Your car can power the metaverse (and other predictions)
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A version of the metaverse is likely to come out in the next five years. At first it will only be able to provide sight and sound (and maybe a little haptic feedback for touch). Full immersion is only possible in 10 or 20 years.
But how will the metaverse actually work? And what opportunities does it offer? Let’s look at what could happen from a more practical point of view. Here are four predictions:
Most envision that a metaverse will be a fully immersive 3D world, which will be as ubiquitous as the internet is today. Let’s put that in perspective. At the moment, according to MMO population, Final Fantasy XIV has approximately 3.3 million active players. A huge amount, but clearly manageable.
Europe alone has almost 750 million people, almost 90% of whom are on broadband internet. Even with a conservative estimate of only 10% of people who use the metaverse regularly, that’s 75 million people on the metaverse. That’s still 25 times more people on the metaverse than playing the biggest MMO today. And that’s a very, very low estimate – and only for Europe.
A potential, high-quality estimate could be closer to the number of active Facebook users. That’s 2.89 billion. If so, we’ll need 800 times more servers than today’s largest MMO.
We can’t scale with only data centers
Even the largest companies in the world will struggle to build enough data centers to handle the potential number of users the metaverse could have. It is possible, but it is a huge investment.
You need a lot of options to properly host the metaverse. You need a decentralized system because of its scale. You need computing power for every part.
So, realistically, companies will not be able to build their own infrastructure to handle this. The metaverse will require a concerted effort by multiple companies, sharing their resources. It must be a collaboration.
We will probably use idle machines
Orchestration will be key to making the metaverse run smoothly. We need hundreds if not thousands of servers working in tandem. And we will have to bring the capacity of several different providers together and make them work together.
But there are other ways to get sufficient capacity. More and more capable CPUs are being placed in more and more devices. That includes trains, cars and even excavators. What’s interesting are electric cars. When you’re not using them, they’re just sitting there with a really big cable in the box. That cable can easily transfer data, and you could host some of the metaverse from your car. At the same time, some of it can be hosted on the train that does nothing there.
And there are other machines, powerful computers, that can power the metaverse. Universities with hundreds of computers idle at night. Game computers. People’s laptops. They could all help host the metaverse. That does not mean that data centers are completely redundant; they will still be needed.
If the metavers get as big as we dream, it’s going to take every gram of computing power we can get. And an orchestrator to manage it all.
We can split the hosting
There’s another problem: latency. It is not enough to use all these servers, it also needs a fast connection to make the user feel immersed in the metaverse. Any delay and it will feel even more jarring than a typical game.
Depending on what you do, if you are communicating with someone you would like to have a latency of 30 milliseconds or less. But for elements of the metaverse that you don’t interact with, you might go up to 100 milliseconds or more, depending on how far away it is. So you need infinite scale, but not everyone and everything needs to have the same latency.
However, it would be impractical to always host everything on a server close to the users. So how can we mitigate that problem? Well, we can split the parts. Objects close to the user, things they are likely to interact with, can be hosted with low latency. Distant objects, which are unlikely to change, can be hosted with higher latency. The user will never realize it.
If we want to solve this problem, many partnerships are needed. And the industry needs to come together and create the standards to make this happen.
2. People could pay with computing power
It will be incredibly difficult to host the metaverse without some sort of decentralized model. And using idle machines is just one approach.
But that approach can also help keep costs down for end users. There are three ways that users can pay to access the metaverse:
Commercial break. Pay with care. Subscription. Pay with money. computing power. Pay with your computer.
If you can host some of the metaverse in your browser, you can pay by donating your CPU power. But it is of course complicated to find those possible locations.
Or a person can run the metaverse on their computer while it is idle. This would help solve the capacity issues, but also wouldn’t require that user to see ads. And if a person wants to build some servers and add them to the network, they can even earn a little for themselves.
A metaverse needs a currency
Things only get really interesting when you have your own economy in the metaverse – maybe your own currency or a currency that you can use outside of that reality. In Second Life there was even a bank from the Netherlands that would have an office in that world. There was a lot of hype about this at the time, and that’s pretty close to what we’re going to do with a metaverse. But back then it wasn’t really technically possible and people weren’t really ready for it.
Now we have cryptocurrencies. Games have their own economies and currencies. It’s easy to imagine that you can earn tokens by selling your computing power, which you can then use to buy skins or subscribe to the metaverse itself. And as it gets more valuable, that value is easy to transfer to the real world.
If the metaverse is to grow, it needs a huge variety of content. Fresh, interesting content that keeps us there and wanting to go back. How does that happen? It happens by making it easy to create content.
Content, not technology, will be the limiting factor. If you have a really boring landscape with boring buildings, no one wants to be there. So to get that content, you need people who are going to build it. And to build it, you need good tools. We’re not there yet. We need tools that are accessible and usable by anyone.
That could give people the tools to create their own little miniverse. Or it could be tools to create content within a larger metaverse, such as your own planet.
We’ve seen this with the internet. In the beginning it was difficult to make a website – you really had to know how to program it yourself. Now you just use a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress. It’s all drag and drop. It’s simple and easy.
The average Joe who just wants to run a shop in the metaverse wouldn’t resort to a programmer or anyone with that kind of skill, preferring to rely on something easy to use. And eventually there will be standards for the metaverse, just like we have in the financial world. All “average Joe” people will step in the standard that has already been set.
So in the future we will see the emergence of similar tools that make it easy for anyone to create content, such as a metaverse management system (MMS).
4. We will see new jobs appear
As it becomes easier to create content in the metaverse, whether that be within an established metaverse or a miniverse for a smaller company, we will begin to see new jobs and roles.
If you’re going to build a store, you need an architect, and you need someone to lay out the bricks and plumbing. So you probably have a metaverse architect. But you can’t expect every architect to be a senior programmer. It all depends on the tooling. You have several tools for building a store or building electronics. So if you’re going to build a store now, you need an experienced programmer. That will change in the future.
There are the obvious ones: metaverse engineers and designers. But it opens up a range of possibilities.
We will see metaverse stores
Brands are already building their own apps and websites. On Instagram, 67% of the top 100 brands are already using the new shopping feature, allowing users to purchase products without leaving Instagram. In the metaverse, we will definitely see similar approaches: companies that sell products exclusively through the metaverse. Virtual and physical goods. Literal markets and auctions. Brands will not only think of physical stores; they will also think about their bit-and-byte stores.
We will see virtual architects and designers
There are other virtual products that people are going to create and even sell. Maybe it’s a building or a planet, or maybe it’s a skin for your avatar or even an outfit.
This community-created content will be part of how the metaverse remains vibrant and relevant. But it also gives creative people the opportunity to contribute and earn a living.
We will see new marketing roles
Today we have content marketing. Tomorrow we have metaverse marketing. It is not enough to advertise in the same way. People want interesting locations and things to do in those private branded metaverses. Why should people visit your brand’s planet? What’s unique or interesting about it?
It’s very likely that marketers need to learn about game design if they want to create those worlds.
We are going to see completely new roles
There will certainly be roles that no one could predict. No one thought that streaming would become a career when the internet first emerged.
New types of businesses will emerge. The possibilities in the metaverse are much broader. You could design clothes, but also wings or other body parts. There are more opportunities than in this world, so we’re going to see companies that couldn’t even exist in this world. We will see virtual companies that only work in the metaverse.
But it’s entirely possible to have virtual guides showing you the sights of Paris from the comfort of your living room. Or new-style historians, who build a metaverse where you can relive old battles and see what really happened.
Elmer Bulthuis is CTO of gameye†
Ilyas Baas is a software engineer at gameye†
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