#1058: Building Blocks of the Metaverse are Interoperable Standards: Summarizing the MetaTraversal Initiative Conversations

There’s a lot of debates about the Metaverse, and whether or not it’s complete BS or if it’s the natural evolution of the Internet as a culmination of a spatial computing revolution that’s been evolving human computer interaction from 2D frames to immersive 3D worlds. Because I cover VR & AR technologies, then my orientation to whatever the Metaverse may become is through the lens of XR and how the sense of active presence, mental & social presence, emotional presence, and embodied & environmental presence has the potential to transform nearly every contextual domain of human experience, which I documented in my 3-hour, episode #1000 of the Voices of VR podcast. I also recently gave an opening keynote at The Gatherverse Summit where I presented my vision of what the Metaverse is, and how I start to conceive of it. It’s a densely packed talk which is on YouTube, but the slides are also available. However, as much as I’ve explored the different theoretical and sensemaking frameworks about the Metaverse, then there are still a number of aspects that I myself don’t have good conceptual frames about. That’s where the MetaTraversal Initiative and my conversation with some of the key members in this podcast episode have helped to close some gaps, and help focus the conversation through the near-term open standards and specifications that will continually develop and inform whatever the building blocks of the Metaverse may be built out of.

Ben Erwin and his WebXR Polys team including Julie Smithson and Sophia Moshasha have been collaborating with the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group Co-Chair Evo Heyning + others like Khronos Group President Neil Trevett on the “MetaTraversal Initiative” (aka “MetaTr@versal”), which has been a series of conversations with immersive engineers and XR designers about the frontiers of interoperability and open standards within the Metaverse. The @MetaTraversal Twitter bio says that they’re “convening a plenary of stakeholders for a joint declaration of commitments from XR platforms on opening portals across the Metaverse,” which has been a series of series of three different 90-minute Zoom conversations that have taken place on October 29, 2021, December 9, 2021, and January 13, 2022.

They’ve been discussing the role of open standards like WebXR, WebGPU, OpenXR, glTF, WebAssembly, OpenGIS, and the many associated standards bodies including the W3C, The Khronos Group, IEEE, Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, AR Cloud, Industrial Ontology Foundry, OntoCommons Consortium, AR for Enterprise Alliance, Spatial Web Foundation, Common Workflow Language Foundation, UMI3D Consortium Project, Digital Twin Consortium, Industry IoT Consortium, and XR Alliance. See this slide from Christine Perey’s presentation for more context.


I’m pretty optimistic generally about the Metaverse as seen through the lens of XR, but I’m also currently generally pretty skeptical of how cryptocurrency or NFT communities have been using the Metaverse language for the moment. Rarely does the Metaverse have anything to do with open platforms or interoperability standards when an NFT project or crypto communities talks about. While virtual currencies may eventually prove a mechanism for value exchange in virtual worlds, currently cryptocurrency is more used for speculative investments than as a viable method of exchanging value.

I’m also still not convinced that Meta is going to solely bring forth the full promise and vision of a decentralized Metaverse mostly because I see that they have a conflict of interest of being a platform provider vs building their own first-party applications. But the full manifestation of the Metaverse should also go beyond what an individual company can do anyway, and so I also draw upon a lot of inspiration from Tony Parisi’s 7 Rules for the Metaverse that treats it as an extension of the Internet. Time will tell to what degree Meta will live into their promises enabling interoperability within the Metaverse, but when I think about the Metaverse, then it’s these low-level interoperable standards that will form the foundation of The Metaverse.

But this conversation with the key members of the MetaTraversal Initiative will hopefully ground what’s been happening at the frontiers of the interoperability standards that will be forming the foundational building blocks of whatever the Metaverse may evolve into. The fourth MetaTraversal discussion will be happening on March 3, 2022 at 6:30am PST.


MetaTr@versal #1: First Committee Meeting on Portal Interoperability

MetaTraversal Second Meeting 9 Dec 2021 – Full 90 Minute Zoom Session

MetaTraversal #3 – 13 January 2022

MetaTr@versal #4: Alignments and Agreements on 3 March, 2022

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality


Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of Yara podcast. So the metaverse as a term is something that has a lot of debate around what it even means and how it's used within the wider technology industry. Within the XR industry, I think it's used as spatializing the existing aspects of either the internet or the World Wide Web, and then bringing elements of this spatial computing and immersive computing into it. but it's also been adopted by folks within the cryptocurrency industry to basically mean all sorts of different things. And so, the meaning of the metaverse is diluted, and there's certainly not a universally accepted definition of what the metaverse is or what it could be. So, in today's episode, I'm actually going to be diving in and attacking this issue of the metaverse from the lowest-level building blocks of the metaverse, which are the interoperability standards that are going to enable new things that are going to be built out of all these different things coming together. There's also a number of different ways that I start to think about the metaverse in terms of metaphors and how to extend our experience of existing things like the Internet. And so Tony Parisi came out with his seven rules of the metaverse, which is that number one, that there's only one metaverse, just like there's one Internet. The metaverse is for everyone. Nobody controls the metaverse. The metaverse is open, hardware independent. It's a network and it's the Internet. So essentially taking all of the metaphors of the Internet and extending it. But anytime you're extending it, you're both transcending the limitations of the Internet, but also adding new things that weren't there before. And in my mind, a lot of those new things are these qualities of presence. But yet the other aspect is that most of the Internet is the information superhighway that anybody can go down. It's this public commons. But a lot of the experiences within the metaverse are also in these private worlds. So what's the difference between the private and the public? And how do you make sense of how we're going to be navigating all these things, and what is existing in, say, MMO, which already is a private instance of people having these virtual worlds where they're engaging with each other. Maybe not with a spatial computing dimension of VR, but what's to say that some of these existing experiences, like VRChat or RecRoom or MetaHorizons for that sake, isn't already a metaverse? And this is amplified by a recent quote by Gabe Newell, the founder of Valve, who was asked by Wes Finland and the PC Gamer on February 25th about the Metaverse. And he said that most people who are talking about the Metaverse have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. And they've apparently never played an MMO. They're like, oh, you can have this customizable avatar. And it's like, well, go into Lineska and Final Fantasy 14 and tell me that this isn't a solved problem from a decade ago, not some fabulous thing that you're, you know, inventing. I think there's aspects of that where there are going to be a lot of things that have been happening within the context of gaming, but I think the key differentiating factor is the interoperability. There's been a lot of things within Unity or Unreal Engine or all these proprietary engines within the context of gaming, but there's not the sense that you could take things into these worlds or take them out. But also, just generally, thinking about this progress of technology from Simon Wardley, he says that there's these ideas, there's these custom bespoke implementations, but eventually there's this mass consumer product and then eventually becomes max ubiquitous. So I kind of see what's happening already within these video game contexts, like in the memo, as something that's a custom bespoke implementation, but it's not an open standard that could say, have people be able to move things in and out of these worlds and still be accessible in 5, 10, 20, or 50 years from now, just like you can go back to the early days of the internet and see the Tim Berners-Lee web page that he put up. Because it's written in an open standard, you can still access it. It's the idea of applying these different open standards to this technology stack, whether that's GLTF or OpenXR or WebXR or WebAssembly, there's a whole range of different standards by different standard bodies from the Kronos group to web standards. And then there's other industry standard groups like the IEEE needing to cooperate in some ways to be able to have what is imagined from these concepts of the metaverse. I also wanted to say that I gave a pretty in-depth talk about the metaverse at the gather verse where I started to at least give some of my own sense making frameworks for how I make sense of the metaverse and all the different layers and stacks from at the baseline, the earth and the culture and the laws and the economic dynamics and then the design guidelines. And then there's a network architecture and XR hardware, the operating system, the application code and context and game engines and experiences and the larger industry contexts that we have, and ultimately, the user experience, where you have all sorts of different aspects and qualities of presence and the character and story that's unfolding. These actual immersive experiences that give this distinctly different quality of presence within these XR technologies that I think are going to be a key part of the metaverse as people think about the metaverse and what makes it different than, say, just the flat 2D human-computer interaction that we have with the World Wide Web and the Internet. That's at least some of the early ways of how I start to think about it. There are certainly other definitions that we'll get into in the context of this conversation. But there's been a series of different conversations that have been facilitated by what's known as this meta-traversal initiative that has a number of different people that are involved with it. Ben Irwin is the creator of the WebXR Awards and was a catalyst to be able to help start up this meta-traversal initiative. In collaboration with Julie Smithson and Sophia Mashasha, they've also been running these WebXR Summits and then the WebXR Polys Awards. They're trying to shine a spotlight on the different types of immersive experiences that are done within the context of WebXR. Maybe the early prototypical example of these metaverse technologies. And also, a part of this conversation is Ivo Haining, who's both a convener of the Metaverse initiative, but also an interactive producer and a part of the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, which has also been facilitating a lot of these discussions more from different independent projects that have this vision of this open interoperable metaverse and trying to create a participatory media within the public commons. And then finally, in this conversation, we'll have Neil Trevitt, who's president of the Kronos Group, who has been at the forefront of helping to push forward a lot of these different types of open standards, whether it's OpenGL, WebGL, as well as stuff like OpenXR, which is a huge initiative to facilitate this type of interoperability within the XR industry. There are a lot of questions that I personally have in terms of what the metaverse is and how to write my mind around it. This conversation was really helpful to ground it from those building blocks of these interoperability standards that these folks have been talking about within this series of these different discussions. The fourth discussion is actually coming up here on Thursday, March 3, 2022. able to watch it live, you can, but you'll be available on YouTube to be able to catch the highlights, a series of short five to 10 minute discussions from a wide range of different people from the industry. And it's just helped me to wrap my mind around what the metaverse is and where it's all going. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Ben, Ivo, Neil, Julie, and Sophia happened on Tuesday, March 1st, 2022. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:06:59.173] Ben Erwin: Thanks for having us, Kent. It's a pleasure to be here with the MetaTraversal slash Poly's team. And we have been producing events together for the last two years. Julie and Sophia and I have been working together on XR Collaboration and Ready Player Golf, respectively. And Julie and Sophia hosted both polys that we just had one a couple of weeks ago. And in October, we started the MetaTraversal initiative. And MetaTraversal is designed to help accelerate cooperation amongst the stakeholders in the metaverse, because we feel that the need as we go into this decade with this emerging technology, that it's essential that we first of all, learn from the mistakes of the past. And two of the biggest mistakes are slow standards adoption, which sort of creates a dependency on technologies like flash that could just suddenly go away. And all of those experiences that were built are potentially lost to a lost format. And then there are things such as security breaches like Heartbleed and Cambridge Analytica that were situations that really could have been prevented through foresight. And the stakes are a lot higher in the metaverse. So when it comes to the technologies and the WebXR stack, things like the entire XR stack, including WebXR and all of the file formats and standards that are integrated with them. We think it's very important, especially at this crucial time right now, where you have companies that have invested heavily and we're very grateful for the R&D budgets, but we want to see more cooperation amongst the stakeholders. So what we've done with MetaTraversal is we started a series of conversations first as a listening exercise where in October, December and January, we had three 90-minute Zoom calls. And those calls brought together over 30 different thought leaders with various perspectives, including yourself, Kent. You appeared at the first one talking about human rights. And along those threads, we also had Nicole Lazaro at the second one talking about human agency. And we had Christopher Lafayette at the third one. And of course, Daniel Jabosky Bryant, who's not here, who is part of our convener team, he spoke on behalf of the Virtual World Society on the first episode as well. What we've gotten out of this is, first of all, we have a really good understanding of what different people are working on and different approaches, which is what we set out to do. And we can't take credit for the fact that the W3C is actually moving portal interoperability as a priority into their new charter, but we're very happy to see that their new charter that is from June 2022 has a completion date for the WebXR navigation in Q4 of 24. We find that really encouraging and that's what we want to see more of is the different standards organizations working together on protocols and file formats and so forth so that the entire metaverse stack can get settled sooner than later.

