#1209: Metaverse Standards Forum Update on Working Groups & Incorporating as a Non-Profit Industry Consortium

The Metaverse Standards Forum announced today that they are “incorporated as an independent non-profit industry consortium.” The Khronos Group has been financially bootstrapping the Metaverse Standards Forum’s efforts to see if there was enough interest, and they went from 37 founding members in June 2022 to now having over “2,400 members and multiple active Working and Exploratory Groups focused on driving pragmatic interoperability advances.” Now that they’ve incorporated as a 501(c)6 industry trade organization, they have “organized its own governance, finances, and operations. Working Group activities remain freely accessible to any member, while new paid membership tiers enable members to be elected to leadership roles in the Forum while funding Forum projects.”

I had a chance to chat with Metaverse Standards Forum Chair and the President of the Khronos Group Neil Trevett about the latest developments, and we dive into some updates on the latest member-driven approved Working Groups including:

We also cover some of the Exploratory Working Groups that are in the pipeline for approval to becoming a full Working Group that includes:

Again, the Metaverse Standards Forum is not developing these standards, but they’re facilitating discussions amongst other Standards Development Organizations and open source formats in order to facilitating interoperability with however the future of the Metaverse continues to unfold. I was able to get a much clearer idea for what’s been happening since June of 2022 when they launched to the pipeline of various different working groups, thousands of participating members, and coming soon a searchable database of the Metaverse Standards Register that is keeping track of the various open standards that may be relevant to the continued development of the Open Metaverse. You can find out how to join the Metaverse Standards Forum if you’d like to participating in helping to shape the future of the open Metaverse, and be sure to check out this presentation PDF for even more context.

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 VR podcast. So today, the Metaverse Standards Forum is announcing that they're forming a separate entity. It's a 501c6 nonprofit trade organization that is open to people to come participate in the discussion around the future standards of the Metaverse. Now, they're not setting the standards. They're not a standard development organization per se, but They're creating a forum to be able to interface between other standards development organizations and within the broader public and folks in the XR industry who are interested in helping to shape the future of the Metaverse. And so they have a number of different working groups that have been defined, and I had a chance to sit down with Neil Trevitt of the Kronos Group, but also has been involved with the interim chair of the Metaverse Standards Forum. The Kronos Group has been bootstrapping the initial phases of the Metaverse Students Forum, but they've essentially matured to the point where they're creating their own organization and going to create their own fundraising. They have membership fees, and they're going to potentially even start to be hiring people full-time to start to work on some of these different interoperability efforts. So coordinating between these different standards development organizations, And at the end of the day, it's going to be facilitating this meta discussion that is trying to bring about more interoperability between these different standards that are going to help shape the future of what the metaverse actually ends up being based upon each of these individual entities and companies starting to build out different prototypes. It's really the early beginning phases of what the metaverse is actually going to shape up to be. What are the core components that are going to come up with this intersection of all these exponential technologies from XR, digital twins, artificial intelligence, web 3, decentralized technologies, all the networking components, all fusing together to move from the 2D realm into the 3D spatial, immersive, participatory, interactive dimension of the metaverse that we all kind of imagine what it might be. We'll be covering all that and more on today's episode of The Voices of VR Podcast. So this interview with Neil happened on Monday, April 10th, 2023. I was actually in France while Neil was in the United States and we had this discussion talking about the Metaverse Standards Forum and their latest announcements and some of their different working groups and where they're going from here. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:28.915] Neil Trevett: Hey everyone, so I'm Neil Trevett, and my day job is at NVIDIA, where I'm helping developers use GPUs. I've been serving as the president of the Kronos Group, which is a standards organization, for more years than I'd like to recount. And we do standards there like Vulkan and OpenXR and GLTF. very relevant to XR and VR and AR. And most recently, I'm also now serving as the president of the much newer Metaverse Standards Forum, which is not another standards group, but it's a venue for cooperation between all of the different standards groups making metaverse-related standards.

[00:03:10.334] Kent Bye: Yeah, maybe you could elaborate on that standards forum aspect, because, you know, as I was reading about some of the latest working groups, and it said again and again, that you are not a standards development organization. So maybe just reiterate that. That's a really important point as to what the standards forum is trying to set out to do.

[00:03:28.056] Neil Trevett: Yes, yes, we do repeat it because it's non-obvious, because we're called the Metaverse Standards Forum. So the first natural assumption is that we're creating standards for the metaverse, but we're not. So let me perhaps tell you a story on how the Metaverse Standards Forum came into being, the genesis story, if you like. So I'm sure many of us remember Mark Zuckerberg's announcement over a year ago now, putting a big bet on the metaverse and At its core, I mean, there's so much hype and uncertainty around the metaverse, but at its core, it's a really compelling idea because it's an idea to bring together multiple disruptive technologies. There's advancements in GPUs that's giving us real-time graphics and simulation. There's XR, of course, augmented and virtual reality. There's the promise of decentralized trust and storage, you know, blockchain, still young and still evolving, but there's something interesting there. We're going to need and use that. There's networking innovation. We're just getting 5G, we're already onto 6G and 10G. And of course, artificial intelligence and machine learning, which is making so many things magical that were just impossible a few years ago. You bring all these things together I think people can see we're going to have some very interesting opportunities combining the connectivity of the web with the immersiveness of spatial computing. We may not know what the metaverse is going to be in detail, but that's a very compelling idea. But at the core of that is this concept of bringing together multiple technologies. And if you're going to have multiple technologies working together, you need interoperability. That's kind of the definition of it. And if you're going to have pervasive open interoperability, you need open standards. And so what we found at Khronos, because at Khronos we have OpenXR, we have Vulkan, we have glTF, very relevant to metaversity type stuff. We've suddenly found much more interest than before in the standards that we were doing. without ever realising that they were going to be perhaps useful for the metaverse. People coming to Kronos saying, we're trying to understand what this metaverse thing is. We really believe that standards are going to be central. So what can Kronos do to help? And who else should we be talking to? And you very quickly realize that there's a long list of awesome standards organizations out there and people trying to use their standards. They're going to be central to the metaverse. No one standards organization, including Kronos, we have a very specific focus, no one standards organization can possibly do everything that we're going to need for the metaverse. And so suddenly the need arises for, well, we need to have the standards organizations communicating and cooperating together to figure out where the gaps are between us. How can we leverage each other's work? prevent duplication of work, get to the standards we need to market faster. And we need to have this conversation with industry. What are the requirements and use cases that are going to be driving short-term business? And we realized that there was nowhere in the industry for that conversation to happen. And that was the genesis of the Metaverse Standards Forum. It's a very simple idea. It's not another standards organization. It's a place where all the existing standards organizations can come to cooperate and to communicate with the wider industry.

