The Metaverse Standards Forum: What You Need to Know

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By Jasper Thomas

Many imagine the Metaverse as the next generation of the Internet, a vast, unconstrained 3D network of virtual and augmented spaces where people can participate in whatever activities they do online – work, play, learn, explore – but on different ways that feel more like real life.

For this to happen, many layers of technology standards and protocols must be established and adopted by Metaverse platforms.

Join the Metaverse Standards Forum (MSF), founded in June 2022 to “promote the development of interoperability standards for an open and inclusive metaverse and accelerate their development and deployment through pragmatic, action-based projects.” Since the vision of the Metaverse is still a work in progress, the group also has the stated goal of bringing some order to the underlying terminology of the Metaverse.

What is the Metaverse Standards Forum?

The MSF is an industry-wide effort to harmonize standards and best practices for the metaverse. The 1,800 members to date include the tech titans Google, Meta, Microsoft and Nvidia; standardization bodies Khronos Group and Web3D Consortium; multinational software companies Adobe, Autodesk and Epic; and professional technology services firm Accenture.

Neil Trevett, chairman of Doctors Without Borders, vice president of ecosystem development at Nvidia and president of Khronos Group, called the forum a “unique venue for coordination between standards organizations and industry.”

Science fiction author Neal Stephenson, who coined the term, spoke at the opening event of the “Building the Metaverse” forum Metaverse in his 1992 novel Snow accidentemphasized that the process of developing standards for the metaverse must be a collaborative effort.

“I don’t believe in a top-down approach to what the metaverse should look like. It should be bottom-up and contain as few absolute rules as possible,” Stephenson said. “Builders have to decide.”

What is the purpose of the Metaverse Standards Forum?

Since there are already so many standards organizations in this area, it is easy to wonder whether creating another standards group will only add to the confusion. But IT leaders hope the new initiative will consolidate existing work and suggest areas for further harmonization.

“Whether you subscribe to a single metaverse or multiverse model, users need interoperability to realize the value of the metaverse,” said Kevin Collins, managing director at Accenture.

I don’t believe in a top-down approach to what the metaverse should look like. It should be bottom-up with as few absolute rules as possible.

Neal StephensonAuthor, “Snow Crash”

Interoperability is needed so that platforms can interact with each other, Collins explained, and so that users can easily move between platforms while carrying their identity, assets and communications with them. He believes that the efforts of the Metaverse Standards Forum will promote and coordinate the development and adoption of the standards necessary to ensure the creation of an interconnected and consistent metaverse.

The MSF itself has emphasized that it wants to coordinate the requirements and resources of other standards organizations rather than create new standards. To this end, it collaborates with a variety of standards organizations in related areas, including the Khronos Group, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Open Geospatial Consortium, the Open AR Cloud, the Spatial Web Foundation and many others.

“This coordination will help participants think about the types of standards needed for consumer and enterprise use cases,” said Frank Palermo, executive vice president and head of technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) at Virtusa, a consulting firm for digital technology.

“It is important to have some cooperating bodies that think through standards. Otherwise, different companies will build their own version of the metaverse across a variety of technologies that may not easily work together,” Palermo said.

Key technical areas for standardization

Palermo believes that one of the most important technical areas that should be considered in standardization is data exchange. Virtual worlds can represent the size, shape, behavior, sounds and animations of objects in different ways. Standards like Khronos Group’s glTF help ensure efficient transfer and loading of 3D objects.

Additional standards are emerging to describe the physical properties of objects, how objects are assembled and animated. 3D Tiles, for example, streams huge 3D data sets in real time. Universal Scene Description organizes a collection of objects into scenes. PhysX shares the physics and behavioral properties of objects. MaterialX describes the texture and appearance of objects.

An MSF 2022 Opinion poll Prioritized the following areas that were expected to have the greatest impact on the industry:

  • interoperable 3D assets
  • Privacy, security, inclusion
  • User Identity
  • Avatars and clothing
  • Integration of the real/virtual world and geospatial data
  • teaching and education
  • Payments and Economy
  • augmented reality and user interface

Why is the Metaverse Standards Forum important?

Forum members hope the process will help build trust among the builders of the metaverse. This is important as the industry explores new technologies and new business models. Early blockchain and decentralized finance efforts attempted to address trust programmatically, but discovered new vulnerabilities and types of abuse that no one could have previously imagined.

Better standards could also ensure interoperability between worlds – the lack of which would create complexity for users and developers, Collins said.

“The risk [of not creating standards] “is a very disappointing user experience as it forces users to create new avatars, purchase new assets, sign up for different services and follow different rules as they jump from one platform to the next,” Collins said. “Creators must behave in new code for each instance.”

Metaverse Standards Forum Challenges

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that interoperability needs to work smoothly at many different levels at the same time. “The seemingly simple goal of metaverse interoperability hides a much more complex reality,” Collins said.

Companies must support common technical standards for infrastructure, devices, interfaces and representations. You also need to support other levels such as: B. Identity management, digital asset ownership, intellectual property, privacy and security.

And at some point, the metaverse will have to grapple with new regulations designed to protect citizens and governments, similar to the patchwork of privacy, social media, and AI regulation emerging today.

“The complexity and multitude of layers involved make the search for metaverse interoperability a significant challenge, which only becomes more difficult when you consider the issue of regulation,” Collins said.

Emmanuelle Rivet, vice chair of US TMT and global technology leader at PwC, predicts that interoperability will create new challenges for collecting and protecting data. It can also undermine business strategies aimed at locking users and their data to a particular platform.

Standards for an open and inclusive metaverse are in the works, but major challenges remain to be overcome.

How to participate in the Metaverse Standards Forum

The MSF is free to all participants, including companies, standards organizations, non-profit organizations, industry associations and universities. Any person authorized to sign legal documents on behalf of the company can do so start the process. You can easily participate in forum discussions and projects, optionally help with forum oversight, or fund forum projects. Individuals can also sign up for a free newsletter to stay informed of updates Here.

As those interviewed for this article pointed out, the tremendous momentum behind the Metaverse Standards Forum in some ways reflects the enthusiasm of the Metaverse Standards Forum Interop Conferences in the early days of the Internet. At that time, telecommunications service providers were busy “perfecting” the Open Systems Interconnection stack to meet every situation.

Meanwhile, TCP/IP protocol advocate Dan Lynch organized the first interop conference in 1986, which required devices from all vendors to work together. Despite technical shortcomings, this collaboration helped solidify TCP/IP as the basis for unifying the Internet to this day. Proponents hope the Metaverse Standards Forum will do the same for the Metaverse stack.

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