[00:09:56.325] Kent Bye: Great. Ivo.

[00:09:58.769] Evo Heyning: Hi, thank you, Kent. And thanks everyone from the team here for joining us. Ben and I have been collaborators now for a couple of years, I believe. We first connected through doing the WebXR summits and the amazing events that Ben and the team have been organizing. And as we were having a conversation about R&D, but also about interoperability, the overlaps between groups became apparent. And we recognized that there wasn't necessarily a great space to have conversations about those overlaps. a place to explore where collaboration or coordination might benefit everyone, a place to come with our progress and say, here's what I'm doing. Here's where I'm moving the needle internally. Here's where I'm open to maybe working with new groups or new participants, new endeavors at the table. So creating that space was part of the process for meta-traversal early on, we saw that there needed to be both a conversation zone that could be ongoing, but could also help drive a handful of the conversations that were currently missing. So Ben and the team and Julie has been fantastic, especially at helping with the sense-making of this, because what we saw were obviously many different standards bodies, many different associations, independent R&D groups, like the one I sit with at OMI. Many of us were sort of going in a hundred different directions and we didn't necessarily have a great way to sort of share our progress other than very disjointed Twitter or Discord conversations. So we are now on the fourth meta-traversal and those conversations are really focused on interoperability and they're focused at every layer of the stack on how we can collaborate differently. So it is this inside out process. It's the sort of thing that would have happened at conferences had we been in person in 2021. And because we needed to be virtually engaged in events, this gave us some space to begin working out those ideas together. So I come from a producer's background. I'm a facilitator. I've led companies in various forms of immersive media and interactive media for over 20 years. But I saw that there was a missing conversation zone. I'm grateful that Ben saw that, too, and saw the need for independent R&D and corporate R&D and standards making bodies to all come together and to have some sense of real feedback, real ongoing conversation, and a sense of invitation to participate in something together.

[00:12:49.828] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah, that's a great overview. And I want to get the other folks into the conversation, but before we do that Evo, I want to just give you another brief opportunity to explain the open metaverse interoperability group, because that seems to be like a separate effort and initiative that is happening that you're also in charge of. So maybe you could just say a few words about that. Cause it seems like it's moved to the next stage of being an official part of the W3C. And so maybe you could just speak a little bit about the open metaverse interoperability group as well.

[00:13:16.263] Evo Heyning: Sure, so many of us engaged in research and development for the Open Metaverse came together and saw a need to form a community group, not just a working group or a standards-making body, but a group that could do the heavy lifting of R&D together. So we focused on building Open Metaverse Interoperability, or OMI Group, omigroup.org, Starting last spring, we set up our charter with the W3C, and we now welcome hundreds of engineers and creators to participate in a number of specific working groups on interoperability. And that includes extending the GLTF spec. That includes explorations in using WebAssembly for moving scenes between worlds. Obviously, that includes things like meta-traversal and how we move between worlds. And all of the other elements that bring together a functional and cohesive and connected metaverse that everyone can access, not just a single ecosystem or a single pay to play model, but creating the open commons, a place where everyone can potentially participate and engage and create together.

[00:14:32.535] Kent Bye: Awesome. That's a great context setting from those angles. And I know Neil, you've been involved with the Kronos group for a long time, which has been a part of establishing standards like OpenXR and GLTF from terms of the, the file formats, compute open standards. Last time I saw you speak was at the Laval virtual, where you talked about some of the different standards and the importance of that. And I'd love to hear a little bit of an update for what you're thinking about in terms of the latest hot topics when it comes to what the Kronos group is focusing on relative to the underlying foundational standards that are going to be a part of whatever may become of what we may refer to as the metaverse.

[00:15:09.414] Neil Trevett: Yeah, it's good to see you, Kent. It turns out that Kronos has been working on standards for the metaverse for many years. We just hadn't realized it. As you say, we have standards for 3D graphics, which is, and the latest one is Vulkan. Of course, there's WebGL in the web. And we have OpenXR for AR and VR with portability across different hardware vendors. And we have GLTF, which is the 3D file format that's increasingly getting used in runtime engines, including the Metaverse. All of these are going to be essential ingredients to the Metaverse. And for many of them, we've already working on them for many years, decades in some cases already. The Metaverse is providing extra fuel and momentum to development. If we get the metaverse to be pervasive, all of the standards organizations that are involved in spatial computing and AR and VR are going to need to work together to provide a whole new level of interoperability. No one standards organization is going to be able to do this by themselves. And so we need to have this kind of cooperation and communication in the industry to really truly understand what the needs of the industry are and to figure out how the standards organizations are going to work together to make it come into reality. So, that's why I'm honoured to be part of this initiative. It is a unique conversation gap, as you were saying, that this group I think is engaging with the developers and the implementers, as well as the standards organisations and the corporate participants, bringing everyone together. with real energy and positivity, which is always cool. And now through the events that I've been part of the Metro Traversal series, I've learned a lot in each event that we've done so far. So it's been a positive and pretty awesome experience so far.

[00:17:07.503] Kent Bye: I want to ask one quick follow-up question just to help orient the Kronos Group relative to these other groups, because it feels like the Kronos Group is almost like a group of major hardware producers and companies that are agreeing upon a certain amount of interoperable standards. And then you have the W3C, which is maybe more focused on things like the web browser vendors that are generating these web standards. So you have things like WebGL and then Vulkan API where there's similarities, but there's WebGPU that I hear a lot of buzz about in terms of potentially coming in and replacing different aspects of WebGL. And so I'm just curious how the Khronos group and these other discussions around WebGPU, if there's an equivalent standard that the Khronos group is also talking about, or if WebGPU is something that you're folding into this ecosystem of other standards, just help me kind of understand that just to see how the Kronos group is in relationship to these other big standards bodies.

