In this three-part blog series, let us discuss and explore on the way, the mighty world of metaverse. The last of the three parts in this blog series explores specific issues around the Metaverse through the perspective that it is our future.
The previous part of our Blog series concluded by stating that Metaverse “is the future that we all will be living in”. Contrary to how certain it sounds, we felt, that conclusion was not a definite end per se. So today we pick up from where we left. If Metaverse is the future that we all will be living in, we find ourselves caught in specific issues surrounding the Metaverse, that we would like to approach from two different perspectives. Firstly, from a technological point of view – to create an integrated world that is always “on” there needs to be a seamless flow among platforms – the need of interoperability. Second, from a consumer point of view, the need for regulations and governance in a world that is quite ungovernable.
The lack of interoperability is the biggest challenge in realizing the ‘future-building’ ambitions of Metaverse companies today. It holds back metaverse deployment and there is a constant evolving need for coordinated standards among companies. Presently, the virtual worlds exist in silos. Unless these several virtual worlds become compatible with each other enabling us to move seamlessly from one world to another, they will remain in silos and will not account for the promise of the great experiences of the metaverse. The very foundation of a connected system is openness and interoperability. The potential of the metaverse will be best realized only if it is built on a foundation of open standards.
If Technology companies have their issues concerning Metaverse in terms of development and deployment, we must not forget to consider its impact on the Users. It is quite usual that technological innovations are faster than the need to even realize it needs governance. It so happens with every technological advancement, crises occur after. In the aftermath of these crises is when the society learns from them, and the regulations follow.
If The most attractive facet of the metaverse is anonymity, the fact that you can be anyone in metaverse with your multiple avatars. If you can be anyone in the virtual world, it will also mean that you may not need to prove your identity. This poses a threat to any effort around governance or regulations. To be viable as a place to live in, the metaverse will be in absolute need of regulations, in some instances better than the real-world, to protect its Users from abuse, loss and fraudulent encounters. Anonymity is a double-edged sword, while it is good for protecting one’s privacy, it also provides cover for the ‘bad guys’. Also, the challenge would be to apply the governance efforts and regulations on a global level, on common grounds.
The Way Ahead
To begin with, Companies that are involved in building the metaverse should take proactive steps to create their own code of conduct, which in turn would assimilate as building blocks for metaverse regulatory bodies. Architects of these virtual worlds have a responsibility to ensure the safety of its users. The requirement of set standards will be felt at an alarming rate while crises occur. Hence it is imperative to develop standards and regulations alongside developing the mighty metaverse, in itself.
Therefore, initiatives such as The Metaverse Standards Forum formed by the coalition of leading Standards Organizations and Companies to drive Open Metaverse Interoperability would be important. Announced as recent as June 2022, the Metaverse Standards Forum boasts of big names as founding members that include Meta, Microsoft, Epic Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment, NVIDIA, Adobe, Alibaba, Khronos, OpenAR Cloud, Qualcomm Technologies, Blackshark.ai, Huawei, IKEA, Maxon, the Open Geospatial Consortium, Wayfair, the Web3D Consortium, the World Wide Web Consortium, and the XR Association (XRA), among many others. There are several such initiatives, including Conventions, Conferences, for example the most recent SIGGRAPH 2022 Conference held last month, presently discussing the need of building open and regulated metaverse.
The dialogue among the creators and architects of Metaverse, on interoperability standards to build the open metaverse, the need of building governance and regulations alongside, would best define how fast and safe we would be approaching the reality of Metaverse.