Rather than focus on what Metaverse means in future predictions, the Metaverse Standards Forum aims to focus on the building blocks developers need today. Others (like me) might argue over the nomenclature.
what the virtual world needs
When designing virtual worlds — especially those designed to interact with the real world — dealing with large amounts of data is inevitable. Every object or character in a video game consists of geometric data (i.e. the shape of the object), textures, physical features such as weight and mass, behaviors, animations, sounds, etc.
Khronos hopes that the MSF standard will make most data as interoperable as JPEG is today. JPEGs are known to be so transferable and widely supported that no encryption technique can stop someone from right-clicking and saving it. In contrast, 3D objects often don’t even know the upward direction. Move an object from one game engine to another – if you can import it – it may break.
This is where the Khronos project GLTF aims to help. Originally released in 2015, this open standard competes with other 3D formats such as OBJ and FBX files. Allegorically, you can think of OBJs as a bit like old BMP files: they’re technically pictures, but in an extremely limited, inefficient, and cumbersome format. At the same time, FBX is a bit like PSD. They’re more powerful, but it’s a proprietary format owned by one company.
In this painful metaphor, GLTF is a bit like the JPEG of the 3D world. Or at least Khronos hoped so. Part of what makes the JPEG format so important is that it’s an open standard that’s lightweight and useful enough to gain widespread adoption. GLTF may become just as popular, or it may end up being just another item in a long list of file types you can import into Blender but never use.
However, the need for interoperability standards will always exist, even if only as a check on know-how. “If there’s a big lag between the technology becoming available and the standards that make it publicly available,” Trevette explained, “then there’s a chance that proprietary technology will be incorporated into the infrastructure of the metaverse, and I don’t think anyone really want that.”
“But if there are no standards available, you have no choice.”
sell boring stuff
If you’re having a hard time understanding the idea of setting standards for virtual worlds that may never exist, don’t worry. You are not alone. Although Khronos refers to it as the Metaverse Standards Forum — which, as Khronos is careful to point out, helps bootstrap but won’t run in the future — MSF doesn’t pay too much attention to defining what the Metaverse means. Or even whether to continue using the term.
“And that texture, the ‘metaverse,’ might be replaced. I don’t think it really matters. You know, it might go down the ‘information superhighway’ way. We don’t use that texture anymore,” Trevette Say. In fact, while no one uses the term “cyberspace” anymore, we still use the internet it once described.
But no matter how unrealistic or even unpopular, the idea of fantasizing virtual worlds is more exciting than having people sit down and explain the importance of interoperable, non-proprietary data interchange formats. At the same time, an exciting array of technologies, from virtual filmmaking to photogrammetry to augmented reality, is changing the way we interact with the internet.
This will manifest as ready player one? Or is it just a collection of different industries doing a lot of really cool stuff, but not necessarily merging into a single fantasy world? Hard to say.Well, maybe not That hard. But no matter what the future ends up being, someone has to build it.