[00:18:03.769] Neil Trevett: Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, the nice thing about the array of different standards organizations that we have is that we're all pretty cooperative, I guess by nature, but each standards body tends to have its own area of expertise and the standards bodies like to stay in their lane. When a standards body, any standards body kind of gets out of their lane, they start trying to do stuff where they don't have the expertise in the industry quorum, they normally get into trouble. Kronos has made that mistake in the past too. So we've learned what our skill set is, where we can add value as have all the other SDOs. And we try to reach out and liaise to make sure that we are cooperating. So you're right, Khronos' expertise is close to the metal, either runtime APIs, literally close to the metal, calling into GPUs or XR HMDs, or the file formats that are going to directly feed into those APIs. That's our position in the constellation. W3C, of course, does awesome work in the web stack. So WebXR is the obvious example. And Khronos and W3C, we love to work closely together. And the classic stack on the PowerPoint slide is Khronos is down at the native level, interfacing into the hardware. And then the work that W3C does, like Red XR, will build on top of those native APIs. Now, historically, the weird one out is WebGL, because that is a web standard that builds on top of OpenGL and now Vulkan. But that was a Khronos standard. So that was a good aberration. Back in the day, Kronos was the first one to realize, hey, we can actually put 3D in the web. Let's do it. We know 3D. We can do it. And it's been successful. But I think it's good now that WebGPU, which is eventually going to be the successor to WebGL, is being done at the W3C. It is a very involved web standard. the quorum for creating WebGPU is at the W3C. They're building over the native APIs like Vulkan. So I think we've found our right level. So we're very supportive of WebGPU and we look forward to working with the W3C to enable the WebGL developer community to transition over to WebGPU and make that as smooth a transition as possible over time. It's going to take a while, though. It's taken WebGL 10 years. We announced it at SIGGRAPH 2009, and WebGL 2 finally became pervasive just this year. So that's an 11-year journey. So these things take a while. But yeah, it's definitely the right direction for W3C to be doing WebGPU.

[00:20:52.335] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah. I knew that Vlad Vesovich was a part of creating WebGL, but I guess I didn't realize that the Khronos group was involved. So it's good to hear that the torch is being passed back over to the web standards community to figure out the web GPU aspect. So because the WebGL is being deprecated, does that mean that there's no replacement from Khronos group perspective then?

[00:21:10.509] Neil Trevett: No, we don't want to fight against WebGPU. That would be crazy. There's too much work to be done to do the same work twice in two different places. So our job with WebGPU, just like it is with WebXR and OpenXR, is to make sure that the native layer is giving everything that's needed up into the web stack. That's our role, and we take that very seriously. Yeah, but we have a good relationship with the W3C.

[00:21:37.830] Kent Bye: Okay. Well, we started the meta traversal. We jumped ahead to the W3C, but then went back down to the stack to what's happening with the Kronos. And now let's go to the top of the stack again with the WebXR, maybe talk a little bit about the Polys and what just happened. Julie and Sophia, maybe you could each introduce yourself and some of your take on both this discussion about the metaverse, but also specifically about what the WebXR Awards was able to do in terms of featuring what's happening in this open metaverse context in the context of WebXR.

[00:22:07.027] Julie Smithson: Yeah, sure. Hi everyone. I'm Julie Smithson, co-founder of Metaverse, our own Metaverse that we named years before Mark called it Metaverse, but proud to be a part of this team representing my company where the work that we're doing reflects directly with the highlights of interoperability and being a part of the Metaversal team and being able to have that input of My experience in full out production right now is obviously helping my own knowledge, but surrounding myself with the best ways to develop in a time where innovation is happening by the minute. The Polly's for me was, first of all, Ben and I have worked together for a couple of years. We started off with XR collaboration, which is ironic in itself that it keeps coming back to collaboration, right? Like we have to collaborate to be able to put these best practices and standards into place to make sure that we're all aligned with a safe and productive world that we're all building together. So the polys represented the work that had been done in the space and it was my honor to host again this year. you know, a show that recognized that work of deploying things on the web and being able to this past event, being able to go live portaling between worlds and doing these things live that show the advancements of the technology. So the Polly's was amazing, just highlighting the work that people have been working on so hard, so long without, you know, getting it out there. It was heartwarming to have a lot of the reactions of the work that they put behind it, the thoughtfulness, the belief that their work was real. So that's truly just such a great part to be a part of this community. And it's great to be sharing it with all of these people, too, as we learn every day together and we celebrate. So that was the best part about it. And then Sophia. Yeah.

[00:24:05.971] Sophia Moshasha: Go ahead. My turn. Yeah. So I, um, again, have been honored to be part of this team for the past couple of years and so great to have met all of you back at AWE this fall. And I look forward to the coming months as well. What I like about what we're doing as a whole with the WebEx, our summits, you know, three last year, another three planned this year, the meta traversal events. and then the Polly's Awards is they all kind of feed and build off of one another. We are on the meta-traversal side and sometimes on the summit side as well, especially during the town halls that we host, but we're able to get the movers and shakers behind the scenes that are working hand over foot on this capability in the room together, in the virtual room together to be able to talk about what they're working on, what works, what doesn't, you know, how to connect it back to what other people are working on in order to then grow the overall capability, right? But then on the consumer and the corporate side of things, it takes education for them as well, for them to understand what's going on in this world, what their options are, and investing their dollars into metaverse capabilities, and then be able to provide kind of that feedback loop back to the boots on the ground creators, developers in the field that we're catering to, to be able to then understand what the needs are from a corporate perspective, incorporate that back into the initiatives that they're working on and then complete that cycle. I think that these conversations are very necessary to happen because WebXR in itself is a very nascent niche market I would say within the XR spectrum. And a lot of people even within our own industry are just getting their feet wet into what's available with the immersive web. So I personally love the knowledge sharing educational side of things, especially when it comes to helping people outside of our industry understand what the capabilities are. Now that there's a lot of hype around prepping for the coming of the metaverse. I think it's our responsibility to really put it out there to the public, let them be a part of the conversations and kind of shaping the standards that we're creating for this capability. And so that's my favorite part about it. And then obviously being on the forefront of those discussions is just super exciting. And there's so many very smart and talented people with the people that we work with in this field. So it's definitely been an honor. to be able to listen in and be a part of a lot of these discussions and then take it back to some of the people that might be able to execute on these capabilities and tell them what's going on behind the scenes and how they can get involved now. And it's about just connecting those dots. So I believe that what we're doing here helps facilitate a lot of that.

[00:27:11.847] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's, I guess the definitions around the metaverse are something that people have been discussing and maybe it's worth just discussing a little bit of our concepts of the metaverse, because the things that I struggle with is that there's WebXR, which I do think is one manifestation of what the metaverse may come, but I can also look to say Fortnite or Minecraft or any MMO like World of Warcraft. But the thing that I lean upon is both Tony Parisi's seven rules of the metaverse, where he starts to say, okay, we're starting with the internet and we're expanding it in these different ways. We're kind of spatializing. it. I'm going to read two definitions I'm going to open up as a question, is it from thoughts of how you start to conceive of the metaverse? So Tim Sweeney at SIGGRAPH 2019, he said, it's a real-time 3D social medium where people can create and engage in shared experience as equal participants in an economy with social impact. So starting to bring in different aspects of the virtual aspect and the creation aspect and an economy. And then Matthew Ball in his June 29th, 2021 definition of the metaverse. He's revised it a few times, but it is the latest iteration at least. The metaverse is a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds, which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, And with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments. So taking aspects of what I would say like second life and kind of this fully imagined virtual world in an economy, but adding all these other aspects of the internet interoperability, the open web. But at the same time, I guess the thing that I struggle with is that a lot of times when I go into VR chat, I go into private instances. And so my conception of private versus public versus what I conceive of as the public internet versus the private intranets. starts to get a little confused in terms of what the metaverse even means to me in terms of as we start to move forward into this spatialization of the existing internet. And as we have identity, then we have private and public context. So I'm just curious how each of you maybe has some idea about the metaverse because we could spend the entire rest of the podcast talking about other things I want to talk about as well. But I'm curious if this might be a good setting of a baseline context for discussing the metaverse and what it means and where it's going and how each of the standards are kind of playing into that.

[00:29:25.075] Ben Erwin: Shall I go first? I think what Julie said in her keynote at the Polly's is that it's not that the metaverse is necessarily a new concept. It's that people can relate to it. It's the most consumer-friendly term where we had VR, AR, MR, XR, spatial computing. These didn't really sell, but because the word universe conveys space, people get that. And it's really important. for all of us who have been in this space for a while and understand it very well, we already have this perspective. But if we turn to just any person in our family who isn't in the know, you have to explain these things. But when you come with a word like metaverse, there seems to be less to explain. And I think that that's what really sort of got the traction going in 2021. And there are a lot of people who are still out trying to define the metaverse. And there are people who have moved on from that. I think that the fuel that it's given the industry is going to really help propel it forward. I think that just the way that the internet stuck around as a term that people use instead of cyberspace or something like that, that the metaverse has legs to potentially be that term that we're still referring to 25 years from now.

[00:30:37.061] Neil Trevett: Yeah, I kind of agree with that. And it's kind of the, I guess, coming from a perspective, Kronos works from the bottom up. So I guess, no, it is our perspective. And so we recognize there are other perspectives too. But I think the folks that are really going to make the difference in the end, it's not going to be the top down definitions of what the metaverse is, because it's impossible. It means so many different things to so many different people. And that's why it's so powerful. idea and it's good to have that conversation, but the real work is going to be finding those beachhead problems that we can solve to enable people to communicate better, people to have better user interfaces, better servers, better networking, better graphics, better assets, all these foundational building blocks. There are people working at that ground level. And I think that's where the real revolution is going to happen. Once we have enough of those building blocks that are in place, people are going to be able to build new stuff. And it's probably nothing that we've ever imagined, right? It's not going to be what we expect. It's the thing that finally takes off and gets that pervasive adoption because it clicks with humanity. And so I'm a big believer in let's keep building the blocks and the rest will take care of itself. Darwinian mechanics will kick in.