[00:06:57.329] Kent Bye: So I guess there's an announcement that's coming up here on April 18th, which is when this podcast will be going live. And so you're giving a bit of an update, you know, it's just under a year. So back in June of 2022 is when you were first launched and started to do this type of work. And it sounds like some of the stuff that you've been doing is creating these different working groups. And there's a bit of a pipeline for submitting different possible working groups and then getting them approved. And so maybe you could talk a bit about the broader context for this update and what's happening with all these various different working groups.

[00:07:27.492] Neil Trevett: Yeah, there's actually two threads. There's the organizational aspect, and you're right, we do have a big announcement coming up. And then there's how are we organizing internally? So perhaps, let's start with the first one, the bigger picture one. So when the forum was first formed, because Kronos went through this kind of learning exercise, and we discovered there wasn't a venue, Kronos took the initiative and bootstrapped version one of the forum. And because time was of the essence, we didn't want to waste multiple months going through creating bylaws and creating a whole legal infrastructure when we didn't know yet how much interest there was going to be in such a forum. So Kronos created this very lightweight but quite nimble contractual arrangement between the people who just wanted to come and talk. And because we're not a standards organization, let us keep it very simple. There's no IP framework, intellectual property patents framework, because we're not creating any standards. And actually we wanted everything at the forum to be public information. And so there was not even an NDA. And Furnos was happy to fund the boot up phase of the forum. So there was no membership dues either. So it was very low barrier to entry. And as you say, we launched back in June last year, and we started with 37 members. We were lucky, you know, we had some good folks like Meta and Microsoft and NVIDIA and Autodesk and Adobe and others into the group. And when we launched publicly and invited participation, I honestly, honestly thought, well, we'll get a couple dozen more, you know, and it'll be good, you know, because we have some good companies here, we can start doing some useful work. So we're just under a year later, we now have 2,400 organizations have joined the forum. So the level of interest exceeded expectations. We were pleasantly surprised. I think it speaks to the depth of the belief in the industry that if the metaverse is going to meet its full potential, if it's going to scale beyond just a set of siloed games, experiences, worlds, it needs to have interoperability. That's where the true potential of the metaverse lies, if you can make that happen. And that's going to rely totally on the interoperability provided by open standards. So we proved that there was an industry interest. So we have been working since the foundation to put the forum now, though, on a more formal footing. We had the time to do that with the help of all the members. And on April 18th, we're announcing that the forum is now incorporated. We're now a formal 501c6 organization. That's a nonprofit organization. So we're a fully formed legal consortium. And we can talk about how that's going to transition. But that's an awesome and necessary step for the forum. It means we can have a bank account. Now we can be standalone. Kronos is happy to fund the boot up phase, but we can't fund it forever. So the forum needs to be self-funding going forward. And so we can set up membership dues. We can have bank accounts. The liability protection for everyone involved is much better. So it's a great step for the forum.

[00:10:47.076] Kent Bye: So just a quick question. So like, I know there's a 501C3, which is usually like you hear a lot about nonprofits is the 501C6. Is that because you can start to do lobbying or what is the C6 differentiation there?

[00:11:00.624] Neil Trevett: C3 is normally a charitable organization. A C6 is more of an industry consortium.

[00:11:05.827] Kent Bye: Okay. Does that mean you can also lobby the government or not?

[00:11:09.830] Neil Trevett: Typically you don't know. A C6 typically doesn't do lobbying. Right. It's for fostering industry cooperation is typically the role of a C6.

[00:11:19.940] Kent Bye: Okay. Has that already been formalized and has that been created or is that still in the process of being created?

[00:11:25.542] Neil Trevett: No, we have the decision to incorporate was taken by the oversight committee at the forum back in March. So we've been putting all the paperwork and machinery together. So on April 18th, we're rolling out and folks will be able to go to the website and join up under the new membership agreement.

[00:11:41.470] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah. Cause as I was looking through some of the different working group proposals, I noticed at the bottom that there was a lot of questions around like, Hey, it'd be really nice to have some full-time employees, you know, one or two. And so it sounds like as you start to incorporate and raise money, then you may actually start to hire people to start to work on this full time. Maybe you could talk about some of these different. working groups and the pipeline for the working groups from both the process of submitting and suggesting different working groups and then the process of approving them since you have at least four of them that have been fully approved and then a number of the ones that are in the process of going through that approval process.

