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It is an effort to ensure that the metaverse, which is viewed as the next generation of computing that can bring us a spatial internet experience, will not be a closed ecosystem ruled by one company or a small group of companies who can extract a toll on developers and users.
The Khronos Group, which sets standards for 3D technologies, has come together with groups that include the Web3D Consortium, the World Wide Web Consortium and the XR Association (XRA) to oversee the process of creating the standards, or the rules of the road for the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.
Once viewed as science fiction, the metaverse is now viewed as the future of gaming, entertainment, brands, ecommerce, and enterprises. And it’s why GamesBeat and VentureBeat are creating events such as MetaBeat (October 3-4) and GamesBeat Summit Next (October 25-26). We created our own Metaverse Forum to encourage thought leadership on the open metaverse.
Last week, Neal Stephenson, who wrote Snow Crash three decades ago, announced a company dubbed Lamina1 that is building blockchain technology for the open metaverse. And McKinsey & Co. said that it expects the metaverse to be valued at $5 trillion by 2030. While the sci-fi novels have warned us about the possible dystopian metaverse, the industries are clearly concerned that a single company could monopolize the metaverse.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been concerned enough about this threat of monopoly that he has sued Apple and Google, and others are wary about the investments that Meta is making that could put the company in the lead position for the metaverse — even as it participates in the forum.
Trevett said the forum won’t take political stances. Rather, he said the focus will be on practical, actionable interoperability projects that can “move the needle” on aspects of the metaverse that are needed by broad consensus. He said the group is “baking the open standard bricks” for the metaverse, not “building the cathedral.”
“We want to create a venue that standards organizations and companies that are interested in metaverse can come and cooperate over the standards that we all need for an open and inclusive metaverse,” Trevett said. “No one really knows the final shape of the metaverse, but some things are already clear. And that is, of course, that a lot of different technologies are going to need to work together for all the different domains to work.”
He also said that The Khronos Group won’t insist that 3D be the pillar of the metaverse, as others may argue that 2D screens will enable the metaverse to reach a wider audience. The domains to be addressed will be driven by the Forum membership and may address any relevant metaverse domain e.g., avatars, privacy, geospatial, networking, VPS, XR or user experience.
The domains include 3D, augmented reality, and virtuality. And they also include networking, geospatial user interfaces, user experiences, cryptocurrencies — all these things, Trevett said.
“The evolution of the metaverse is, I think, going to be bottom-up and Darwinian. So these proven technologies are going to be popping out over the next few years if we can be effective as an industry in creating effective standards,” Trevett said. “So access to those enabling foundational technologies can be standardized, then that helps roll out that technology pervasively through the industry. And that removes friction points from the industry. It enables healthy competition and how you actually implement those foundational technologies, even though the access to them is consistent. And that enables the next round of innovation. So we can go around this positive spiral of innovation and standardization.”
Competition is at the core of the standards effort. And the group will encourage lots of prototyping, proving that technology works, and course-correcting when necessary.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the metaverse will be open source.
“It’s very complementary, but quite different to open source, which is where now you have a bunch of companies collaborating on a single implementation in open source,” Trevett said. “Both are great and both are awesome. But the standardization process has this particular capability of fanning out the technology across the industry. Of course, open standards often use open source. So now the two are very complementary. But the standards are key to getting technology to be pervasive and one of the most obvious examples of that successful standards ecosystem” is the standard electrical socket.
We have different standards for wall sockets around the world, but they were the result of long-term efforts to build standards.
So what is driving all this?
“The time has come for the connectivity of the web mixed with spatial computing. I think there are enough use cases out there and early demonstrable products that are showing the value of this new mix technologies,” Trevett said. “Something is going to happen. Now, we all hope it’s not going to be a dystopian Ready Player One. It doesn’t have to be that and that we’re on a journey and solving these immediate problems on getting all this stuff to work together is going to create short-term commercial opportunities way before the whole metaverse is there in its entirety.”
Defining the metaverse?
Trevett said the group won’t try to define the metaverse itself.
“We’re not trying to define what the metaverse is, but we are trying to facilitate getting there sooner,” Trevett said. “The reason that standards are such a essential and important part of getting these technologies out there and available to everyone is, of course, that an open standard enables multiple implementations of the standardized functionality. So you can have a piece of technology that has been multiple implemented and deployed by multiple companies into multiple market segments, all competing helpfully with each other. But it can roll out across the industry.”
