The metaverse: A direction of travel rather than a destination?

Tran Hoang Giang of Aura Network

The metaverse can perhaps best be described as a direction of travel, says Tran Hoang Giang, founding member of FPT Software akaChain, and founder and CEO of Aura Network. It’s a journey several major players in the software field have embarked upon and are in the process of investing very substantial sums of money in bringing into existence.

There is some vague agreement about the destination, what the metaverse might be,  but very little detail about how to get there or when they will arrive. Meta’s president of global affairs and former UK deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg says, “These innovations aren’t going to happen overnight. We’re in the early stages of this journey. Many of these products will only be fully realised in 10–15 years, if not longer.” 

Different metaverse platforms 

Each major player is, at this stage, talking about a different metaverse platform, which could host multiple metaverses, rather than one all-embracing metaverse, unless it is theirs. The common themes are broadly: an immersively-experienced virtual world; three-dimensional and highly interactive environment; and entry probably via some form of headset. Most also hypothesise that they will be persistent, continuing to exist when the individual users are not on-line; infinite, supporting massive numbers of users; and real-time, providing live experiences, such as avatars with facial expressions and body language. Some also imagine levels of interoperability that will allow users to move avatars and digital assets between different metaverses on different platforms.

The term metaverse has already been hijacked, with many brands launching ‘metaverse’ websites that have a few elements of the concept but are nowhere near the vision.

Evolving the web

Many see this as the natural evolution of the Web as it moves on from Web 2, where its orientation evolved from presentation to increasing user-generated content and a participatory culture. It is supposed that we, or at least a sizeable number of us, will want to create a parallel life in the future metaverses via our avatars and will want to buy ‘land’ – build homes, cafés, venues, offices, laboratories and so on; create cultural experiences and digital assets; as well as socialise and collaborate on creative, social or commercial projects.

Technology consulting company Capgemini reports that 71% of wealthy individuals are investing in digital assets. The vision of a single metaverse serviced by lots of different companies is too dependent on how much money is on the line when companies allow customers to pick up and move assets. So, we must assume initially several individual metaverse platforms with little, if any, interoperability. As so often happens, compatible technologies may only arrive after investment has been recouped and customer demand forces operators to agree and implement common standards.

Recent developments allow the potential for such things as blockchain-powered, decentralised metaverses, where there is no single entity in overall control. Blockchain also enables non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – certificates of ownership for digital assets that exist on the blockchain and can be bought and sold using cryptocurrencies, which ultimately may have real world values as well as value in the virtual world.

Developing the future

Engineers and software developers are working on areas such as building infrastructure: cloud, edge computing and photogrammetry pipelines (software that uses images to create 3D renderings); developing the AR and VR headsets and glasses, or their successor devices necessary to access the metaverses; and applications for game and work-related activities/functions. They are also researching fundamental methodologies such as cryptography protocols, non-fungible tokens (NFT) and more.

This all sounds fairly straightforward except, for example, artificial reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets and glasses are still very crude tools, in their present form, for the kind of accessibility and duration of engagement envisaged, let alone the other tools envisaged, but not yet invented, for holograms and for users to touch and manipulate digital objects in the metaverse. As always, answers may or may not be found, sooner or, potentially, very much later.

Daily outputs of engineering and computer science will form the core pillars of the metaverse and their successes and failures will constantly adjust the direction of travel and the vision of the destination. Some roads taken will inevitably turn out to be dead-ends and investors in those will lose money. Other roads travelled will not find the large numbers of interested users hoped for, so will become niche backwaters. The road to the ultimate goal of fully functional, mass appeal virtual worlds in which people enjoy parallel existences may turn out to be just enhanced gaming worlds or might free mankind to travel the universe as an avatar or enable life-changing collaborations that produce, say, cheap, clean inexhaustible energy. The future is very difficult to predict.

