In this edition of Interesting Things we're covering the technology of the Metaverse.
I've been reading Matthew Ball's The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything.
Whether or not you believe the Metaverse is a thing that will exist, or should even exist, the technological challenges that need to be overcome are interesting.
Section Two of the book is titled "Building the Metaverse" and is broken down into the following chapters.
- Virtual World Engines
Each section goes through a brief history, highlights current problems, and considers potential future scope of the technology. There are many, many things that need to be addressed.
Networking is currently too slow. Both bandwidth and latency need to improve, even before you factor in the speed of light limiting cross-continental communication speeds. Zoom meetings today often have annoying connection issues. This problem will be exacerbated when we stream 3D models of ourselves, rather than a simple 2D video.
Computing still isn't powerful enough. It has increased exponentially year on year, but all the extra power always gets used up rapidly. We're still not at the level of hyper-realistic visuals, accurately modelled physics, or able to handle hundreds or thousands of players in the same space.
Virtual World Engines (such as the Unity and Unreal game engines) are getting there, but suffer because of slow networking and lack of compute to render detail.
Wearable Hardware is slow, and heavy, and battery-life is still a major constraint. Fitting photo-realistic displays into a lightweight pair of glasses is still years away.
There is almost no interoperability between virtual worlds, in terms of shared assets, shared decision-making, shared anything. One of the key tenets of the Metaverse is having an avatar. How does that get shared between various independent gaming institutions? Payments and Blockchains are likely a potential solution for facilitation, and non-centralised ownership and identity.
There are countless problems.
The Interesting Thing is that for every single problem listed above there are already countless ideas, opportunities, and exploratory projects tackling them!
Who would have thought:
- Augmented-reality smart contact lenses already work
- Haptic gloves have launched already, so your fingers can touch things inside VR.
- AI techniques DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, and NeRFs are posied to drastically increase artistic design cadence.
- VR already shows benefits in training surgeons!
- The Ethereum Merge finally happened and reduced Ethereum's energy consumption by 99.9%, which is a big deal for sustainability!
This is just a small list of things. There is still huge potential to push boundaries, innovate, and drive what you want this future to look like.
If anything is interesting you at the moment, please let me know on Twitter - @colinjwebb
For more Metaverse Interesting Things, I've started compiling an XR Twitter List to keep track of news and cool projects in that domain.