He said the effort gathered steam recently, but it’s not just about a particular technology.
“A lot of people think that metaverse is just virtual reality, and they do have a dystopian fear that we’re all going to be into our helmets all day every day. And it’s not the metaverse that is going to be accessed through 2D screens and augmented reality,” Trevett said. “But I think probably most people would trace back to when augmented and virtual reality became XR and started to become more pervasively available. Probably that will be one viable hypothesis from when coming the metaverse started to become more tangibly real. And that’s like five or six years ago, again before the term really became de rigueur that it is it is today.”
He added, “There are lots of islands of innovation that are doing awesome work. The good ones arem aking a lot of money already. Our job is to begin to link all these different islands together into a larger picture. So, again, interoperability is going to be it’s going to be key tomorrow.
Trevett believes that augmented reality will be more widely used than virtual reality, but he notes that his person opinion or that of any given company doesn’t matter as much in the forum, where ideas will be vetted and tested by the group. One of the traditions of standards bodies is to create royalty-free standards, where companies contribute their technologies into the standard and agree not to sue each other for using the different standards-based technologies. Some companies might try to steer the standards toward their own technologies first, but standards groups endeavor to put group and community interests first over political stances or self interests.
Trevett doesn’t believe that standards force everyone into a lowest-common denominator technology.
“It’s slower than one company drafting a spec. It’s slower to get 50 companies to get to consensus on something they can all support. But that is the whole point. That’s not a bug. That’s a feature. Building that that consensus gives you such a wider foundation to build a much larger overall commercial opportunity.”
Founding members of the standards forum include a wide variety of big tech companies, brands, researchers, chip makers, and standards bodies: 0xSenses, Academy Software Foundation, Adobe, Alibaba, Autodesk, Avataar, Blackshark.ai, CalConnect, Cesium, Daly Realism, Disguise, the Enosema Foundation, Epic Games, the Express Language Foundation, Huawei, IKEA, Jon Peddie Research, Khronos, Lamina1, Maxon, Meta, Microsoft, NVIDIA, OpenAR Cloud, the Open Geospatial Consortium, Otoy, Perey Research and Consulting, Qualcomm Technologies, Ribose, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Spatial Web Foundation, Unity, VerseMaker, Wayfair, the Web3D Consortium, the World Wide Web Consortium and the XR Association (XRA).
The idea is to create industry-wide cooperation on interoperability standards needed to build the open metaverse, said Neil Trevett, a vice president at Nvidia and president of The Khronos Group, in an interview with VentureBeat. He noted that the body itself will not create the metaverse. It will let its member companies do that with the standards that it creates.
The forum will explore where the lack of interoperability is holding back metaverse deployment and how the work of Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) defining and evolving needed standards may be coordinated and accelerated. Open to any organization at no cost, the forum will focus on pragmatic, action-based projects such as implementation prototyping, hackathons, plugfests, and open-source tooling to accelerate the testing and adoption of metaverse standards, while also developing consistent terminology and deployment guidelines.
The metaverse is already pushing technology forward, Trevett said. It is motivating the novel integration and deployment of diverse technologies for collaborative spatial computing, such as interactive 3D graphics, augmented and virtual reality, photorealistic content authoring, geospatial systems, end-user content tooling, digital twins, real-time collaboration, physical simulation, online economies, multi-user gaming, and more — at new levels of scale and immersiveness.
Multiple industry leaders have stated that the potential of the metaverse will be best realized if it is built on a foundation of open standards. Building an open and inclusive metaverse at pervasive scale will demand a constellation of open interoperability standards. The group wants to accelerate the creation of standards and reduce duplication of effort across the industry.
Hosted by the Khronos Group, the forum is open to any company, standards organization, or university at no charge through a simple click-through Participant Agreement. Companies that wish to provide Forum oversight, and may wish to fund forum projects, can choose to become a principal member.
The activities of the forum will be directed by the needs and interests of its members and may involve diverse technology domains such as 3D assets and rendering, human interface and interaction paradigms such as AR and VR, user-created content, avatars, identity management, privacy, and financial transactions. Forum meetings are expected to start in July 2022. More information on joining can be found at metaverse-standards.org.
Building tech standards
Industry consortia have taken on big standards before. The PC, the internet and any number of subset technologies have all gone through the process. Sometimes they require huge groups to develop constellations of standards, like with the internet. In the case of the metaverse, multiple standards bodies are getting together because the job is so big and no one wants to duplicate work or design incompatible standards.
