Whether or not you believe it will happen, the so-called Metaverse certainly generates debate. And that’s part of the problem; the Metaverse is more of a theory than an actual thing, which can vacuum in all kinds of ideas — visionary, cynical, exciting, and mundane.
Lending a healthy dose of reality to the meta project is Anshel Sag of analysts Moor Insights and Strategy. Writing at Forbes, he suggests no one is right or wrong, but that something is going to happen regardless.
The Internet, as it currently exists, is CPU-based — this will have to change if we hope to see anything resembling a Metaverse. Everything will need to be rendered in 3D, which will require more GPUs in more places than ever.
READ MORE: The Metaverse Debate Rages On: Who’s Right And Why Does It Matter? (Forbes)
“Companies like AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA will have to ramp up GPU production to the point where GPUs are nearly as ubiquitous in cloud computing as CPUs are today. That seems fairly difficult — the current global semiconductor shortage means the Metaverse might have to wait until 2023 or later. It’s no wonder that NVIDIA’s CEO Jensen Huang is so excited about the metaverse given the predicted surge in demand for GPUs.”
Battling For Its Soul
No one really knows what the metaverse is. Or if they do, then the outlines are very broad. That’s a problem, whether you believe the thing should be built using open standards for cross-collaborative and continuous trade and experiences, or whether you just pay lip-service to those concepts while planning to co-opt a piece of the Metaverse for your own gain.
Sag believes it’s likely the Metaverse will eventually contain all forms of 3D immersive collaborative environments, whether they are open or not. John Hanke, CEO of Pokémon Go developer Niantic, is of two minds, saying it could be humans’ greatest creation — or its worst nightmare.
NAVIGATING THE METAVERSE:
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But Hanke, whose company has close ties to Google, sees AR as a better solution.
“Our thesis as a company is that gaming will be one of the frontier technologies,” he says. “[We] have this concept of reality channels — this idea of games that transform the world around you in an almost passive way that just enhances it and makes it more interesting, makes it more fun and [puts] some adventure and excitement into it.
READ MORE: Niantic’s CEO believes the metaverse could be a ‘dystopian nightmare’ (Fast Company)
“It’s almost like an Instagram filter that’s always on, basically with Pokémon Go-like embedded gameplay. That’s our vision of one of the transitionary applications as we go towards this idea of a real-world Metaverse.”
Mirror World Land Grab
Game engine companies are in a heated battle to accumulate as much content creation capabilities as they can for the Metaverse. It’s a land grab surveyed by Metaverse magi Matthew Ball, who noticed that the ability to map the real world is becoming a major source of IP. Epic Games’ Quixel, for example, uses proprietary cameras to generate environmental “MegaScans” comprised of tens of billions of pixel-precise triangles.
“These devices make it easier and cheaper for companies to produce high-quality ’mirror worlds‘ or ’digital twins‘ of physical spaces, as well as use scans of the real world to produce higher-quality and less-expensive fantasy ones.
“This dynamic explains why companies such as Epic [which acquired Quixel and Sketchfab] and Unity [which acquired RestAR and Pixyz] choose to buy and build up real world scans, rather than build from zero. In the coming years, it’s likely we’ll see intense competition in the category, with the likes of Nvidia, Autodesk, Facebook, Snap, and Niantic all choosing to build up their databases — just as Apple and Uber eventually moved off from the Google Maps platform.”
READ MORE: A Framework for the Metaverse from Hardware to Hollywood and Everything in Between (NAB Amplify)
Since we’ve yet to see one unified vision of a 3D virtual realm that everyone agrees upon, Sag believes the Metaverse will instead become a series of open and closed ecosystems.
“All will exist in the cloud, in one form or another, and will be open to users of all kinds of devices, headset or not. It will likely be some years until we have the content and compute power to realize the Metaverse’s real potential. Until then, we’ll have to keep speculating.”
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