[00:31:54.574] Julie Smithson: And to stem off what you were saying, Kent, you know, you go in there in private mode. And one of the things in an XR collaboration when we built it a couple of years ago in the resources section, presence was the first key piece of becoming a part of the immersive space. And for you, if you're in privacy mode, it's your level of presence and how you accept being in the space. And this is where the touch points start to happen, right? Like whether you buy something or you start to talk to somebody or you send a text, it's your presence that starts to embrace that world. And I'm sure there'll always be privacy levels in the metaverse. And this is why we're here, right? Like this is what we're doing is figuring out what are those interoperability privacy levels that can be introduced into the metaverse, which I think eventually that word will go away because it'll just get more specific because it'll be assumed it's in the metaverse. It'll become something that you're going to, that you're, oh, I'm going to a concert tonight. We're not always going to say in the metaverse because it'll just become a thing, you know, and that's my opinion there. But I think, you know, when it comes to entering into the metaverse, it's your presence. It's your presence level of how you want to become part of it. And then you need to own that as a human. Right. And that's where your humanity and your humanics, I call it, how you start to connect your emotions, but also the technology. You know, how do you remain human as you start to embrace this?

[00:33:23.287] Sophia Moshasha: And to me, it's an excellent point. Just really quick. I think that was really exemplified in specifically the Polly's in the watch parties that we had. like five in different worlds simultaneously happening. And people were not only joined there by their peers or by people they knew and didn't know and were interacting with them and were doing something with them that was memorable, but they were also going to these different worlds, sometimes even portaling from VR Land to Frame like we had set up. to these different worlds to then join people in other watch parties. And I think that that in itself exemplified the epitome of why people might care, I guess, initially about this concept of this interoperable collaborative metaverse. And the conversations that I had in there about those experiences, you know, it's one thing going into a platform for a short while doing something in there, but then Going into a platform, seeing that other platforms, there's watch parties, people experiencing the same things in those other platforms. And oh, by the way, we went live within those platforms and then live streamed back into the stream that was been streaming in all those platforms. So people were seeing each other. and the other watch parties on screen within these other various platforms. So I think what we did there was really the epitome of what at least I would like to see in this kind of interconnectivity of worlds. And I think that was a really cool display of what we did there at the Polys.

[00:34:59.895] Evo Heyning: Kent, what I'm hearing both in the definitions you brought up and in everyone here, what I'm hearing across the board is a desire to make space for human connection that is cohesive, that is repeatable, that is generative space, that is at least accessible from the public arena. And you brought up some interesting conversation points about whether the definitions of public and private space are potentially changing as we look at what the metaverse is becoming. Now, if you think about the idea of like cyberspace or the information superhighway, these kinds of ideas that predated our modern sort of immersive web or metaverse experience now, that was generally public space. It was the web. It was growing out of the web, but it was generally talking about the public commons or something that was relatively available and accessible for people. And now we're seeing something that is generally private first, And so that is a different way of engaging with these spaces. We have sort of defaulted to small rooms, small spaces, things that are sort of invitation first, generally, more than sort of wide open public environments. And how we choose to make those doorways available between the worlds, how we allow for people to move from public to private space, how we make the agreements that need to happen from not just one platform holder to the next or one data holding body to the next. But between our own communities to say this is the standards of care in this community. And this is how we want you to operate when you walk through this door and come into this world. Because the rules of engagement might be different every single time in every single connected space. And so as we're talking about these ideas of the metaverse and connected, not just virtual spaces, but physical spaces as well, these are starting to bleed into not just obviously VR or what's happening on the web, but smart glasses, our mobile phones, things in smart environments like theme parks or pretty much any entertainment venue. So the ideas of the metaverse as just being connected virtual worlds, obviously, that's where we've been for the last 20 years, but that's not where we're going. And we're beginning to look at, okay, if we're going to collaborate effectively together around climate action, or disaster response, or really huge systemic challenges where we need to be able to come together. We need public space to do that. We need portability. We need to be able to not just collaborate, but then take the ideas out and make them actionable. And so that's the next stage of this work is, yes, now we have doors. Perhaps we can go from one world to the next, from one way of working to the next. But next, we're going to need to figure out how to break down some of those barriers to collaboration and portability so that those ideas of interoperability, what we're talking about today, can be realized and can change the way we work.

[00:38:20.583] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's a really hopeful, all that together is synthesizing those thoughts and to helping clarify it for myself. I want to ask one followup question to Neil, then I'll go back to you, Ben, because I know you want to jump in there as well. But in terms of this open and close, this is something that I've thought a lot about in terms of what's referred to as the quote unquote, capital I internet, where you don't have your internet, you have the internet, there's one internet. And so there's people that have made similar claims saying, well, there's just one metaverse, but yet there's these public private dimensions of the metaverse. And people are already saying, come over to my metaverse instance. And so the language around it, I don't know if that is going to maintain the truth of that there is one singular metaverse, or there's going to be these balkanized areas where people have access to. And I know that you've talked about this in terms of the context of open versus proprietary, and that there's always a dialectic and There seems to be a similar issue here that there's always going to be the bleeding edge of what's happening in the industry that is going to be very private. So we have already instances of what we could consider the metaverse with Rec Room and VRChat and MetaHorizons and Somnium Space and CryptoVoxels. And there's for each of these different degrees to which they're interoperable with each other. And so whether or not that classifies what they're doing as the metaverse or not, I think is part of the discussion that makes it for me, still somewhat confusing, but I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on this dialectic between the open versus proprietary and how that's a part of the standard mainstream process, but also how you apply that type of insights into making sense of what the metaverse is.

[00:39:53.956] Neil Trevett: Yeah, that's a great question. We definitely need both open and proprietary. The universe wouldn't exist without those two poles and everything in between. Now, you asked about the standardization process. Doing R&D by committee is the worst thing in the world. You don't want to do that. You need innovators who are pushing out proprietary technologies, experimenting on the bleeding edge. Only when the technology becomes so boring that you don't want everyone to be different anymore, that's when you can build a pervasive standard, you can find a consensus. and scale it out to the whole of humanity, which a proprietary technology will never ever do. And you can extract that into what is the metaverse question. I do think Tony is right. There is just one metaverse. The way I look at it is like the metaverse is the connective tissue, the foundation, the infrastructure that we all share. And it is based on interoperable standards. So everyone can understand it and use it and interoperate with it. But within that substrate, on that substrate, people will do all kinds of things. So I think it's a pretty straight analogy to the internet. No, actually, the metaverse is just another word in the tautology of it. The metaverse is kind of the next generation internet. It's available to everyone. It's well understood. It's built on standards. But within that metaverse, people are going to build all kinds of different worlds. Some of them are going to be private, some of them are going to be open, and there'll be a whole diversity of different purposes and commercial models and access models and privacy models. And that's how it should be, because that is how we will find what adds value to end users, by people trying all kinds of different stuff. But if we don't have that common infrastructure like we have had with the internet, and hopefully will have, with the metaverse, then no one can talk to anyone. And all of that experimentation breaks down. Nothing reaches scale without the platform of interoperability.

[00:41:54.817] Sophia Moshasha: What if the metaverse wasn't a place or a series of places, but an era or a moment in time where people value their virtual presence the same or more than their physical presence? If you look at it in this like high level term, it could be anything where people get to create a persona of themselves, real or false, and be able to live out that persona in virtual spaces. So I think that immersive obviously plays a big role in that, but I mean, I noticed it. I noticed it when I was at the Polly's watch parties. I noticed it when I was at New Year's, when I was invited to a party and then I snuck out to go to lock myself in a room to join with my VR headset. to join parties in the metaverse, because I had friends there that I needed to meet up with. That was my aha moment there. I was like, wow, well, I just left my real friends in COVID times, you know, when I never get to see anybody, to go back to my virtual spaces. That's when I was like, that's okay, I'm in it now.

[00:43:01.248] Kent Bye: Yeah, Ben, you raised your hand earlier. I don't know if you wanted to jump in.

