Matthew Ball’s new book on the Metaverse contains real insights into the potential for a Metaverse revolution, some general background which can be classified as “useful context for non-tech readers”, and, as might be expected in an early book about an emerging technology, a bit of hyperbole as well (especially the subtitle).
Ball makes it clear who has the advantage in developing a “3D Virtual Reality real-time interactive Internet” – as many envision the coming Metaverse – 3D game development companies (especially Epic Games, developers of the Unreal 3D VR engine, and Unity, makers of Unity3d), and hardware companies specializing in 3D rendering power (especially nVidia). He does a good job laying out the differences in approach between competing alternatives and visions for the Metaverse among companies poised to make an effort at it, or consortiums thereof.
He takes interesting lessons learned from the advances represented recently in Microsoft Flight Simulator – a multi-Terabyte dataset which is updated with real world weather conditions AND real-world aircraft in flight, then streamed to users’ PCs as they move through airspace. These capabilities tick a few boxes for Metaverse capabilities which had never been ticked before by any commercial product.
Quite a bit of content space is dedicated to a critique and survey of current e-payments ecosystems. Helpful context maybe for the unaware, but content which can be skipped by anyone up-to-speed on these options.
Beyond the nearly unanimous agreement that a true Metaverse will require shared technical standards (just as HTML, VRML provided for the world wide web) to enable the combination of all commercial efforts toward building it out, Ball makes good points about the need for standardization and goods/currency exchanges for both digital and hybrid dual-purchase “phygital” assets, to enable Metaverse-wide usage. He also includes an analysis of the challenges of VR advertising.
In some of the most interesting content of the book, he provides a fairly thorough analysis of the physics challenges present in hardware and connectivity attempting to communicate enormous volumes of data across geographically dispersed locations. This may be the most daunting blockade for the vision of a completely interactive high-resolution real-time 3D VR internet experience. Latency challenges are real, and although gaming companies have workarounds for some of these issues, no solutions exist today which really “solve” this sufficiently to enable a Metaverse platform.
On the whole, the book is a bit more balanced and humble about the potential and practicality of the Metaverse than the subtitle would suggest. One gets the sense that a publisher may have talked Mr. Ball into juicing his subtitle to drive sales.
Whether the high resolution and near real-time responses needed for human VR “comfort” will ever be possible remains an open question. With current technology trajectory and the limits of physics, there is reason for skepticism; but the power of innovation is ever-probing for better solutions to old problems, particularly when those solutions would unlock something as meaningful and powerful as the Metaverse. Most of us will likely see the answer played out before our lives (maybe not our careers) are over. For now, though, The Metaverse and How it will Revolutionize Everything is a good overview of both the potential and limitations as they sit today.