[00:12:19.345] Neil Trevett: Yeah, absolutely. So it was an interesting problem when we realized that the number of participants that we were going to get, you know, we had the potential for chaos because we had thousands of companies coming together, trying to do work on the metaverse, which is not a very well defined concept. So, you know, if we weren't very careful, then things could descend into chaos or non-action. So we took a very deliberate approach to creating a multi-step process by which we could figure out what we could most usefully do for the industry. The first step was to gather input from the membership as to what they thought were the most pressing interoperability problems, the things that are holding business back, or the most low-hanging fruit, what are the opportunities that were most intriguing, that if we had the right piece of interoperability, we could unleash with some latent opportunity. And so we immediately got well over 200 different topics with upvoting from the membership. Very interesting, I guess not too surprising. Those topics very naturally kind of began to gather into domains. So a couple dozen domains emerged and the membership continued to upvote as to what they thought were their priorities. And so suddenly we had a list of domains ranked by member interest. And the third step is then to create working groups to address specific needs within each of those domains. The main list is actually interesting. If you look at the ranked list, it's not too surprising. Interoperable 3D assets is pretty near the top, as is real virtual world integration, kind of geospatial, digital twin type stuff. At the technical level, they were the two highest, closely followed by user identity, more of kind of the Web3 aspect of identity, avatars, wearables, that kind of topic was bubbling to the top. The very top Number one topic, though, which I found very interesting and kind of good and reassuring, was privacy, safety and security. Out of all of the topics that were suggested, that got the most upvotes. And again, it speaks to, I think, the belief in the wider industry that if we're not careful and build a metaverse that is safe and inclusive, we're going to shoot ourselves in the foot and we won't meet our full potential. So, but now we have the first working groups working through the working group pipeline, and the way we do that, again, the forum is very consensus-based. We do have voting schemes and stuff, we can break non-unanimous consensus decisions, but 99% of the time, all of the decisions that we've been able to make have been unanimous. And that, I think, flows from the fact that we take a lot of care, just like we do in the standards organisations, it's not that different. Make sure that we have a process where everyone is heard, everyone can express an opinion. So we build consensus. Consensus is not an accident, you know, it is built deliberately. So we have an exploratory group process. Any member can propose an exploratory group to address one of those high-priority domain topics, picking a topic out of a domain, making a proposal, seeing who else is interested, creating an exploratory group proposal, saying this is what I think we should do and this is why I think we should do it, getting a wide member feedback, and setting up an exploratory group to make a charter which again is built and refined through consensus. And then if the charter gets unanimous consensus from the membership, it's actually start the working group to do what's in the charter. So it seems like a lot of paperwork, but actually it's fairly natural discussion steps as you go down that pipeline and you do end up with a pretty strong consensus on what these working groups should be doing. The first handful of working groups, now we've only been going a few months, but already we have like a pipeline of over a dozen working groups going down the various stages. The one sort of already elbows deep in detailed work, we have a group doing what we're calling the Metaverse Standards Register, which is going to be a publicly available database of standardization. initiatives for the metaverse. Because the first thing we realised was there is no such resource, a centralised resource, for standards for the metaverse. And so we're enabling the industry to crowdsource that. We have a group that's working to foster interoperability and cooperation between GLTF and USD, which are two of the well-recognized 3D formats out there. We have a group working on real virtual world integration, digital twins, visual positioning systems, IoT, that kind of stuff. And the asset management group, the Web3 aspect on digital assets. And then in the exploratory group pipeline, we have avatars, we have wearables, We have the networking, the mobile industries come together to create a networking exploratory group. There's a 3D web exploratory group, which is trying to figure out how to build the necessary interoperability into the web stack, which of course is very key. So it's been great. It's been great to see, you know, such a diversity and a real energy from the members who, you know, not everyone cares about everything, but there are people that really care about each of these topics. It's great to see the engagement.

[00:18:00.072] Kent Bye: Yeah. As I was going through the different founding charters, I noticed that the metaverse standards register, I think that they said that they were the first one that was approved back on September 21st, 2022. Yeah. And yeah, like you had mentioned, they said they're making a publicly accessible searchable register of all standards related publications and projects. Those SPPs relevant to the metaverse, including, but not limited to completed standards, standardization projects, specifications, guidelines, or open source projects. So. I guess this gets back to the nature of the standards form, which is facilitating these discussions and putting people to different existing open source projects. And, you know, I guess that seems to be like a very appropriate one to start with because it's doing a bit of an audit of what's already happening and then creating a searchable database. And I guess in some ways this, whatever website becomes available is going to start to paint a broader picture for what the metaverse may start to look like as you start to tie all these different standards together. So you'll love to hear some of your thoughts on that because it seems like as you move forward, this seems like a meta project that's going to live into the name of the metaverse standards form, but to also help to have these implementers who are coming in and implementing these standards into different projects. And that, you know, as you tie these things together, obviously the metaverse is so broad that it's hard to imagine right now, one single project tying everything in together, because it seems like very context specific domain specific applications that are starting. But at least if there's like a meta reflection of different standards, then as these different companies and entities come and start building these projects, and then they're following these different standards, then I guess you kind of have this organic growing of what the metaverse is going to actually turn out to be. So I'd love to hear some of your reflections on that.