“The metaverse is the next generation web plus all kinds of spatial computing, with the exact format to be to be decided,” Trevett said. “But there’s a lot more technologies coming together than the Web1 and Web2.”
There will be short-term issues to work out on interoperability, and there are efforts that could take longer. The efforts are sure to include “plug fests,” or hackathons where the goal is to make as many different individual products or projects work with each other.
Some standards will cover different areas, such as glTF for transmission of 3D graphics over the web, compared to Universal Scene Description (USD, a standard first created by Pixar to make 3D tools compatible) for heavy-duty 3D graphics. In this case, glTF might be used for transmission and USD for authoring. And so the standards group might try to make USD and glTF work together better.
“We’re trying to be very pragmatic and solve problems that are here today,” Trevett said.
Trevett pointed to the creation of XR standards that arrived just in time for the creation of the latest generation of VR headsets. But he noted that the metaverse standards will likely be addressed with a sense of urgency.
“There’s going to be some Darwinian experimentation around business models, experiences that may have a lead today,” he said.
But some may become outdated or could be superseded by better technologies.
“I think the real vision of metaverse, a web, a spatial web, or web that has the connectivity plus the spatial computing element, is going to be most powerful when it’s open,” Trevett said.
Trevett said he doesn’t have an opinion on whether blockchain technology will have a role to play in metaverse standards. But he believes the member companies will sort that out. I asked him if he expects companies to argue about blockchain tech.
“I prefer the term building consensus rather than arguing, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference,” he said.
Statements of support
The following companies issued statements of support for the group.
“Technology and standards are the bricks and cement of the metaverse,” said Qi Wang, assistant president and head of healthcare and cognitive psychology lab at 0xSenses. “Safe, reliable and ethical interoperability is especially important as humans become part of the metaverse. 0xSenses is thrilled to join the Metaverse Standards Forum as a founding principal to help make the metaverse dreams come true faster and better.”
“The Academy Software Foundation is pleased to join the Metaverse Standard Forum as a Founding member, because open source software developed by motion picture industry engineers can contribute building blocks for the Metaverse,” said David Morin, executive director of Academy Software Foundation (ASWF). “When it comes to building strange new worlds and boldly go where no one has gone before, count us in.”
“Adobe is excited to join the Metaverse Standards Forum,” said Stefano Corazza, vice president and fellow of AR at Adobe. “It is in our history to contribute to the industry by defining foundational standards for digital experiences, as we did with PDF and DNG. Establishing standards is essential to foster collaboration in the Metaverse, and to allow this new ecosystem to truly flourish.”
“Alibaba is pleased to join The Metaverse Standards Forum which encourages collaboration on interoperability standards of the open metaverse,” said Dr Tan Ping, head of XR Lab, Alibaba DAMO Academy. “We look forward to sharing our technology knowhow and joining global industry leaders to accelerate constructive dialogues to advance new initiatives in the metaverse space.”
“We are thrilled to be a founding member of the Metaverse Standards Forum as it fosters open standards and collaboration that will unlock the full potential of metaverse experiences,” said Eric Bourque, vice president of Engineering, Media & Entertainment, Autodesk. “The future of design and make is the industrial metaverse where designers, builders, manufacturers and content creators can make better, more informed decisions quickly.”
“Avataar is extremely excited and proud to be taking part in The Metaverse Standards forum to bring about interoperability standards across metaverse ecosystems,” said Sravanth Aluru, CEO & founder of Avataar. “We believe there is a need for technical products to solve the challenges we face in making the end user experience seamless and scalable, and our deep-tech platform is on that path. We look forward to collaborating with the esteemed partners in the forum to build these standards.”
“The metaverse will ultimately encompass all our activities and support them with applications. Just like standardization has been an important foundation for open knowledge sharing and rapid development in the Web age, the same is true for the Metaverse. Blackshark is pleased to contribute to this success by participating in the Metaverse Standards Forum,” said Arno Hollosi, CTO at Blackshark.ai.
“CalConnect focuses on creating standards that enable interoperable collaboration, with some of our key standards like vCard and iCalendar in use across billions of devices today”, said Gershon Janssen, president of CalConnect. “CalConnect is delighted to join fellow standards organizations in ensuring the interoperability of the Metaverse.”