[00:43:03.870] Ben Erwin: Yeah, well, I mean, first I wanted to build on what we were saying during the last round. But then when you teed up the question for Neil about public and private spaces, one thing that we haven't really touched on is sort of the commons aspect of the metaverse. and that the metaverse essentially is a new commons. And just like the real world, we will always have public and private spaces. So it's not that that's so much of a big deal, but the importance of interoperability is for the central commons of these places for people to come and go as they please, and most importantly, to go together. That's really, I think, the most important feature that is helping to drive our passion behind MetaTraversal is that it's not just a matter of, yes, we can do this, but can we do this together? you know, are we getting into a virtual elevator? Are we going through a wormhole together? You know, what is the transition right now? If you change worlds and you portal out from any given platform, you're alone in that moment there. And so there are a lot of people that are working on different solutions to this. And this is part of what we're trying to do is broaden the discussion and let other people hear what they're doing. Those are that are willing to share. and I think it's very important. But another point that I wanted to bring into this is, as it relates to what is the metaverse question, is we're XR people here and we tend to look at that through that lens, but the blockchain part of it, and we also can't forget the IoT and AI aspects of the fourth industrial revolution stack that all work together to handle hardware and storage and bandwidth and all of the pieces of that puzzle. In particular, the crypto space is calling its standards the metaverse. And it's more of a transactional metaverse. But ultimately, all of these technologies are going to need to merge together in a functional form that will allow us to travel the metaverse and purchase digital goods. And when Mark Zuckerberg declared that the metaverse will be an open standard and people will be able to take digital goods, a lot of people were, first of all, suspect that he was genuine about it and then suspect about what he meant by that. And to me, it was very clear. And I hope that his intent with bringing out the interoperability part of it. And his specific mention of digital goods and crypto is that people can buy and sell things and that we can build an economy in this space. So I don't really have a perception of, Oh, well, crypto metaverse and XR metaverse are two different things. It's all part of the fourth industrial revolution evolution that we're going through. And over the next decade, those lines are just going to continue to blur.

[00:45:47.271] Kent Bye: Yeah, I have a couple of thoughts and then I do want to actually get into some of the discussions that have been happening at the meta traversal, just to get grounded in some of the specifics, but just some quick thoughts, just to kind of respond to some of those points. Cause I think they're worth responding to is that for me, when I look at the crypto space, I feel like there's a lot of technical engineering debt that is creating a lot of unsustainable out of right relationship with the earth, ecological damage that is maybe not scalable to have this idea of things be always permanent. is not something that ever exists in nature, so therefore it's not in harmony with nature. Therefore, there's something fundamentally wrong with some of the libertarian-based values of some of the cryptocurrency world versus some of the more peer-to-peer foundation with commons-based approaches that I see with, say, the Holochain and more biomimicry inspired decentralized systems. So there are decentralized aspects of nature that we need to mimic. Otherwise, we're going to destroy ourselves trying to do some of these different technologies. So my frustration has been that there's been a deprioritization of some of those different ecological foundational aspects of being in right relationship to the earth. So because of that, I've been more skeptical about what I've seen from the crypto space, to be honest. But I have attended the Decentralized Web Summit, which is more of the internet archive and talking about how to preserve cultural heritage and counteract different aspects of censorship. And I do think there's going to be decentralized components of the metaverse. Just how it seamlessly works in, I think, is a big open question for me, at least. Another quick point about Mark Zuckerberg and Meta is that during the keynote of Connect 2021, Zuckerberg did say that interoperability was a big aspect of their future vision of the Metaverse, which is very encouraging. However, what I'm afraid of is that the extent of what he means by that is that they've implemented OpenXR, and that's the only thing that they're going to do. That's going to be the extent of their interoperability, which I actually want to just give a shout out to OpenXR. It's amazing that OpenXR even exists. that has that much consensus. And I think a lot of people who may be skeptical or critical about Meta as a company may not realize the degree to which that this has been a many years process of having some of these foundational open standards in place. And that the fact that they're kind of moving into that as well as Unity and Unreal Engine, it seems to me a pretty key part of the underlying technological foundations of what we may refer to as the metaverse moving forward is going to have a way in which that these devices are going to have a mechanism by which they can interconnect with things, which has not been a for sure thing that is going to exist. And so I just, Neil, if you want to say anything else about the OpenXR and the role of that in terms of facilitating this foundational aspect of interoperability within the metaverse.

[00:48:26.857] Neil Trevett: OpenXR is a great example of having the luck of having the right people in the industry come together at the right time with the right idea. And there are many people to credit. It was Tim Sweeney's original idea, and with his help, Colonel's help to bring the right folks together. But to your point, Meta, which was Oculus at the time, was a spec editor for OpenXR. So it's not just that they're picking up things that other people have created. No, they are playing. a very central role in creating these standards. They're doing the same thing with GLTF as well. They're not the spec editor, but they are very tightly involved and engaged with the GLTF working group. So I hope it goes beyond just one or two APIs, because they stand to gain just as much as anyone else. If we can get meaningful standards by finding the right thing to do at the right time with the right folks, then good things happen for everyone. So I'm a little more optimistic, perhaps, than you.

[00:49:25.870] Kent Bye: Well, yeah, just as an observer of meta, sometimes their rhetoric and what they say in public versus their actions can be disconnected. But I'm happy to say that at least what they're saying around interoperability, they're actually backing it up with implementing WebXR and the Oculus browser and doing OpenXR implementation. So. But I want to maybe turn to some of the discussions that have been happening at the Metaversal because you've had three discussions now and I just rewatched the different sessions and Neil, you had a graphic that I'm just going to list out some of the different themes that you have listed from the Kronos group, but also open it up to other people to talk about some of the other projects or initiatives that feel like they're at the stage of being prototyped and experimented with and trying to get implementations of these things to maybe start to move them to this level of standards. But there's everything from like avatars and from GLTF that may be a part of that. VRM is an open standard that I know I've heard a lot about in terms of the wider community. There are scene graphs and different standards for determining what's happening with the scene. There's the economic aspects of happening. We talked a little bit about the crypto aspects, but there may be other web-based APIs that are already trying to mediate aspects of virtual commerce. Physical simulation that you listed, there's geo scenes and then gameplay and runtime interactions. But maybe I'll just kick it back over to the group to be able to discuss some of the things, because I know that the name of MetaTraversal is kind of going from navigating from one world to the next, and that, surprisingly, me at least has been difficult from both security and safety and just it feels like that would be the number one thing I would want first to just be able to go from one world to the next. But that has been surprisingly taken a long time to get sorted out in terms of the navigation specification that the immersive web working group has been working on. But I'll kick it back over to the group to discuss some of the big topics that you see and be grounded by some examples or progress that you see in terms of pushing forward these discussions of interoperability within the context of the metaverse?

[00:51:23.037] Ben Erwin: Well, I'll let the team talk about the specifics therein, but the thing that you just touched on about this is something that you would want first. This is what brought us together is that as a point of consensus among the stakeholders is that we agree that we need portaling. We also understand the technical hurdles that need to be clear. There are a lot of challenges starting with cooperation. And so the spirit that we're approaching this is that we agree that we need to do this. We agree that we need to cooperate to make it happen. So what we're trying to do is to bring people to the table to do that in all of its different facets and dimensions. And so with that, I'll pass it back to everybody else.

[00:52:03.386] Kent Bye: I'll call on you, Ivo.

[00:52:06.938] Evo Heyning: Happy to. I almost want to reset the conversation about what Ben was saying about cooperation in particular, because this is an ongoing challenge across the board. Obviously, standards making bodies are doing such a fantastic job at driving where there is already some clear agreement. And it's exciting to go and watch things move from very independent R&D processes, let's say creating portals from one independent room to another independent platform, or building relationships between multiple independent platforms, which is what's been happening at the meta traversal events previously. And in one, two, and three, what we saw was not just a willingness to collaborate, but bringing ideas to the table and then someone else from the conversation saying, okay, I can work with you on that. And then they go off and they do something interesting. And often they'll come back and say, this is what we did. And it might be in the context of an event or what Ben's been working with, not just with the Polly's, but with the WebXR summits as well, giving space to demonstrate and test these ideas out, because we've talked about, for example, portals, but there's not even a clear agreement on whether we should have portals between worlds or maybe they're doors. Maybe they are windows. Maybe we do get to see what's happening on the other side of the wall. Maybe we don't. We have no clear agreement around things like data and what data is going to be passed and what are the common agreements around ethics that we want to perhaps make apparent and perhaps not. There are a number of sort of standard operating agreements that haven't really been formed yet. So having a conversation zone where we can say, this is what I'm working on. This is an open question. Now, how do we want to open that question up to either conversation or collaboration or discovery. Maybe we're going to do something and try it out and see what happens. Generally, there is a high risk to that level of collaboration, especially in any sort of public space. And because we're talking about not just independent R&D folks, but people who are within companies who are sometimes not able to work in public. or not able to collaborate with other people in public. We're working constantly to try and reduce those barriers to collaboration because we see that our entire industry suffers when we're stuck behind silos and when we're stuck in only perhaps one way of thinking that is coming from our institution or from our corporate overhead that can stifle innovation. And I think Neil was saying some very important points there about You don't necessarily want to stifle innovation too much, especially early on. So much of this work around how we move between worlds is so early stage that it's not quite ready for a standards making process yet. But it is ready for the standards making bodies to say, OK, I hold this piece of the puzzle. This is what we're going to move toward. I hold this piece of the puzzle. This is what we are going to move toward. Here's our overlap. Let's have a conversation about our overlap together. So that's the current state of the metaverse when we're thinking about connectedness and making our relationships apparent because so much of the interoperability work is interpersonal work, right? And so I have to go to Neil and Ben, Sophia, Julie, everyone here, Kent, you as well, and also to the other leaders in our industry, Kavya and the work that they're doing at XRSI around safety. I talked to Kalia recently, Kalia Hamlin works on identity systems and looking at how web one and web two may be failed a bit in terms of identity systems across the board, not just OpenID, but how we implemented identity management systems will change the way we interact with the open metaverse. So we need all of our colleagues, not just the ones who consider themselves XR professionals, but the folks who consider themselves cybersecurity experts or infrastructure leaders, or people who are experts in domains such as identity management to come to these tables together with us. We're all sort of fumbling in the dark here. Obviously, there are some teams that have done a fantastic job of putting one way of working out there. And now we have a hundred ways of working. We get to decide of the synthesis, right, of all of those potential collaboration zones, what is going to be most effective for us to meet the big challenges that we're facing today? I'm excited to do this work with these particular people. I'm excited that Neil is doing the amazing work that he's doing at Kronos. I just watch them with awe, to be honest, to bring so many interesting people to the table to figure out the nitty gritty of how art gets shared. If you look at GLTF just as one interoperable approach to the metaverse, you're thinking about how art is shared across all different worlds. And as a creator, that's exciting because that then opens up so many more opportunities to generate, to create, and to hopefully begin to meet real needs in the real world too.