[00:19:45.368] Neil Trevett: Yeah, I think you said it very well. And yes, the Metaverse Standards Register, where he was the first, because it was such an obvious gap and need in the industry. And I think you're quite correct that there's already quite a lot of work. We're hoping to launch that pretty soon. it will be a map, a landscape map, for us to figure out, all the members in the forum, you know, where are the gaps? Where are the initiatives? Oh, you know, I didn't know that they were doing that. That's interesting. I should talk to them. Without that situational awareness, you know, the danger is that we would just blindly stumble along, unaware that we were not meaning to, but conflicting and competing with other initiatives that are out there rather than building the cooperation that is our mission. So I think it is going to be an essential tool. I think it will be a tool, again, not just for the forum members, but to anyone who's interested in the metaverse as a broader concept. And we're going to need the help of the industry to keep it alive and up to date and relevant resource. And I think it kind of speaks to, I mean, that's situational awareness at the organizational level. I think the same thing happens at actually each of the working groups. So, no, pick one, totally at random, no, the avatars working group. What we're finding is each, the successful working groups, and again, we've been going all of like a few months. So we're all learning as we go, but already kind of a successful working group template pattern of operation is beginning to emerge. The first thing to do is to get situational awareness around the domain that you want the domain group to focus in on. So for avatars, what are the standards out there? There's an IEEE standard, there's a Web3D standard, there's VRM, which is a standard based on GLTF, and there's a bunch of other initiatives. Then there's the key companies, there's ReadyPlayerMe, and there's all the people doing generative AI avatars suddenly. And there's a long list of standards organizations, commercial enterprises, there's epic metahumans, there's the whole spectrum of stuff. The first step before we can possibly decide where we can add value through fostering cooperation is to understand who's doing what. And so at the working group level, and this will often use the register, But what I think in the domain will also begin to include the commercial entities to understand what's going on. And then step two, no, first step one, awareness. Step two is analysis. Okay, now we know who's doing what, where are the gaps? Now, where are the misalignments? So for example, USD and GLTF. You know, GLTF, if it just made a couple tweaks to its animation model, would be much more compatible with USD. And we had never figured that out before because we've never had the opportunity to talk directly. It's interesting. A lot of the people know each other personally and have worked together. But unless you actually bring together the two groups formally, no one feels enabled to kind of represent and to have that cooperative level of conversation. We've seen conversations happen. between different groups, different organizations that haven't happened before, even though they've been, in many cases, even sitting next to each other. It's an interesting phenomenon. But yes, so the second step is analysis. So where are the gaps? Where are the misalignments? And then the third step then is actually taking action. So initiating projects, you know, the biggest gaps, the most painful gaps, the biggest opportunities. Let's figure out pragmatic, short-term, realistic projects that we can actually help move the needle on interoperability. And, you know, this has been another kind of founding principle that we're not trying to define what the metaverse is going to be in 30 years time, because we don't think that's a very productive exercise. We just want to help people that are trying to deploy interoperability today, to help them do that faster, if we can. Actually, I'm going to go back to USDGLTF again. A lot of people like using USD for authoring and GLTF for deployment on the web. That means we need to be able to distill USD down into GLTF for many use cases. Let's actually test that. Are the tools actually working? If we go from USD to GLTF, are the GLTF files well-formed? Do the runtime engines know how to ingest them? Can we transmit what we need through that authoring pipeline into the runtime engines? I think a testbed is kind of a good kind of description of what many, not all, of what many of the projects in the forum are going to end up being. Testbeds and requirements, you know, so like a requirement into glTF, you know, please support OpenSubdiv. Please tweak your animation model in this way so we can do round-tripping through USD authoring tools much easier. The forum is not a standards organization. There, we said it again. But, you know, it's providing requirements to, in this case, Kronos, the GLTF working group at Kronos, you know, to tweak the TRTF standard. Now, the forum has no authority. You can't force anyone to do anything. But again, you know, the GLTF folks are a part of this process and it's all consensual. So it's good data. It's valuable data. Data of that forum is of interest to any standards organization that's trying to understand its customer base. And so, typically, I would imagine that the standards organizations would want to help solve those interoperability issues.

[00:25:28.769] Kent Bye: Getting up the 3D asset interoperability between USD and GLTF a couple of times, I just want to follow up there, just because there are these two different standards. And, you know, from what we've talked about before, how we talk about GLTF metaphorically as like the JPEG of 3D objects. And so, And USD is a different open standard, like you said, maybe it's more for authoring, but as this interoperability, do you imagine that you'd be able to seamlessly go back and forth from the glTF to USD? Or do you feel like glTF being sort of like the JPEG version that you would more often go from USD to glTF rather than going from say glTF back into USD. So just trying to get a sense there, that's to have both way interoperability between those two formats.

[00:26:12.953] Neil Trevett: Yeah, I think essentially you're right. You know, USD and GLTF, both are awesome, but they're coming from very different design perspectives, which is good, which means they're complementary to each other, though they will begin to overlap, which is why we need, ideally, productive coordination and cooperation, which is looking very likely. Now, as you know, USD comes from Pixar. Their primary use case is making a movie in all its complexity and beauty. And, you know, GLTF is coming from the web saying, you know, we need to deploy a 3D model on an old mobile phone. You end up with very different solutions. And USD is currently at least it's an open source project. Now there is no USD specification. And maybe in the USD space, that's the best way. You have all of the film industry companies contributing, and Apple, and NVIDIA, and Pixar, of course, all contributing, and increasingly Autodesk and Adobe, lots of people contributing to the USD ecosystem. But if you want to deploy in the web, you need a tight, concise specification, which is what GLTF. is. So again, they're coming from different directions, very complementary. But to say that you're never going to need to take a glTF file and re-author it or mix it with other assets or compose glTF into a larger scene, know, we need to be able to do that too. And that's going to become more and more of a thing, even for games that are increasingly enabling user-generated content. Just like, you know, people mix and mash up JPEG images, you know, you don't need to go back to the DNG files If you want to do a mashup of 2D, people won't go back to USD necessarily, if they can access assets. I think the right model is GLTF is, actually there's a pretty strong analogy to 2D web pages, right? There's the 2D web pages, a description of the layout, and then you put assets in there like a JPEG. And in 3D experiences and worlds, you're going to want to drop in assets, but you're going to need probably a much more sophisticated composition framework to put all those assets together, particularly if you're authoring and changing them in real time. And particularly if there's multiple users trying to do edits in real time, that's where the strength of USD can really shine. So it's going to be a gray area, though, in between them, because there are use cases in the strict GLTF space, web on mobile, where now people want to use multiple GLTFs, use a GLTF as a scene and drop in an asset, maybe download different resolutions of GLTF assets for streaming. And so GLTF is defining a composition format called GLXF, experience format. And that's a work in progress, but it's not going to go anywhere near the sophistication and complexity of USD. The GLTF community are very mindful of not needing to or wanting to duplicate all of the good work that USD has done. But, you know, GLTF can add real value to USD because, you know, USD composing scenes, you need to get those assets from somewhere. And, you know, GLTF can be a good source of those.

