Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Sunday, September 25, 2022

Tech Giants Unite to Save Metaverse from Being the Wild West 

The metaverse is seen as a borderless 3D world, and an alternate universe in which our digital avatars can live, work and play.

Now major tech companies are joining hands in shaping that universe to ensure it doesn't turn into a virtual Wild West.

Meta, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Adobe are among the companies uniting behind The Metaverse Standards Forum, a consortium announced today (June 21) to prop up dialog on the underpinnings of the metaverse.

The metaverse is an expansion of the internet, and it's a good time to establish a baseline around open file formats and protocols on which the technologies can mature, said Rev Lebaredian, vice president of the Omniverse and simulation technology at Nvidia.

"Everybody has a different view on what the metaverse needs. The definition that we've put forward is that the metaverse is an evolution of the internet. We went from text-interfaces to graphical interfaces but 2D. Wow we're going to 3D spatial interface for the internet," Lebaredian said.

The forum is hosted by The Khronos Group, which has created standards around graphics and concurrent computing.

The Metaverse Standards Forum could be likened to a W3C, which established web-based standards that allowed the internet to flourish. A difference is that the initial work will be around dialog, with standards in the future being a possibility, though not a certainty.

"If you think about the success of the internet and the web in specific, it's hard to imagine it being as successful as it is today without having standards to describe all of the things that we put in the web, or the internet," Lebaredian said.

The web evolved from a command-line into a 2D graphical interface, and "something more intuitive that brought in millions and eventually billions of people to the internet. We think the metaverse is essentially an extension of that now. We're changing the interface from just text and images and video to 3D spatial overlay on top of the internet," Lebaredian said.

The early web was extremely open and decentralized – everybody was equal and could create a web page no matter the size of the company or a web page.

"What we found is that over time, some of the original ideals of the web and the internet didn't pan out. We ended up with less players who control more of it," Lebaredian said.

The 3D overlay offers a chance to rethink the internet, and not to repeat past mistakes of concentrating power in the hands of a few, Lebaredian said.

"This is a chance to reset and as a whole we should be discussing: What do we want from the future internet? Do we want it to be open or do we want it to be a couple of very large islands on the internet controlled by a few companies?" Lebaredian noted.

Nvidia is bundling its metaverse offerings in a set of products called Omniverse, which includes hardware, software and services. Omniverse offers a set of 3D interfaces in which customers can engineer products for work and play. Nvidia is backing a file format called USD (Universal Scene Description), which the company calls the HTML of 3D, to share graphics resources.

The Omniverse platform relies on GPUs and hardware built by the company. For example, Nvidia has a tool called Omniverse Avatar to generate avatars, but it works best with the RTX renderer.

Meta has placed a bet on its social interaction platform being in a 3D universe, and is creating headsets, which will be key in fostering social interaction. Qualcomm is placing bets on a mobile 3D metaverse, and is investing in low-power chipsets that can render high-end graphics in headsets and on smartphones.

About the author: Tiffany Trader

With over a decade’s experience covering the HPC space, Tiffany Trader is one of the preeminent voices reporting on advanced scale computing today.

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