[00:57:41.030] Sophia Moshasha: Yeah. And that's also, you know, going back to the onlookers to the XR industry and specifically WebXR. It's important that they know that we're having these conversations as well, because it builds trust in the process to know that there is a collective of people and organizations that are working towards these standards and towards these greater initiatives. Just to know that the W3C is working hard to create, you know, standards for interoperability and safety and all of those things, you know, now we're able to then have these be able to display these conversations publicly, bring outsiders into these conversations, allow them to understand that these are real capabilities that are being developed, gain that trust, and then hopefully get some real investment into progressing this medium from those collaborators, from those corporate entities, or not anybody else, you know, that wants in on it. You know, it's important that they know that there's a collective of people that care about this and want to see this progress and are doing incredible things with the technology. Because right now, I think across XR in general, and definitely WebXR, and you know, the information out there is so disparate. You know, the projects to go hunt, I know Ben spent hours upon hours upon days researching what exists out in the ether of WebXR. And, you know, we need to get these projects in front of people to let them know that there's some serious projects that are going on in this space and let's figure out what they liked and what they did best and figure out how to continue to up the game, you know, and get more people involved. So again, I think it's important. These conversations are happening not only on the creator side of things, but also from the investor side to know that these serious conversations are being had and they can have a seat at the table now while these capabilities are being built. I think that's an awesome thing that we're able to do for the industry.

[00:59:54.977] Kent Bye: One of the things I just wanted to reflect was this problem of going from one world to the next in the context of, say, VRChat. I have my avatar already. I have my social graph. I have all of my other avatars. And so I'm able to go from one world to the next world and have all those things be persistent. Even the instances within the context of VRChat, you can have public instances and private instances and friends plus. So there's different gradations in terms of like friends of friends can join versus only direct friends or direct invitations, or it's a public instance. So right now we're able to do that within the context of say these private entities like VRChat or RecRoom or even MetaHorizons has their ability to go into these private instances, but to move from one private entity to another world and have my identity, have all my social graph, maintain all that consistency. at the same time to be in a group of people and to go from one world to the next and have that same type of persistency, just like you could drop a portal within VRChat and go into a world. But as you drop the portal, you're able to determine what level of that portal is and to be able to do that at an interoperable level. even within internally within these individual companies that have these virtual worlds is challenging, but yet to have these as a consistent standards across multiple of these companies, like Mozilla hubs, there's no ability to be able to do that as an example. So there's still challenges to be able to match what's happening in the proprietary sphere and to maybe move it up to those standards. But Neil, I'd love to hear if you have other thoughts in terms of. what the Kronos group is doing in terms of some of those different standards that may be a part of that use case of going between worlds to facilitate that interoperability.

[01:01:26.564] Neil Trevett: Yeah, I think this is why what you're saying, Kent, is why metro traversal as a term and an idea and a goal is so powerful, because it's a simple thing, like let's go from here to there. But there are so many things that have to work to make that actually useful and real and compelling. There's the portalling part of it. There's all the privacy and the social network part of it that you were just talking about. The thing that, from the Kronos perspective, this is my hot button, is GLTF needs to figure this out, because GLTF up to now has been a 3D asset format, which is, you can define the shape and the textures and the materials, but now GLTF needs to transform into a metaverse asset. And what does that mean? It means behaviors, and a GLTF asset needs to be able to participate in a physics model. If you go into a world where there's physics, Does it float? Does it sink? And actually, we're beginning to make some good progress on that at the GLTF working group. A lot of the companies are coming and making proposals of proven techniques to say, OK, well, how does a GLTF thing behave if you poke it with your virtual finger? So I think that part of it will come into form pretty quickly. But what I'm seeing, maybe the bigger challenge, is going to be the commercial side of it. Because we've seen in the internet, creators are driving everything. Creators and influencers. And so people are going to be wanting to bring folks into their metaverse and encourage end user content creation. And if they do enable that, are they going to want actually, their users to be able to wander off with all the stuff they've created in one metaverse and use them in another metaverse. I mean, obviously that's what we all hope, right? We want our avatar that we've lovingly created, our identity, to be able to go around all these different places. But I'm beginning to see that the commercial barriers could be just as interesting to surmount as the technical challenges that we have.

[01:03:25.995] Kent Bye: Yeah. I mean, a lot of these companies like rec room or other places, you know, you're buying your identity representation. So to be able to have portability maybe disrupts that closed economic dynamics that are there. So yeah, the value exchange here, I think is not so clear for a lot of these companies where they have their own business models that suggesting this type of portability can be a direct threat to that. It couldn't potentially help, but it could also change the context. I just think about my social network between, say, Rec Room, which may be more playing games, versus Alt Space, which is more professional networking, versus VRChat, which is more exploring the worlds of VRChat, versus my MetaHorizons, which is all of my other social graph from my physical reality of my entire life. And so you have all of these social contexts Are they just all mashed together like they are in Facebook? Or do we differentiate them? And how do we maintain those contexts? So both the context and the economic dynamics, I think, are going to be a big part as we move forward. And it's not so clear as to just be like, it's a no-brainer that the metaverse is inevitable in some sense. I think there are some of these questions that make me wonder is how this is like, I do think the portability is going to be there, but there's all these other aspects that, like you said, the more cultural and economic aspects above and beyond the technological hurdles. I think the technological hurdles are probably the easiest of all those, maybe these other dimensions of value proposition, like Metcalfe's law, the value of the network becoming more valuable, having more people engage with it. but that's not so clear as that companies are going to buy into that and start to develop all the things that we need to do. Cause you're right. Cause you could create all the value and then have it leave onto the next thing.

[01:05:04.825] Neil Trevett: Yeah, it's interesting though, right? Because the innovation in so many dimensions, commercial, social, technological, if you believe in the Darwinian mechanics of all of this, it's going to be the companies that figure out how to leverage the portability and network effect of these new class of assets that are going to be able to ride up that curve more than the people that are looking backwards saying, no, I can't let my people go outside my walled garden. Potentially, that could be one of the first breakouts, the first folks that figure that out.

[01:05:33.853] Julie Smithson: Yeah, and there's so many conversations about this, and I feel like we can talk forever about all of these conversations. And that's why, you know, when we did Meta Traversal 3, we started to break down these conversations of, you know, the marketplace and the avatars, which I believe the marketplace will drive a lot of these standards quickly because these transactions are going to start to happen. So this commercial space will definitely turn the key into how am I making this transaction? Am I buying a digital good or am I buying a real good? And businesses that are creating these spaces are going to need to know this to report to their own shareholders and company and team. So enterprise business, they are going to drive this pretty quickly. And I feel like the explosion of NFTs and building out these transactional possibilities is going to really push for the answers of what is the standard and how does this work? And I say that from experience dealing with enterprise among the layers and the layers of security and protocols and on-premise solutions that they need to build around their LMS systems and their inventory systems. So all of those questions are starting to roll in with us now. We're starting to see that starting to happen. And I think that's really going to drive and push The need for these standards for meta traversal for us all to collaborate and come together on what are these synergistic ways that we're going to live in the metaphors are going to be.

[01:07:03.497] Kent Bye: So I'm curious for each of you, what you think the ultimate potential of the metaverse might be and what it might be able to enable.

[01:07:10.764] Sophia Moshasha: That's a fun question. I very much admire. Gabriel Rene's thought process and everything that he talks about in the spatial web. And we all know this is not limited to one type of technology, but I think we wanna incorporate the physical technologies and how those might interact with space and cloud computing and other virtual and digital technologies. If we think about the ecosystem at large, there's some pretty incredible things that we can accomplish the convergence of just emerging tech in general. And I think a lot of that will attribute to what this whole metaverse concept will end up being. Because I think, you know, we're all speculative and we're all like making it up as we go along and kind of adding to it as we go along. But I think it's important for us to keep an open mind about what that could entail and consider other industries and how they might play a role in what this new virtual economy might look like. So I, you know, I know that's really high level, but it is something that I think about and I am keeping a close ear on other things that are happening, adjacent industries to see how this all might collide and build something pretty incredible.