“The Internet is built on open standards and interoperability for the benefit of all participants. As we move into the era of 3D-centric computing, we must build the metaverse in the same manner. I can’t think of a better home than Khronos to host the Metaverse Standards Forum to facilitate pragmatic collaboration among the community for open standards for the metaverse, especially for 3D assets, which will become as pervasive as image and video media types on the web today. Cesium is thrilled to join as a Founding Principal as we lay the foundations for the metaverse for decades to come,” said Patrick Cozzi, CEO at Cesium.
“Disguise is excited to join the Metaverse Standardization Forum,” said Ed Plowman, CTO of Disguise. “Disguise believes that the Metaverse should be open, inclusive and collaborative and that can only be achieved if we get together and focus on standards, connectivity and interoperability.”
“Semantic insights from terminologies and vocabularies serve as the basis for any new initiative,” said Reese Plews, president of the Enosema Foundation. “The Enosema Foundation is excited to join the Metaverse Standards Forum and standardize core vocabularies based on best practices that enable disruptive opportunities in the metaverse.”
“We are thrilled to help launch the Metaverse Standards Forum, a collaborative industry-led effort founded to accelerate the development and adoption of interoperability standards,” said Marc Petit, vice president of Unreal Engine ecosystem at Epic Games. “Our goal is to build an open metaverse that enriches humanity and is home to a thriving, fair ecosystem with millions of creators.”
“The Metaverse is the new frontier for the expression of information. As an organization supporting the EXPRESS language used to great success in the aerospace, automotive and construction industries, we are excited to work with like-minded standardization and commercial organizations in setting standards to bridge the physical and the virtual worlds,” said Thomas Thurman, president of the Express Language Foundation.
“Huawei is very glad to join the Metaverse Standards Forum as we believe that the metaverse industry and ecosystem will benefit from the collaborative actions and open standards,” said Xiao Ran, vice president of Huawei’s Corporate Strategy and Industry Development. “We look forward to cooperating with the leading SDO’s and industry partners to accelerate the open interoperability standards for metaverse and contribute our experiences.”
“IKEA is looking forward to this Metaverse Standards Forum as we believe that the way to democratize metaverse and spatial computing is to have many open standards that work well together,” says Martin Enthed, innovation manager at IKEA Marketing & Communication AB. “This forum we hope will be a place where that coordination could happen between SDO’s, industry, and where IKEA can contribute with the use cases and experiences from our industry.”
“We are proud to be a founding member of this vitally important new forum for ideas, clarifications, direction and definition of what the Metaverse will be and can be,” said Dr. Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research. “The foundational elements have been in development for some time and now the interoperability and interconnectivity is possible. Khronos will help ensure it is open, smoothly implemented, and takes advantage of the collective minds of the industry just as they have in other areas.”
“Lamina1 is committed to an open Metaverse for all— controlled by no one, with no barriers to entry, and where creators from all walks of life can succeed and thrive,” said Tony Parisi, chief strategy officer at Lamina1. “We are excited to work in collaboration with industry leaders to define the interoperable standards and infrastructure that empower real-time 3D for community, communication and commerce on a global scale.”
“Maxon is pleased to be an initial member of the Metaverse Standards Forum. We believe strongly in cultivating a collaborative, artist-driven, inclusive foundation to bolster the implementation and adoption of interoperability standards,” said David McGavran, CEO of Maxon. “We see standardization as a catalyst for creativity, growth, innovation and unlimited possibility for this inspiring new ecosystem.”
“Building a metaverse for everyone will require an industry-wide focus on common standards. The Metaverse Standards Forum can drive the collaboration that’s needed to make this possible, and Meta is committed to this work. Creators, developers and companies will all benefit from the technologies and experiences that will be made possible by common protocols,” said Vishal Shah, vice president of Metaverse at Meta.
“Nvidia understands the metaverse as an evolution of the Internet — from today’s 2D view of the web to an immersive 3D spatial overlay,” said Rev Lebaredian, vice president, Omniverse & Simulation Technology at Nvidia. “For the metaverse to be successful and ubiquitous, it must be built on open standards, just like today’s 2D web — and our joining the Metaverse Standards Forum will help the community usher in a new era of collaborative and open 3D standards that will form the foundation of the metaverse.”
“The Open AR Cloud Association (OARC) sees the Metaverse Standards Forum as a much needed practical approach to accelerate coordination across industries and initiatives. We believe technologies which promote open standards, interoperability, privacy, and security are needed for a real-world Metaverse or Spatial Web. Since 2018 OARC’s mission has been to advocate for, build consensus for, and contribute to such efforts. We are happy to offer our full support for the Metaverse Standards Forum,” said Jan-Erik Vinje, managing director of OARC.