[00:29:52.723] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah, that's really helpful. And I would point people to these founding charter documents, lay out all their intention and goals, but it's really helpful to get that high level overview just to help contextualize it. I did notice that there is at least one approved working group and a couple of other. that are in the pipeline for approved exploratory groups that explicitly have to do with different dimensions of Web3 or cryptocurrency and blockchain decentralized systems. And so that's a digital asset management one. That's the one that's been approved so far. And that's actually the second one that was approved back on September 22nd, 2022. So that's just interesting to note that a lot of the crypto blockchain type of interests are right there into these discussions of the metaverse standards form. But the other two that actually have a lot of overlap are the digital fashion wearables for avatars, as well as the interoperable characters and avatars. So I'd say each of these are kind of like the complex of web three interest of trying to create these interoperable assets. And they're kind of pointing to a lot of open standards from say the IEEE and other things like VRM. And I guess that's a question is because, you know, obviously there's certain aspects of web three blockchain cryptocurrency that is highly polarizing. So a lot of people that are are either all in and other people who are basically all out and see that there's so many different problems with the technology, so many different core layers of fraud and abuse from a sociological element, but the technologies are still there and there's a lot of groups that are helping. build these out. And so I'd love to hear any comments for what you see is happening with some of these interfaces of these web three entities with the metaverse standards form, just because there are so many different protocols and so many different types of cryptocurrencies and, you know, self sovereign identity all the way to different protocol exchanges and whatnot. So what do you see coming out of the metaverse standards form in terms of how to make sense of this bridge between what's happening in the web three world and what's happening in the future of the open metaverse?

[00:31:52.912] Neil Trevett: Yeah, that's a great question. So it's interesting. There's different domains that we mentioned. There's also different domains that we're picking out these domain working groups to address some of the issues. There's a whole spectrum of how mature are these technologies? You know, USD and GLTF, now again, to use that as an example, those 3D asset formats, I mean, it's not a completely solved problem, but there's a long history, 30 years or more of history of figuring out how to do 3D graphics. And, you know, we haven't reached the end of that journey by any means, but, you know, there's a pretty good track record of, and we know which direction we're going. We're just kind of figuring out lots of the details. At the other end of the spectrum, there are fresh new youngsters coming to the standardization field, like Web3, which is much, much newer. And it's not surprising to me that there's not yet such a strong technical consensus around what's going to work, what's not going to work. In many respects, we're in the necessary Darwinian phase of figuring out technologies that are going to be fit for purpose, and particularly when we know what purpose is we want to use them for. So because there is that kind of stuff, and there are lots of other topics that are spread out between those two endpoints on that spectrum, I think the working groups at the forum hopefully can add value through enabling and fostering conversation and cooperation where possible. regardless of where folks are on that spectrum, but the nature of the discussion will be quite different. So, you know, if you drop into the USDGLTF interoperability working group, you know, it's very specific. We're down to, you know, you need more parameters on your animation If you go to the asset, more of the Web3, the asset management group, the discussions by necessity are much broader and directional rather than so specific. Is blockchain going to be a viable technology? How are we going to overcome some of the trust issues around crypto? But just because they're different in nature, I think, and hope, the forum can provide value through, again, enabling conversations to happen. I think because the Web3 technology set is, and it's not a criticism because it's just younger, it's less mature, there's going to be more of a challenge there, I think, to follow the path that we hope the working groups can take, which is, Don't be a talking shop, but actually find projects that can move the needle today. Pragmatic projects is easier for the 3D guys, maybe more challenging for the Web3 guys. If there's not an easy consensus on the broad direction until we have a little bit more conversation, we recognize that. But, you know, just conversation is maybe even more essential in that early phase than it is when things get a little bit more mature. So it's going to be very interesting to see how that works out. And the working groups, like you mentioned avatars, I've mentioned avatars a couple of times. I think that's a really interesting one, because that's going to sit at the intersection of those two endpoints. There's certainly going to be avatar discussions in the avatars group around Okay, how are you going to do animations? Now, how are you going to encode facial expressions? That's kind of the 3D engineering side of avatars. And then at the other end, you say, okay, well, how do I associate non-fungible identity and reputation to my avatar? Now, that's very much on the web three end of the spectrum. And so the avatar group is itself going to be interfacing out into a bunch of these other working groups and leveraging the discussions ongoing there.

[00:35:48.307] Kent Bye: Yeah, and one of the things I did not see was any, at least in the early approved and the exploratory groups that have been approved, didn't see anything on say social hub sub type of dynamics of recreating the social layer. Just curious if you've seen that, if that's still in the pipeline process or if that for whatever reason, the social dimension is maybe a little bit harder to try to. Standardize that any web layer when it comes to the open metaverse. So that seems to be a pretty key component, but I haven't seen any working groups on that so far listed in the primary group of different working groups that are listed on the website, but you did mention that there's a lot of them in the pipeline. So love to hear if that's something that you've seen kind of emerging.

[00:36:30.295] Neil Trevett: Yeah, not directly. It's interesting. I mean, there is an exploratory group proposal, ownership and identity coming. We're trying to figure out what the overlap is with the asset management, then there will be some management there. But you're right, there's been discussion that the topic list definitely does include things around socialization it hasn't distilled down into an exploratory group proposal yet. And it's an interesting question, why? Because I think you're right, it's obviously an important part of the whole metaverse mix. I think probably, just thinking off the top of my head, it's probably because we've been encouraging everyone to be pragmatic and kick off working groups that can do real work. It may be harder to figure out what interoperability projects we could do in that domain. It may take us a little longer to figure that out, but I hope it would come. Maybe it needs a bit more Darwinian evolution out there before we can really identify where the interoperability gaps are and how we can best add value. But as a topic, it is interesting. It's there in the list. I think we just have to figure out how we can add value to that particular topic.

[00:37:44.491] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'd have an interview that I recorded about some folks that have implemented the PubSub standard into social VR, but they're just having an early prototype implementation. But in terms of like a broader adoption and use, it's still so early as to, you know, the certain amount of needing to have network effects take place once you build something. And I think it's at the phase of just having very early prototypes and not really deployed out at mass scale. to be able to have something like the Metaverse Standards Forum, look at a variety of different options if there's not even one fully complete implemented solution that's out there in an open domain. Obviously, you have different systems like Rec Room, VRChat, and MetaHorizons, and all these other either social VR or social virtual worlds that have these components that are more in the context of the closed world garden. But to make it into the open Metaverse, I think is like a pretty big leap that maybe there's not a clear business model or just not a lot of other technical implementations of that. But maybe that's a first step and then be included within this process after that.