[01:08:39.532] Ben Erwin: I love your ultimate potential question. I've listened to so many people answer the ultimate potential of VR and now it's the ultimate potential of the metaverse. And of course, you know, we have the see what happens. We're very excited about it approach. But one thing that really stands out for me is I guess it was a year and a half ago when Jensen Wang was introducing the NVIDIA cards, the 3000 series. And he said, we're going to have a holodeck in 20 years. With dead sincerity, this is going to happen. And I think that What's important about that is it set a vision, it set a bar, it set a goal for the future to it. And whether or not we have volumetric projections, like for all of the technical hurdles that we're trying to challenge, we still haven't conquered the physics of light. We don't have a hologram projector. yet, but people are working on them. People are working on better ways to do this. We have micro LED projectors. There's all kinds of tech that is being worked on that bridges the digital to the physical, the fidgetal. And when we get 20 years hence. And we look back and we see these stepping stones that we did. We'll understand a lot better the hurdles that we clear, but I think it's very important that we look at holograms. Everybody buys into the hologram. I think that that's a unifying force. And just like the metaverse is a consumer term people can relate to, so is the hologram. And so if we want to actually have a conversation with Leonardo da Vinci on a holodeck, I'd like to think that that's possible 20 years from now is to have a AI representation of this. And, you know, for Star Trek purposes that happened in the 24th century, maybe 2045 is a bit ambitious, but I'm glad that we're looking at things that way.

[01:10:32.440] Neil Trevett: To me, the exciting thing about the metaverse is not what is it going to ultimately achieve, it's what can it achieve in the next wave of innovation. And I think it's an interesting exercise, but looking beyond the next wave is somewhat speculative. But there's so much the metaverse will be able to achieve in the foreseeable future There's no doubt that we're going to be able to socialize in new ways. We're going to be able to cooperate and design in new ways. And users are going to be enabled to create new type of content in new ways and share that content in ways we hadn't thought about before. There's going to be new aspects to the economy. There's so many things that you can see. It's not quite here yet, but you can see it's coming over the horizon. It's not science fiction to see that what we're working on is going to add enormous value to an enormous number of people. I mean, in terms of the long-term goal, I would say we have a long-term negative goal. Let's not make it dystopian. Can we, we're not, you were one of the leaders. We should really not set things up to be dystopian. I think to me, the long-term vision of everyone's going to live their whole lives behind a VR device is dystopian, I think. And the metaverse is in danger of getting branded with that dystopian vision. Certainly VR has a place, of course, but we need to be enhancing our lives, not shutting ourselves off from it. That's a long-term goal.

[01:12:02.735] Julie Smithson: You know, for me, I think that the metaverse holds such an amazing force of sustainability for a lot of things. And I'm with you, Neil. I don't want a dystopian future, but yet I love the Star Trek The Next Generation. I think it'd be cool to teleport somewhere someday. I think that the metaverse itself is going to draw a lot of people into that social realm, which I think will feed a lot of distant feelings, loneliness, and bring a lot of people together in this collaboration stage. But, you know, again, that's why we're here. It's put these best practices and things into place so it doesn't get out of control really fast. And I think we can all agree we're on this major highway right now of innovation and things are changing. You know, there's companies implementing things and designing things, selling things before we even have all these standards into place. And it's kind of a wild west out there. And, you know, the more we can collaborate and come together and put these things into place so we all follow the same rules, then we have, you know, a little bit of control of the metaverse and what it will bring on multiple different levels. So thanks for having us, Ken.

[01:13:15.593] Evo Heyning: Yes. Kent, thank you for having all of us. I feel like you have modeled participatory leadership and engagement with our community now for over five, six years, as long as I've known you, Kent, and thank you. What brings this particular group of people together, I think, is a shared passion in the future of that participatory, both public and private space, the places where we come together to figure it out and making sure that we have full capacity, the ability to do not just active real-time sensemaking, but to really bring together every aspect of our lives and look at those systems together. That's something that's very hard for humans to do. And we recognize that as we move from 2D to 3D, we need better sensemaking tools across the board. We need ways to bring our ideas together, we need ways to design together, we need ways to grow and create and to make space together that we can make accessible for everyone. I've been so impressed with the dedication, not just to collaboration, but to opening doors that each of the people here has demonstrated to me. Sometimes that looks like sense making what Julie's been doing in our Miro boards. Every time we come together for meta traversal, she comes together and she brings all of our thoughts into a single mirror board that we can reflect on. And just that process of making sure that we are being inclusive and being welcoming and including participation and conversation, but also really thinking about what are the sense-making components we need in our future systems that is across the board, that is interface and device independent, but it even goes beyond the web. It goes beyond all of these ideas of what we currently think of as connected space. I'm excited to do this work in tandem with obviously not just those of us who are here today, but thousands of you all over the world who are focused on one piece of interoperability or one piece of capacity and growth, maybe extending the GLTF capacity so that we can move toward programmable 3D assets that over time can begin to grow, not just new worlds, not just digital spaces, but physical spaces as well, the connectedness that we're craving. So it's going to take us a long time. We're not going to get to teleportation overnight. I wish I could live in the Star Trek Discovery World sometimes where immediate capacity to do anything were just that easy. it's going to take us a long time and many agreements made. So I'm just grateful for people who come to the table and say, OK, here's where we overlap. Now, can we get to something we can agree on together?

[01:16:16.004] Kent Bye: Yeah. I just want to echo a couple of things that Neil said in terms of the protopia versus dystopia, because a lot of these original ideas in the metaverse were originating from very dystopic stories, whether it's Ready Player One or Snow Crash. I take it at least, and I'm glad to hear you say that as well, Neil, in terms of a almost a provocation of a speculative design to be able to have things that are able to allow the community to come together and see how these layers of interoperability start to play together. I don't know what the metaverse is going to look like. It's like I said, this kind of public private and the proprietary versus open and you know, all of these dynamics and how that plays out. What I do know is from my experience from the XR industry and all the different context from medical context, education to recreation and storytelling and productivity, visualization, all these things are different qualities of active presence. So how do you engage with these worlds and the standards there, the embodied presence of the avatars and how they are interchanging the environmental presence of the portals and how they're interchanging with each other, the social presence of the social graph of how the social graph is included and the different aspects of mental presence of the human computer interaction and the possibility, but also the emotional presence and all the different aspects of the lighting and the music and the ways that you're modulating people's affect and emotion through these. And so all those things coming together, I think, is as I think about what are the standards to take those to the next level for how those are talking to each other.

[01:17:41.847] Evo Heyning: Absolutely, Kent. And we are going to need whole new frameworks for self-sovereign identity in these spaces, especially. And so thank you for helping us see what we need to start tackling together.

[01:17:54.078] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the rest of the immersive community?

[01:17:58.720] Sophia Moshasha: Just looking forward to seeing you guys throughout the year. We have a lot of awesome events planned and we'd love to get as much collaboration from the community as possible. So definitely get in touch with any of us. We have a discord channel as well. Yeah, go back to thepolys.com and experience some of the incredible projects that were nominated at this year's show. So there's lots of goodness out there.

[01:18:23.091] Evo Heyning: And there will be stuff coming up for AWE Live this year as well. So stay tuned for that.

[01:18:29.364] Kent Bye: Okay. So I'm going to try to get this out before your next meta traversal discussion that's happening on Thursday, March 3rd. And so hopefully folks can tune in. There's all the videos are online. So you can go back and watch some of these different discussions. It's really nice to be able to have like short five to 10 minute presentations. You get through a lot of different ideas very quickly. So it's a nice cross section of what's happening in this group of people who I think you've done a great job of curating the people who are on the front tiers of making and building and experimenting and tinkering and prototyping and and really thinking about these from an engineering perspective to be able to facilitate this larger discussion for the community. So thanks again for helping organize this group. And I'm just really glad to be able to bring you all together to be able to unpack it all of what you're doing and where the Metaverse may be going in the future.

[01:19:11.950] Ben Erwin: Thank you, Ken. Pleasure and an honor.

