Why commonness and interoperability is critical in Metaverse
One of the striking qualities of the superhit film franchise ‘Star Wars’ was its depiction of a used future. While most futuristic films showed a clean and high profile world, Star Wars gave us a future that was regularly used and dirty! This sense of commonness is absolutely crucial for virtual worlds too. The physical world has our signature in it. It is a platform for our human culture and interaction which makes it psychologically compelling to involve in. Along with moving along and interacting with anyone anytime, our presence in the physical world encompasses our body features such as voice, fingerprints, retina and also global features such as signature, birth certificate, passports together with key documents such as bank accounts, credit cards etc. Then, our identity is again broadened by what we produce and consume: books, movies and music that we like and the food we cook or eat. Our comprehension about the real world can change; for example when we are sleeping, but our identity remains the same even if our senses are not aware of it. Similarly, our identities may be damaged, broken or stolen but there is always a real “me” that sustains. For a 3D virtual world to be effective, some of these elements have to be incorporated.
Easy access and availability – In a traditional scenario, you have to be located at an appropriate spot to access virtual worlds. You need a computer or a laptop, working internet connection, headsets and also an atmosphere that isn’t too noisy. This is far from the realm of the actual physical world that you can access on the go. But, thanks to smartphones and other modern gadgets, this situation is changing. You can now access the amazing world of metaverse even when you move around which makes their availability quite easy. The advanced audiovisual power, front facing cameras, accelerometers, gyroscopes and multi touch screens have tremendously improved the scope of Virtual worlds accessibility. Moreover, with most modern wearable technology on the rise, their availability is only supposed to be easier. Very soon, with a blink of an eye or the move of a wrist you will be inside a virtual world which will be as real as the physical world you dwell in.
Display unique persona and presence – There is a digital “me” that exists for everyone in the physical world. We use our bank accounts, credit cards and memberships in various organizations as credentials that represent us. We use them literally everywhere to get things done. Personal, social, financial, entertainment… All our needs are carried out by such credentials that represent us. With the growth of such systems, the flow of information too has changed from producers and consumers to ‘prosumers’, who simultaneously create, view and modify content. So, a persona is a sum total of a person’s online presence, the digital content that he creates, views or modifies. Such presence is vital in the virtual world too. Many virtual worlds have virtual banks and currencies embedded in them that facilitates buying, creating and viewing. Users are assigned with various virtual identities that they can use to access various content. Very soon, using them, you will be able to watch a live concert happening thousands of miles away or even tour another country!
This is probably the driving force of Metaverse. Let us just take a look at the Internet. Internet is equipped with layered standards that allow different and diverse networks and subnetworks to clearly interact with each other. In the real world, when our bodies move between locations, our identity too travels from one place to the other without any trouble. Even our possessions and assets can be transferred from one location to the other without undergoing any major changes. So, there is a continuity in the real world that keeps us and our objects intact during transit. And this is why, metaverse, the integration of various virtual worlds aims at providing a platform for socio cultural interaction, just like in the physical world. Such amalgamation would make all virtual worlds, regardless of its size and canvas, part of a larger entity or existence.
Standards that facilitate interoperability – The first popular standard for Virtual World was Virtual Reality Modelling Language. (VRML). VRML defined an individual 3D space as a single world file that can be downloaded and displayed using any VRML compatible browser. VRML was followed by X3D that expanded on the graphics potential of VRML. Then came COLLAborative Design Activity (COLLADA) which was an interchange format. The popularity of COLLADA ensured easier exchange of goods and behaviors from one virtual world to another. COLLADA is not just a virtual world standard but it can also be used as a general purpose 3D object interchange mechanism.
Layers of interoperability – Interoperability in Metaverse should exist in various layers. To begin with, there should be a model standard to reproduce properties, geometry, assets and even behavior of virtual world environments. VRML, X3D and COLLADA are predominantly model standards.
Protocol standard enables interactive and transactional contract between a virtual world user and server. This provides a try and test scenario for both users and servers within the realms of compatibility. Open Cobalt is one of the efficient platforms that makes it easy to create collaborative and hyperlinked multi user virtual workspaces, virtual exhibit spaces and game based environments that run on all major software operating systems.
A locator standard helps in finding places and landmarks across Virtual Worlds. The internet is already familiar with this technology in the form of URLs and the same can be completely adapted for virtual landmarks. Linden Lab already used that for their Second Life locations.
An identity standard gives a user unique credentials that can be used across virtual world boundaries. This could be equivalent to our real life license numbers, social security numbers, passport etc.
A currency standard will define the value of virtual objects and creations, thus enabling their trade and exchange. Different virtual worlds already feature their own unique virtual currency and very soon there will be developments in Open Metaverse Currency that will serve as a universally accepted virtual form of currency.