[00:38:44.775] Neil Trevett: Yeah, because I think we've talked about this before, but I'm reminded of the number one golden rule of standardization is don't do R&D by standardization committee. You said it pretty well. Until we have multiple folks doing the awesome necessary work of Darwinian experimentation, until we have multiple examples of a needed technology and everyone is agreeing that it's needed and how we would do it, but we're just doing it in annoyingly different ways. That's the point at which standardization can help and therefore the forum can help facilitate the discussions to help that standardization process move faster.

[00:39:26.062] Kent Bye: Yeah, I wanted to follow up on some of the what's called the real virtual world integration, which philosophically, I would say it's more physical virtual, because there are virtual experiences that can be just as real. That's sort of more of a philosophical side note from David Chalmers that he's making in his book Reality Plus, but let's call it the physical and virtual world integration. So they have a number of different things in here from like open collaborative mapping, open interoperable visual positioning services, and spatial anchors and markers and PubSub brokers and reality models, service discovery, experience discovery, and decentralized fabric. And so, yeah, I'd love to hear any additional commentary on this digital twin, as well as the physical virtual world integrations.

[00:40:10.211] Neil Trevett: Yes. So I think if you look at around all of the real world deployed solutions today. I think the real virtual world integration in all its diversity that you just went through there is some of the most tangible and real metaverse that's being used today. It's not hypothetical that there are multiple digital twins. There are multiple positioning surfaces and all the other topics that you outlined. therefore you know it's pretty to the right on that spectrum that we're talking about there are real opportunities I think here in this particular space in the forum, it's at the right time and it's an evolution. There's opportunity for them to bring together parties and see if there is an opportunity for collaboration. The multiple visual positioning services maybe is an example. I haven't been privy to any specific discussions, but that kind of service where everyone is providing the same functionality and everyone's doing it through slightly different access APIs. Maybe there's an opportunity in that kind of space to reduce some of the friction for people using those services. I think that's a domain. It's not an accident in my view that that was one of the very first working groups that got approved because the low-hanging fruit, the opportunity there for some cooperation to make a real difference is pretty high. When people ask me, saying, you know, I don't believe in the metaverse, prove to me that there are some proto-metaverses shipping, you know, it's the games like Roblox and Fortnite, and it's all of the digital twin excellent work that's going on in the industry, I think, you know, are the tangible examples of the metaverse, proto-metaverse, you know, coming into form before our eyes. So, it's an important area and I hope the forum can make a real tangible difference. That was a pretty long list though you went through. I think the working group's going to have to choose what are its priorities and focus and I know they're going through that discussion right now.

[00:42:13.323] Kent Bye: Yeah, I wanted to make a comment in terms of the privacy. And you mentioned that it was the top rated thing that the Metaverse Standards Forum should be concerned about. I guess after over six years of looking specifically at privacy issues in XR, I've sort of come to the conclusion that nothing really significant is going to change with privacy until we have either a new US federal privacy law in the United States, or with the latest book from Nita Farahani, she's writing about the need to define a new human right for cognitive liberty to take and address all these different aspects of the threats to both our freedom to thought, our mental privacy, as well as our right to self-determination. And so taking a human rights approach, you know, and moving through more of the legal frameworks, it seems to me that in order to really have significant movement on issues of privacy. It seems to me that we need to have new legislation, new laws. And I don't know if that's beyond the purview of what the Metaverse Standards Forum can reasonably, you know, if you produce some sort of recommendation, then that's sort of a self-directed approach. And, you know, with what folks like Access Now have bound with both from AI ethics with there's these ethics guidelines that, you know, self-directed self guidelines for both AI ethics or privacy aren't necessarily truly effective, especially if there's no oversight and no enforcement. So I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on what utility is having a privacy as a part of this particular group. And if you see it as something that we'd be moving towards helping to get this legislation, or if it is just more of a self-directed guidelines that you're going to put forth, hoping that people kind of follow those best practices.

[00:43:49.413] Neil Trevett: Yeah, that's a great question. So there's a couple of things there. Now, we mentioned earlier that the forum is not a lobbying organization, but we have found that there is interest, even to the extent of saying it's been upvoted to number one in the domain list. There is interest in this whole field of privacy and security. And I agree with you in many cases, it's going to come down to legislation. you know, at a personal level, it's been a journey and a privilege to meet many of the folks that have been working in this domain for years. And, you know, naive me walks in saying, ah, the industry will be self-regulating. And they look at me, you poor naive fool. And they're very convincing. So it's been a very interesting, I've learned a lot, because this is not a domain I've been personally involved with. And I hope other people are learning too. And we need you there, Kent. You should join and help us figure out what to do. But it's going to be interesting how the forum ends up adding value here. I think we're still learning. The first learning was, which we had fairly early on, was there's interest in cooperation around the metaverse for much more than what I call the technical interoperability standards. OpenXR, or Vulkan, or any of the OGC specs, or the W3C specs. Engineering specified, here's a document, implement this, here's the conformance test. Of course, the domain of privacy is a much broader and more complex area. And it involves best practices, it involves legislation, it involves recommendations, it involves things like lobbying to affect legislation. So that group, I think, has the interesting task of figuring out how the forum can best help. But I think the pattern holds. Just like in the technical interoperability domain, there are multiple organizations doing technical standards. And in many cases, they've not had the opportunity to talk before. And the Metaverse Standards Forum, maybe more by luck than judgment, has managed to create this venue where they're talking for the first time. I think the pattern holds, maybe, in the field, and you know better than me, you should tell me if I'm right or wrong. There are multiple great organizations that in many cases have been doing work for many years in all the different aspects. Probably most of them are coming from slightly different perspectives with slightly different goals and different geographies. different timelines. And so far, we have got a lot of interest in this domain and organizations are beginning to talk to each other that haven't talked to each other before. I hope that can add value in this space, just like it does in the more traditional standardization domain of technical standards. The need for communication seems to be consistent, but really doesn't matter which domain you're in. More communication can be beneficial if you have multiple parties working that want to work towards common goals, then communication can be beneficial to everyone. Time will tell.