Simulation to reality

That said, there are some scenarios where current virtual realities are evolving quite rapidly. Take the virtual laboratory as an example. In scientific research, computer simulation has become a common and modern practice in many branches such as computational chemistry, computational physics, cheminformatic, etc. Scientific theories will be proven and tested by calculating and simulating in computer environments rather than conducted in physical laboratories. The metaverse can help ease physical limitations and promote research progress. Scientists can collaborate on experiments, dynamically change the parameters and utilise the power of cloud computing systems to visualise results. This also helps save material preparation expenses and provides science students with a safer and more effective environment. Plus, of course, there is gaming which is currently leading the way in so many aspects of metaverse creation.

A parallel development, or maybe just an important variant to the metaverse, is the Omniverse. While metaverse sets out to provide a virtual space for end-users, Nvidia’s Omniverse, on the other hand, provides a platform for industry’s creators, using universal scene description (USD) to define and interchange information among different frameworks. Omniverse is a metaverse populated by industrial digital twins and autonomous virtual robots allowing creativity in the virtual space, simulating all the details of the physical space.

Omniverse is seeking to become a platform for visual effect designers, architectural designers, metahuman animators and environmental artists to build different concepts of metaverses. The ever-growing use of digital twins in design, manufacturing, operations and customer support is a sort of metaverse. Here the concept of the digital twin is enhanced and expanded, envisaging a new wave of work that can only be done expeditiously and cost-effectively in virtual worlds.

Investing in the unknown

Metaverses allow virtual worlds to expand beyond the gaming genre to encompass all manner of social and commercial activities. Some of these will be trial runs for things which will come to exist in the real world, but others will exist only in the metaverse. While Microsoft invests [$70 billion (€68.64 billion)], Google [$39.5 billion (€38.73 billion)] and Meta (or Facebook, as was) invests a reported [$10 billion (€9.81 billion)] in the metaverse and Citi says the metaverse represents a potential [$8 trillion (€7.84 trillion)] to [$13 trillion (€12.75 trillion)] opportunity by 2030, that could boast as many as 5 billion users, there is never a guarantee that the technology will arrive or that the public will want what it delivers. We can only wait and see. Whatever is created will be an exciting evolution of the internet which will impact how the world works and plays.

The author is Tran Hoang Giang, founding member of FPT Software akaChain and founder and CEO of Aura Network.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow


Sign-Up For Your Premier One-Stop Guide to the EV Landscape in 2022

Posted on: December 1, 2022

The race is on to establish the market leaders across various verticals in the Electric Vehicle industry, including the vehicles themselves, charging stations, third-party service providers, and the supporting infrastructure. This in-depth EV market guide and report by IoT Now explores all these trends to help determine the roadmap for the current state as well

Read more

Axiomtek launches compact DIN-rail IIOT gateway for data driven energy

Posted on: November 30, 2022

Axiomtek, a world-renowned specialist relentlessly devoted in the research, development, and manufacture of series of innovative and reliable industrial computer products of high efficiency is pleased to announce the ICO120-E3350, an extremely compact industrial IoT gateway powered by the Intel Celeron processor N3350 (codename: Apollo Lake-M). The ruggedised designs feature fanless operation, -40°C to 70°C

Read more

The IoT Adoption Boom – Everything You Need to Know

Posted on: September 28, 2022

In an age when we seem to go through technology boom after technology boom, it’s hard to imagine one sticking out. However, IoT adoption, or the Internet of Things adoption, is leading the charge to dominate the next decade’s discussion around business IT. Below, we’ll discuss the current boom, what’s driving it, where it’s going,

Read more

9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, home automation using iot is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more

5 challenges still facing the Internet of Things

Posted on: June 3, 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly become a huge part of how people live, communicate and do business. All around the world, web-enabled devices are turning our world into a more switched-on place to live.

Read more

What is IoT?

Posted on: July 7, 2019

What is IoT Data as a new oil IoT connectivity What is IoT video So what’s IoT? The phrase ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is officially everywhere. It constantly shows up in my Google news feed, the weekend tech supplements are waxing lyrical about it and the volume of marketing emails I receive advertising ‘smart, connected

Read more