There’s so much inspiration to be taken from the cooperation that enables a plethora of digital platforms and systems to operate today.
This is a golden opportunity to learn from the mistakes we made with the internet, where its founders and pioneers didn’t have a clear idea of what they were creating, resulting in significant issues such as disinformation, scamming and harassment.
So, to secure success, we need to establish a common aim for the Metaverse: to create a universal, open, fair, decentralised and interoperable virtual realm. With this agreed we can set loose the ideas and flows of information that come from talented and invested parties, letting them push platforms and technology to bigger, more interesting destinations.
Ensuring interoperability and unification must underpin the three main building blocks of the Metaverse:
1. Creating an agreed structure with standards and governance
Clear, strong governance and an ethics code must sit at the centre of the Metaverse’s development, ready to be the driving force behind unification and interoperability. Ideally, this governance structure will be decentralised and open to everyone to own and govern. Prioritising net neutrality and self-government will protect open access rights and stop a small number of organisations taking overall control. This robust governance can then guide the establishment of open standards and protocols, and can oversee the building of a reliable way to prove ownership of digital assets, using blockchain and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).
2. Building a technological foundation
From the outset, it’ll be vital to focus on developing the technology that’ll support shared spaces created on cloud platforms that can support millions of users in the same world together. This unified Metaverse will need to be able to support high-quality Extended Reality (XR) experiences. XR is an umbrella term for immersive experiences that include Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Augmented Reality (AR). There’ll be XR experiences that smartphones and laptops won’t be able to handle, and the Metaverse will need cloud-rendering architectures that use cloud computing facilities to deliver them.
Bandwidth, too, will be important, so we’ll need to develop ways to deliver rich XR experiences over lower bandwidths. And mobile networks will need to feature high-bandwidth and low-latency capabilities so they can deliver high-quality XR Metaverse experiences on power-limited smartphones, laptops and PCs.
We’ll also need to develop spatial computing further to track, control and synchronise the movements and interactions of objects in both the physical and digital worlds. Geospatial mapping and anchors will mean multiple users in the same physical place can see the same content on their different devices – it’ll align reality with the digital sphere.
3. Developing enabling technologies
The third building block will be the technologies that’ll support experiences in the Metaverse, particularly technologies that enable unification and interoperability. Providing cross-platform 3D engines – basically the Metaverse equivalent of Android and iOS - will be fundamental. As will delivering virtual world platforms, because they’ll provide the framework to support multiple interlinked worlds.
Plus, the Metaverse will need a development push in all XR technologies, including a boost to the delivery of low-cost, high-quality AR / VR headsets and AR glasses, together with the associated software.
Get Metaverse ready
The Metaverse is coming. So, to find out more about the forces behind its development and live research projects, download our new whitepaper.