[01:19:15.720] Kent Bye: So that was Ben Irwin. He's the creator of the WebXR Polly Awards, a creative technologist for the Immersive Web and one of the conveners for the Metaverse Traversal Initiative. Ivo Heining, who's a convener on the Metaverse Traversal Initiative and a co-chair of the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group. Neil Trevitt, who's a president of the Kronos Group. Julie Smithson, who's a co-founder of the Metaverse and host of the WebXR Awards and on the Metaversal team. And then finally, Safiya Massacha, who's both a Metaverse and Web3 strategist, but also working on the WebXR Polly Awards and the Metaversal team. I have a number of different takeaways about this interview. First of all, I really like what Neil said, that there's not going to be a singly agreed-upon definition of what the metaverse is. That's not what is driving the metaverse. He says that the way that innovation works in these technology fields is that you can never really see past the horizon line for where the next steps are going, and that there's the interoperability that we know is going to be beneficial to take the concepts and ideas of what we have from the Internet and the World Wide Web and start to apply them to these immersive 3D worlds. In the context of the metaverse and what's happening with these immersive worlds, how do you start to tie all these things together? It sounds like the GLTF may be a pretty crucial part of where things are going to be going in the future, especially when you start to think about avatar representation and screen graphs and physics simulations. And to what degree are these objects going to be acted upon and objects that can have code run on them. And so the scene graph aspects where there's going to be a lot more heavy lifting that's going to be done within the context of glTF and all the extensions that are made available there. So just things like avatar portability is an example. You can have VRM, which is using GLTF as a baseline, but using these extensions from GLTF to provide an open standard for avatar portability. So are there ways to be able to take one avatar into another realm? The other big thing that they're working on is this portability. So this ability to go from one immersive world into another world. And so that includes, do you see what's happening on the other side? Can you have like a window into that world before you go in or What happens if you're with a group of people? Can you take a group of people from one world to the next, just like you can within VRChat, and say, create a specific instance that everyone goes through that portal that will then end up in the same instance on the other side? So you have consistency to traverse amongst these different metaverse worlds. It was also interesting to hear from Ivo Hanning talking about concepts of the public Internet is that it is like the public commons and that is all universally accessible. But yet, maybe the default experience for most of these metaverse applications are going to be actually more private context for people that you know. It's going to have a very fixed context with social graphs and people that is much more like the equivalent of going into a city and walking into someone's private home versus just kind of roaming around in the streets. There are going to be the need to have spaces that are like the public commons where people can roam around. Perhaps the most interesting or compelling or highest-use cases for navigating through these immersive spaces is in more of a private context, potentially. But when talking about the public context, then how do you have things like maintaining identity across all these different spaces, things like self-sovereign identity to be able to use some cryptographic aspects to be able to maintain persistence of your avatar, across these different worlds and to have a verifiable identity to have a key that they know that this is you and it's not somebody who's spoofing your identity as an example, but also these decentralized social graphs. It's another aspect as we move forward and how do you navigate these various different contexts that are all coming together. So, there's a lot of different discussions that have been happening within these meta-traversal groups. One, I just wanted to highlight from the second talk, Christine Perry had a really great overview of a lot of the different open standards organizations. And this is what Neil Chevet was talking about, the standards bodies organizations, that maybe at the heart is the Kronos Group, which is really close to the metal. So things that are interacting directly with the hardware, things like the Vulcan API for graphics, but also the open XR. And then you have originally the open GL and web GL, but I think that's being replaced now with the web GPU, which is taken over by the W3C. which also has different things like the WebXR and the Gamepad API and web payments. They have all sorts of other aspects that are going to be a part of this. And then there's all other realms when it comes to, let's say, cryptocurrencies and virtual currencies, which I mentioned here in the podcast, I'm a little bit more skeptical of in terms of how that's actually going to work out. I mentioned within the context of the podcast things around the ecological impact, but there's also the concerns of Sybil attacks, meaning that What are the ways of preventing a cryptocurrency from being overtaken by people who have a lot of access to capital? To fundamentally counteract it from slipping into more of a centralized system, how are you able to really, truly preserve the decentralized nature? If it's decentralized, there's no one person in control. But as these things go over time, with the economies of scale and other ways of parallel dynamics of capitalism, it ends up usually being that there's a few people that have either a monopoly or a duopoly. How do you prevent that from happening with the cryptocurrency? Anyway, there's a long way to be able to get there and to be able to do it not only in a way that's ecologically sustainable, but also be able to facilitate this vision of being able to go into these different spaces and to be able to use virtual currency across these different spaces. In the second session, Christine Perry had a list of a lot of the other different types of standard body organizations. I'm just going to read through some of them, just because we didn't go through all of them here, and I think they're just worth being aware of. These other groups that are thinking about similar things and these other foundational standards to talk about. the future of these immersive worlds. So there's OpenARCloud and the Industrial Ontology Foundation, Onto Columns Consortium, AR for Enterprise Alliance, the Spatial Web Foundation, the Common Work for Language Project, the UMI3D Consortium Project, the Digital Twin Consortium, the Industry IoT Consortium, the XR Alliance, and the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group. So a lot of these are different groups that are bringing together different trade organizations or a specific aspects, I mean, there's other things that aren't mentioned here in terms of the geospatial aspects and the ways in which augmented reality is going to have to have different common definitions for being able to define how to get access to geospatial information across these many different layers, and then the ownership around that as well. There's certainly a lot of things that I think are going to be possible in the next 50 years. But like Neil said, it's really focusing on those fundamental building blocks of what's the next step. Even if the metaverse may seem like BS or just hype for folks, at the minimum, it's a design inspiration to think about these concepts of interoperability and how are these worlds as they work together, rather than having them not work together, but it actually be a better experience for everybody, just like the internet and World Wide Web allows you to have different communication protocols to go seamlessly across all these different worlds, you just click a link and you go. You kind of want that same thing with an immersive world, but to what degree is your identity taken and are your objects and what kind of context and privacy do you have? What are the arrangements for different ethics and code of conduct? Is that embedded or implicit or has that made clear? So there's a lot of open questions for where this is all going here in the future. And I just really enjoyed rewatching a number of the different meta traversal discussions and look forward to where this group takes things in the future. Because like I said, there's a lot of people who are metaverse Skeptics that just don't believe that this is going to be a thing But just to see the degree to which that there's already things like open XR Which is putting so many different layers of interoperability at the low level you know it wasn't a sure thing that you'd be able to have any experience and then be able to plug and play into a Numerous of headset if this is going to be a legitimate next-generation computing platform then you want to have it be as open as you possibly can to be able to plug and play and interact with whatever different software and To avoid a situation where the only way that you could have access to experience was to go to a proprietary company's app store, and that would be the only way for you to get access to the technology. That's the vision of Apple with their iOS store and Google and Android. Google is probably more supporting aspects of the open Web. If we're up to these companies, they would create everything in this proprietary shell, and they wouldn't be able to get out of that. The larger vision of the open metaverse is to escape from that and to be able to not have just a handful of companies or corporations controlling everything. Just like Ben said at the top, there wasn't a lot of fast movement when it came to audiovisual interactive content on the web, so Flash was bootstrapping that for a long time. But it was a proprietary format. was deprecated, then all that content disappeared. It's no longer available. So it's almost like erasing our cultural heritage if we're not thinking about how to make things accessible over the long term. Sure, you can have access to these things, but can you get access to them again in 5, 10, 20, 50 years? Really having that long scale of trying to make things work in an interoperable and accessible way. Plus, just thinking about things like accessibility, where with the World Wide Web and internet, there's things like screen readers that can read the DOM and can have, at the interface level, people decide how they want to consume the content. Right now, with how a lot of this immersive technology is built, there's not a lot of options for people to slice and dice how they consume that information, whether they want to pull out just a special audio feed or be able to do a screen reader or add captions or, you know, all sorts of different things to make things more accessible, not only to make it more available for everybody, have it work for everybody, but also is going to improve it. So as you're in VR chat and you're able to dial in the different audio makes a balance of what the back noise is, what the volume is, as people are speaking, these are things that have been implemented. at the proprietary level within these virtual worlds. But think about that in terms of just accessibility from all these immersive experiences where you always have access to that. There's other instances where that's not available. And it's just so much better when you're able to really dial in and maybe turn down the background music so you can hear your friends. Or maybe you want to go to a rave and not listen to anybody around, and you're able to just listen to everything that's happening in the world. So there's different use cases for people. And just to be able to allow that type of flexibility across all these different applications, I think, is where we ultimately want to go. So I'm a I guess a metaverse optimist that there's so many different things that this is a provocation can make this XR technology So much better and as Tony Parisi said in his seven laws of the metaverse that this is hardware independent So it's not necessarily tied to but for me, you know as a VR journalist That's obviously my entry point is having these degrees of presence as you're immersed within these different worlds and there'll be all sorts of really wild and neural interfaces, brain-computer interfaces, and devices to be able to interface with these immersive worlds. And so that's a whole other aspect of finding new human-computer interaction and input devices. And as the OpenXR came about, that was really at the stage of all these different companies that implemented their own SDKs and to find, OK, what are the commonalities so they can really figure out where to start to do the innovation in the next phase, rather than just having the developers have to implement something that is essentially the same thing, but do it from independent SDK. So you can just write it once and it just works everywhere. That's the dream. And that's the goal. But at the same time, you don't want to take away the ability to have these extensions to be able to do things that aren't implemented yet so far. So things like the Qualcomm snapdragon spaces is a good example of the extensibility of OpenXR, where even companies like Qualcomm can start to collaborate more closely with these software developers to try to feed that back into where the future designs of their system on chip snapdragon xr2 or whatever the future iterations of that are going to be to continue to drive innovation through Making a lot of these things available and that's through these different types of interoperable standards that are going to be driving that so Anyway, definitely check out the meta traversal group and all the stuff that Ben is doing there with WebEx our Polly's awards And yeah, also the open metaverse interoperability group and the Kronos group is always doing some really really amazing stuff as well So that's all that I have for today And I just wanted to thank you for listening to the voices of VR podcast and if you enjoy the podcast then please do spread the word tell your friends and consider becoming a member of the patreon and This is a less-than-supported podcast and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you could become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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