[00:47:05.654] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I guess my, my suspicion is that something like the EU regulations and GDPR and the AI act and other things that are going to be potentially added from like, say the EU's metaverse initiative, where they maybe start to come up with some of these gaps and, and the work that Nita Farahani is doing with cognitive liberty and having these new human rights be defined that ultimately privacy engineering seem to be driven by regulation. So that's my perspective on that. But yeah, I guess as we start to wrap up, I'm just curious, what you think the ultimate potential of Metaverse and all these open standards might be and what it might be able to enable.

[00:47:42.475] Neil Trevett: I think it kind of loops us back right to the beginning. The potential of the Metaverse, if we can achieve it, is that we can go beyond the siloed set of 3D applications, games, platforms, and tools. and to enable them to work together in a deeper way, because then Metcalfe's Law kicks in, right? And many people have talked about this, is if you can buy services and products and assets inside the metaverse that you can use in a variety of services, suddenly you get an economic amplification. The value of those goods and services increases, so people invest more, and you get the virtuous upward spiral. I think that we can definitely achieve interoperability in some meaningful ways, and it's going to be interesting to see where that can happen first. And I'm hoping that we can get some early examples of interoperability really providing commercial benefit to the folks working in that domain in the short term, because that itself will build an upward virtuous spiral for people wanting to engage in cooperation. I've said it before, it's hard to know what the metaverse is going to be. Asking someone, what do you think the potential of the metaverse is, is like sitting someone in front of a Netscape browser in 1982 and asking them to imagine Uber and Amazon. It's just impossible. But I think whatever the metaverse is going to be, I think it's going to be better and faster and get here faster if we do it together. That's really the motivation behind the forum.

[00:49:33.670] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the Immersive community?

[00:49:38.624] Neil Trevett: The forum is, in its new incorporated form, is open for business. And hopefully by the time you hear this, you can go to the Metaverse Standards Forum website. And there's a whole range of membership options from free all the way up to, if you want to pay some money to help the forum and take a leadership role, all those options will be available. Please do consider getting involved. Thanks.

[00:50:04.493] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Neil, I know that whenever I think about the future of the metaverse, I think of the work that the Metaverse Standards Forum is doing to bring all these people together, 2400 companies now, probably even more and counting once this one's up to general public. Yeah. The discussions that are going to be happening in there in terms of pointing to all these different standards and people actually building stuff, I think is going to be the thing that actually drives what the metaverse is going to actually look like. And we won't know until all these standards come together and people start to build it out. So I'm just really grateful that this work is happening and that there's been such a, an amazing response so far. It's really quite surprising and good to hear. So yeah, thanks again for coming on to help explain what's happening and where it might be going in the future. So thanks again.

[00:50:44.352] Neil Trevett: Cool. Yeah. Thanks. Thanks again. Always good to talk to you.

