Seems all the news these days is about the MetaVerse. Facebook, Niantic, and others keep talking about it. FortNite is the MetaVerse, RecRoom is the MetaVerse, PokemonGo is the MetaVerse, people just won't stop pointing and things and going "That's the Metaverse!" ... It's as bad as a 3 year old pointing at every animal on four legs and going "DOG!".
Of course, it's not fair to start an article like that without planting my own flag on what the metaverse is. So what do I think the MetaVerse is? First off, it's not a product from any one company. Just like Microsoft doesn't own Word Processing, no one company can own the MetaVerse.
The MetaVerse, or the "MagicVerse" as we used to call it at my previous employer, is a set of open standards that can be implemented by multiple vendors and consumed by multiple platforms. The MetaVerse is a means of distributing Artificial Reality content to consumer viewing devices. Some of these devices will be head-worn AR and VR headsets, some of them will be hand-held tablets and phones, and some of them will be fixed Desktops or Kiosks. The content that's displayed will sometimes be augments onto an existing physical place, and some will be fantastical otherworldly locations that simply cannot exist in reality. With proper infrastructure, all of them can be enjoyed by all people.
In a MetaVerse enabled world, physical locations will be able to be augmented in both entertaining and useful ways for consumption on a wide variety of devices. The part nobody wants to talk about is that this already happens today, and in the most mundane of ways. Have you ever been in a big retail store, for example Home Depot or Walmart, and you load up their app on your phone and it detects which store you're in, and then can tell you where in the store that item can be found. Welcome to the MetaVerse, it's already here.
But that's not the sexy example people want to see. With a bit more effort, the same inventory system could be correlated to a 3D map of the store. Then, in an AR Headset (like a MagicLeap, NReal, or Hololens) you could do the same thing, but have a visual overlay in your field of vision, possibly even with some value-add features like a navigation line to the products location. Lastly, the store could perform a high-resolution scan of their location and present it in a VR Headset for someone to view remotely. All of these lie on the spectrum of MetaVerse content, each leaning in to the best features of those platforms. Nobody wants to wave a phone around at arms length for any period of time, and nobody wants to try and decipher Aisle and Bin numbers in a headset.
The only true MetaVerse realization will come once some standards emerge so that all of these platforms can use the same base map and location positioning system. Basically, how do all of these devices know where the checkout counter is at? No physical location wants to manage multiple maps, one for each vendor. It would be the same as VHS vs BetaMax, or BluRay vs HD-DVD, eventually one would dominate and the others would bend to adopt it. There must be a way to generate a single map of a space that can be both a good CV/SLAM Representation of the space to use for location work, and a good photorealistic representation for rendering work. Once this exists and tools are created to manipulate it (even to create it from scratch for those otherworldly location), then the MetaVerse will bloom. Once a location owner can create a map and then hire an overseas developer group to build an experience, without ever actually setting foot on site, that'll be the first steps. Once a high schooler can download a map of a public space and start augmenting it in exciting new ways from the comfort of their bedroom, that'll be when we start to see the truly amazing and bizarre flourish. And once these maps and their relevant content become the newest DNS record extensions, we'll finally have ubiquity.
What the MetaVerse needs is a LAMP stack. DNS Records with geoposition relevance pointing to elegible MetaVerse content servers, searchable by Google and other automated systems, and with API's to allow programmatic access to the space and the space content from non-augmented systems. Then, when I enter a physical location I get a notification on my MetaVerse enabled devices "Would you like to join the <X> Metaverse?", and it automatically knows what code to download and servers to connect me to. And if I'm at home and want to join a MetaVerse remotely, I can fire up GoogleVerse and find a MetaVerse of interest to join and explore. While I'm there, algorithms are continually refining the content and using information about me to make recommendations or alterations. Interested in sports? Look over here! A bit short? Let me show you what's on the top shelf automatically. Last week when you were here you were looking for Ceiling Fans, would you like to see a new model we just got in? These changes are not globally visible to everyone, they're all a tailored experience just for me.
The MetaVerse is not any single app, it's a platform for distributing content to multiple viewing devices that can then independently determine how to view it. And you know what that sounds like? The Web.