Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, December 5, 2022

Perspective: The Metaverse Is Ushering in the Next Era of Computing 

The metaverse. The term meta, by its most modern definition can be described as self-referencing or self-reflective. In contemporary nomenclature, meta is often used as a standalone adjective. A “meta” name for a dog would be Dog or a meta movie – would be a movie about movies.

And so, we have the metaverse. Another world for people and businesses to inhabit to conduct transactions and interact without the necessity of being fully, physically present. We’re still at the “imagine what it could be” phase of the metaverse. Digital worlds mean mutable worlds where almost anything or scenario can be created. The promise of the metaverse animates digital copies of ourselves and real-world places in a space where they can be enhanced and idealized.

Many companies are hedging their bets on the metaverse and jumping in to help define the experience such as Roblox Corporation which is building a creator economy metaverse while offering an open gaming platform to let players create their own digital and interactive worlds, and Apple which has patented Head-Mounted System (HMD) virtual meetings solution that will incorporate physical hand and arm movements for interaction in virtual meetings. That’s only two.

The metaverse is being defined right now. There are 3 key stages that must be realized in order to bring it full fruition according to Gartner, the IT research and consultancy group. The emerging stage is when the metaverse market will begin to open with experimental applications and use cases through established technologies like augmented and virtual reality. The advanced stage is when content will become king with data becoming the focus in terms of analyzing the relationships between the physical, the digital, and the physical and digital combined. New businesses and applications will develop from understanding these relationships. The final mature stage, expected in 2030, is when the true metaverse will start to appear. Building upon the new applications of the advanced stage and powered by mature hardware, infrastructure will become the primary focus with vendors working to create the true backbone of a transformational and ubiquitous digital world.

Currently, there is work that is underway supporting the emerging stage. Digital twins and self-contained unique digital worlds are the first concepts to be realized in the metaverse, and with the computing power that exists today, we can achieve this first stages. But to move forward, the metaverse and how we imagine it fully rolling out, will require much more computing power than we currently use to bring it to the masses.

The metaverse prioritizes the need for a conversation about computing on a massive and as yet unseen scale. Its foundation of always in-motion digital twins and digital worlds, and precise simulations will require computing power that is far greater than what is currently possible. For digital and real worlds to come together meaningfully, the metaverse needs a completely new IT foundation; it needs algorithms and calculations to be undertaken by room-sized supercomputers.

The metaverse won’t be all about computing power. It also will require innovative integration between its hardware and the software that makes it evolve. The hardware will be something never before seen for these compute-intensive circumstances, with software bringing together the AI/ VR and algorithms. 

What we’re thinking is that blurring the lines between the real world and the virtual will require a server farm of specifically designed and dedicated metaverse hardware. The growing scale of the endeavor will require the metaverse specific server.

To bring this technology to fruition, collaboration between software and hardware developers will be required. Seeing the metaverse grow in real time so adjustments can be made along the way, will also be needed to ensure the experience is what is expected.   Simulations will have to be acceptable to the most tech savvy end user, and environments evolving is key in creating an optimal experience with intelligent interaction that mimics the physical world as much as possible.  Artificial Intelligence will help bring the process toward reality.

Once a digital space has been completed, the simulations within it bring it to life. AI-driven mechanical and thermal simulations and even AI-driven digital humans will utilize a series of algorithms for improving the accuracy of simulation, accelerating the speed movement and change and enhancing the degree of realism for life-like interactions and experience. New levels of AI computing power will be required for the experience to be adopted by organizations.

If the metaverse is to become a reality, it must match or exceed the scale of the world in which we currently exist. In order to support this collaboration, real-time rendering, highly precise simulation and intelligent interaction, the metaverse will require computing power of a scale that has yet to be created. What’s needed to create this collaborative experience, is a common source where the digital world and the physical world come together. It will include digital twins, digital humans that move seamlessly through scenes and in time simulations where thousands of industries will congregate and do business.

About the Author

Liu Jun is Vice President and GM of AI and HPC at Inspur Information, a leading global provider of AI servers.  Liu has over 20-years’ experience in AI and HPC and spearheads product development, application and services at Inspur's Artificial Intelligence and High-Performance Computing division.

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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