[00:50:47.649] Kent Bye: So that was Neil Shevitt. He's the president of the Kronos Group and has also been an interim leader of the Metaverse Standards Forum. And so this discussion was talking about how they're moving into this new phase of creating their own separate entity, 501c6 Interstate Trade Group, that's going to be raising their own funds and at this point have over 2,400 different companies and opening up to the broader public to have even more people come in and start to create different worker groups to help to shape the future of whatever the Metaverse ends up being. So, I have a number of takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, well, I think it's worth just going over some of the different working groups that have been approved. There's been four that have been approved, at least when I had this discussion with Neil back on April 10th. So, the first one that was approved back on September 21st, 2022 was the Metaverse Standards Register. They're going to be creating a publicly accessible searchable register of all standards related publications and projects. Those are the SPPs relevant to the metaverse including but not limited to completed standards, standardization projects, specification guidelines, or open source projects. This seems to be kind of the meta project of this of just doing audit and keeping track of all the variety of different standards that are going to be involved in the future of the metaverse and so It makes sense that this was the first working group and the one that they're going to be launching a publicly searchable database website for people to keep track of all the emerging standards and going to be a part of the Metaverse Standards Forum. I think that came up again and again is that there's this Darwinian process where you start to implement some of the different standards, and then once you have multiple standards that are addressing the same thing, then that's where the interoperability starts to really be valued. And that's where the Metaverse Standards Forum is going to really excel, is that when there's already existing standards of folks that are doing different things, and making sure that there's maybe a coordination between these different standards that say that they're interoperable in different ways. So the second one that was formed was actually the digital asset management. This is a little bit more of the web three, looking at different crypto and blockchain integrations. And then on February 8th, 2023, there was a couple of other ones that were approved. That was the 3D asset interoperability between USD and GLTF. We talked about that at length, how USD is a little bit more robust. It's not an open standard. It's an open source protocol that continues to evolve and grow and serve at the highest levels of fidelity for what you might see in a film. And then when you need to compress that down into something that's going to be interoperable on the web, then you create the glTF. Neil had talked about the glXF, which is a little bit more of a container for glTF. So it's a way of containing other glTF objects, which I think is probably a little bit more similar to the USD. And so, yeah, just having these different discussions where you can at least go from USD to glTF, or if you want to import new glTFs into USD. So just making sure that there is some parts of their standards that are not in conflict so that they're a little bit more interoperable. So that seemed to be a pretty key working group that's starting to, like Neil said, it's like 3D technologies have been developing for 30 plus years. So this is one that's a little bit more mature and it's actually doing a lot of work to help coordinate these different standards in a way that actually creating a context and a form for these different formats to have these types of discussions to be able to have them more interoperable for the future of the metaverse. And the last one that has been approved is the real virtual world integration. This is the digital twin that is looking at all these different aspects from the open collaborative mapping to the open interoperable visual positioning surfaces, spatial anchors and markers, PubSub broker, reality model, service discovery, experience discovery and decentralized fabric. So yeah, like Neil said, it's a lot of different stuff that's involved in this group, but also one that is probably one of the things that's going to be the closest indication for this fusion of the digital twin, the blending of the virtual and the physical, and the interface between these two realms is going to be where some of the different aspects of the future of the metaverse is going to start to be developed. So having some of these larger dimensions of these other standards being in this physical context and have a real tangible pragmatic application and then start to virtualize that into more of these metaverse applications in the future. So yeah, having the digital twin aspect in the real slash virtual world integration is one of the ones that Neil said you start to get a real sense of where the metaverse may be heading in the future. So there's a number of other approved exploratory groups. So going back into September of 2022, there's digital fashion wearables for avatars. And then in December of 2022, there's the interoperable characters and avatars. Both of those have Web3 decentralized metaverse components, but like Neil said, the interoperable characters and avatars don't always necessarily have to have a Web3 component, but it may be a intersection where some of the standards that are already existing may be interfacing with some of the Web3 aspects as well. some of those discussions of interoperability are going to be fleshed out there. You have things like VRChat that has really high fidelity avatar representations and then everything all the way down to like VRM and there's IEEE standard and so there's actually a lot of emerging standards that are starting to be specced out here in this interoperable characters and avatars exploratory working group. Then you have the technical interoperability and end-user troubleshooting. You have the network requirements and capabilities. Then you have the 3D web interoperability. So these are some of the other aspects there. And then the Privacy, Cybersecurity, and Identity, which was formed back in October 2022. I had spent over two years working on the IEEE Global Initiative on the Ethics of Extended Reality, and I think through that experience I realized that my strengths are more for doing this type of philosophical exploration with folks like Nita Farahani, who is really at the frontier of looking at both the philosophical implications, the legal implications, and the neuroscience technology, and kind of fusing all those things together, and trying to find these new human rights that are going to start to filter out to, at a high level, the European Union and all the different laws and you know, there's existing ways that the EU's GDPR needs to be modified for biometric laws and there's Specific aspects of say, you know, what are the definitions of biometric data to look at biometrically inferred data? So I think that at the end of the day there's going to be these major big companies like Meta, Apple, HTC, Pico, you know, these companies that are going to be at the forefront of these technologies. And so, to really bring about both legislation and regulation that's going to drive the changing to their privacy engineering, but also the oversight and the enforcement, I think, are the other key components. And so, maybe this effort that's happening through the Metaverse Standards Forum is going to be able to start to Facilitate some of this broader discussion and awareness for some of these different things the 501c6 does actually allow for lobbying when I looked it up online because I remember talking to the XR Association they have a 501c6 there does Have a lobbying component. I'm not sure if Neil is going to go in that direction he says that they're much more interested in creating it more of a Entity standards group to facilitate this discussion because you know he wants to keep it open to all these different companies involving and there's already other trade organizations like the XRA that is handling some of the different lobbying aspects to that and Not sure if he may never standards form would be a viable sort of counterpart to some of the different lobbying efforts from these big major tech companies that may be pushing for other privacy standards, but you know The 501c6 does allow for lobbying, it just doesn't sound like their particular instantiation of it is going to be necessarily focused on doing any explicit lobbying efforts. That's at least my understanding when I looked it up online, trying to see if there was a lobbying option that would be available. So I may end up getting a little bit more involved just to see how the development of some of these different working groups continues to push forward some of these different issues. Like I said, I do have an interview that talks about some of the different social VR components with the PubSub standards that I'll be running here that, like Neil said, there needs to be a number of different viable working solutions out there. And once there's a number of different solutions that are basically doing the same thing, but are slightly annoyingly different, that's where the benefit for having this discussion around the standards forum starts to come in. Most of the more viable social VR integrations have come in the context of these closed world gardens. So like VRChat, Horizon Worlds, Rec Room, Roblox, Fortnite, they all have their friend systems that are integrated internally within each of these different systems. And so figuring out how to abstract those different social graphs out to a way that is just beyond those closed world garden contexts, there's not a lot of incentive really, frankly, for those companies to open source that. So it's gonna have to have a separate effort For other people outside of that to build up their own social graph. That's where a lot of the value comes from is those Connections and those relationships that have been built up within the context of those networks and so plus, you know You might want to legitimately have your context under which that you have your friends network in these different platforms and you want them to be different for a variety of different reasons that you may not want them to be widely available for everywhere you go into this 3d metaverse that's forming so Anyway, that's just some thoughts. And as we move forward, then this is a place where the metaverse standards form can start to both illuminate what's needed and also start to see, okay, what are the next viable steps to go through this Darwinian evolution? Neil said, it's not a great idea to use the standard development process to go through the prototyping of different options that are out there. That's maybe a separate thing that needs to happen. So once there's viable implementations, then you move into this form process to look at the different ways to standardize it and then move into finally coming up with some sort of consensus with this effort to start to facilitate all these variety of different conversations. So anyway, really super interesting to see where the metaverse is right now and where the future might be by looking at some of these different discussions that are happening at these working group levels, which are the ones that have already been approved and which ones are still emerging. It's quite interesting to me just to see how many of the Web3 companies and efforts are involved in these discussions. And I think at the end of the day, as long as there's these open standards where there's a variety of different ways that you can implement it, it's not necessarily a requirement. to start to implement all these different decentralized or Web3 or blockchain or cryptocurrency technologies. But at least they'll be in a part of facilitating these discussions of all these variety of different open standards. As the metaverse starts to form, there'll be a diversity of different approaches that people take in order to have this interoperable, immersive 3D virtual worlds that are unfolding as we move forward. And as people actually start to build some of these different viable prototypes of what the metaverse is actually going to be. Anyway, 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. This is a necessary part of the podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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