“OGC is very pleased to join the Metaverse Standards Forum with our partner organizations,” said Nadine Almeh, Open Geospatial Consortium president. “We look forward to providing our consortium’s collective expertise in the geospatial and location fields as part of these partnerships across Standards Development Organizations, industry, and more to ensure the emerging metaverse is as relevant and as open as possible.”
“As we enter a new era of spatial computing and holographic mixed reality, OTOY is thrilled to contribute to the Metaverse Standards Forum,” said Jules Urbach, CEO and founder of OTOY Inc. “Open standards developed in collaboration with the leading SDO will provide a framework for building an open metaverse that has the potential to reshape how we communicate, transform our creative economy, and power new industries built on advanced 3D visualization. We are looking forward to collaborating with industry leaders in the Metaverse Standards Forum, contributing our experiences at the forefront of 3D graphics and blockchain cloud computing.”
“As a metaverse enabler and provider of key technology to the ecosystem, Qualcomm Technologies believes in taking an open platform approach and interoperable metaverse,” said Hugo Swart, vice president and general manager of XR, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “We are thrilled to join the Metaverse Standards Forum to help define standards for the metaverse to flourish with a healthy ecosystem, and help creators pioneer innovative experiences that will lead the next generation of immersive technology.”
“An open and interoperable Metaverse benefits all without discrimination. As a pioneer of SMART standards, Ribose has been a trusted partner of international, national and industry standardization bodies in their development and deployment of machine-readable standards: from ISO to ITU, BSI to NIST, CalConnect to OGC,” said Ronald Tse, founder of Ribose. “We are excited to join fellow standards bodies and makers in creating standards and technologies critical to interoperability across the Metaverse.”
“The Spatial Web Foundation is excited to join the Metaverse Standards Forum to collaborate with the world’s leading standards organizations to accelerate the critical interoperability standards needed for metaverse applications and across the broader Spatial Web,” said Gabriel Rene, Spatial Web Foundation executive director.
“Unity is committed to helping solve challenges customers face today for creating and sharing the rich content needed for film, gaming, advertising and digital twin experiences,” said Allan Poore, SVP of professional artistry at Unity, “We look forward to partnering with the Metaverse Standards Forum to extend USD as the future for rich interoperability across tools and workflows in the industry.”
“VerseMaker is committed to becoming a bridge and catalyst for China’s research and development, education and training, large enterprises, start-up companies, and investment institutions to participate in the global metaverse innovation and cooperation ecosystem,” said Dr. Yu Yuan, co-founder of VerseMaker. “Standardization is the underlying driving force for the development of the global metaverse industry. An open and cooperative ecosystem based on standards is the common vision of the global metaverse industry. We are thrilled to be a founding principal of the Metaverse Standards Forum and jointly create the future of the global metaverse industry.”
“Wayfair, with our mission to help people create their feeling of home, whether in physical or virtual spaces, is proud to be a founding member of the Metaverse Standards Forum,” said Shrenik Sadalgi, director of research and development at Wayfair & founding chair of the Khronos 3D Commerce Working Group. “Together with the other participating members we are excited to take on a leadership role in the creation of these new standards and help chart the path forward to a truly open metaverse.”
“The Metaverse Standards Forum provides a unique opportunity to achieve secure, collaborative (interoperable), durable, and pervasive Mixed-Reality content,” said Nicholas Polys Ph.D., president of the Web3D Consortium. “The Web3D Consortium members bring decades of prior research into 3D graphics interoperability and WWW ecosystem standardizations; integration with ISO-IEC Extensible 3D (X3D) Version 4 will bring quick wins that catalyze new value and provide crucial assurances for Metaverse creators and participants.”
“The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is joining the Metaverse Standards Forum to accelerate the coordination with other standards organizations and metaverse stakeholders in building an interoperable platform for the metaverse, in which W3C’s Immersive Web vision is set to play a critical role,” said Dominique Hazaël-Massieux, W3C immersive web strategist.
“XR Association is pleased to be part of this prestigious collaborative effort to design the XR standards framework,” said Stephanie Montgomery, vice president of Research and Best Practices at XRA. “Our mission is the responsible development and advancement of XR. Through the Metaverse Standards Forum we will contribute to common protocols, interoperability and shared understanding, thereby responsibly improving technological efficiencies and advancing XR technology to new levels of delight.”
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