I still don’t know what metaverse is, but it now has a “Standards Forum”

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PC gamers of a certain age may remember the multimedia PC standard. First defined in 1991 by an assembly of industry heavyweights, it set a benchmark for PCs capable of handling multimedia content. The idea was to make it easier for consumers to know which PCs could and could not help them enter the exciting new era of CD-ROM technology – and, one would assume, give them the confidence to take that step. (and spend that money).

Now something similar is happening with the metaverse. Industry heavyweights including Epic Games, Microsoft, Nvidia, Sony, Unity and of course Meta have come together to create the Metaverse Standards Forum (opens in a new tab)which “will promote interoperability standards for an open metaverse”.

Unlike the relatively simple task of defining a minimum PC spec, this group won’t be creating standards for the Metaverse, likely because no one really knows exactly what the Metaverse is at this point. They are very excited for it (opens in a new tab)however, and to get the wheels turning faster, the aim here is to “coordinate requirements and resources to foster the creation and evolution of standards within standards organizations working in the relevant fields”.

“The Metaverse will bring together diverse technologies, requiring a constellation of interoperability standards, created and maintained by numerous standards organizations,” said Neil Trevett, president of forum host Khronos Group. “The Metaverse Standards Forum is a unique place for coordination between standards organizations and industry, with a mission to foster the pragmatic and timely standardization that will be essential to an open and inclusive Metaverse.”

The Khronos group may look like a villainous organization from a James Bond movie, but it’s actually very legit. It is a non-profit organization established over 20 years ago by hardware and software companies including AMD, Apple, Arm, Google, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm and Valve, and is the developer well-known standards, including OpenGL, Vulkan, and WebGL. . It’s a serious force in this industry, in other words, and other big players have been engaged in the process of setting the new standards for the metaverse.

(Image credit: Metaverse Standards Forum)

“Building a Metaverse for everyone will require an industry-wide focus on common standards,” said Vishal Shah, vice president of Metaverse at Meta, Facebook’s parent company. “The Metaverse Standards Forum can drive the collaboration needed to make this possible, and Meta is committed to this work. Creators, developers, and businesses will all benefit from the technologies and experiences that will be enabled by common protocols.”

Epic Games is also involved – which isn’t surprising given that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney is a longtime booster. (opens in a new tab) of the metaverse concept. “We are thrilled to help launch the Metaverse Standards Forum, a collaborative, industry-led effort to accelerate the development and adoption of interoperability standards,” said Mark Petit, VP of Unreal Ecosystem. Engine. “Our goal is to build an open metaverse that enriches humanity and houses a thriving and equitable ecosystem with millions of creators.”

Nvidia’s vice president of omniverse and simulation technology, Rev Lebaredian, actually attempted to define what the metaverse will be, calling it “an evolution of the internet – from the current 2D view of the web to a spatial overlay immersive 3D”.

“For the Metaverse to be successful and ubiquitous, it must be built on open standards, just like today’s 2D Web – and our membership in the Metaverse Standards Forum will help the community usher in a new era of collaborative 3D standards and that will form the foundation of the metaverse,” Lebaredian said.

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It might seem a bit counterintuitive to set standards for something that’s still so loosely defined (although I think Wes pretty much got it right (opens in a new tab) in 2021), but standards may be what ultimately gives us the definition we’re missing: the Metaverse Standards Forum will focus on “implementation prototyping, hackathons, plugfests, and open source tools”, in areas such as interactive 3D assets, AR, VR and XR, user-created content, avatars, identity management, privacy and financial transactions. All told, it seems the band conceptualizes the metaverse with much the same mindset as Lebaredian: it’s the internet, but in 3D.

So it’s not exactly a man-on-the-moon moment, but if the internet is to grow significantly – and it will, one way or another – setting standards at the industry scale, no matter how dull, is necessary to keep the whole process from spiraling into chaos. At this point anyone can guess what it ends up being: it may turn out to be little more than a failed branding exercise like the MPC standard did, but it could also be the first big step towards creating a “true” metaverse – whatever that ends up being.

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