Let me ask you a question first. Do you know the driving force behind a series of cutting-edge technologies around the world? These technologies include Unreal Engine and Fortnite, Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, Horizon virtual world/meeting space, as well as AR glasses, brain-computer communication and cloud games, etc.
This driving force is called Metaverse. According to Wikipedia, the metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the fusion of virtual augmented physical reality and physical persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality and the Internet.
This concept first appeared in the science fiction novel “Snow Crash” by author Neal Stephenson.
Metaverse has 7 major characteristics, here I will provide an overview of 3 main ones.
1. Continue indefinitely — Metaverse will never “reset” or “suspend” or “end”
2. Real-time experience of real-time existence — Even if pre-arranged and independent events happen, life in the metaverse will happen in real time, just like life in the physical world.
3. Sense of presence — Everyone can become a part of the metaverse and participate in specific events/locations/activities with personal organizations at the same time.
Why is this concept so popular? We now live in two spaces at the same time, a physical space and a virtual space. I believe you may have already experienced it during the COVID-19 pandemic. The time we spend in virtual space has been getting longer and longer.
The metaverse is likely to be the true successor of the current Internet. The concepts such as AR, VR, Internet of Things which we have seen are just a small part of the products and architectures of Metaverse. This change will have a greater impact, take longer, and more new companies, products and services will appear, from payment processing to identity verification, recruitment, advertising, content creation, security, and so on.
From a higher level, Metaverse may change the way global resource allocation and income distribution in the future. In the metaverse, many people who live in remote areas in the physical world can apply to become virtual laborers to participate in “high-value” economic activities. More and more people around the world are willing to pay for virtual goods, services and experiences. Take games as an example. In the future, people in low-income countries may be employed by a large game platform company to collect data in and out of the game every day, and then sell them to high-income players located around the world. Although this kind of virtual work is repetitive and trivial, it just reflects the diversity and growth potential of work in the metaverse ecology.
Next is an overview of Roblox Corporation, a company that implements the metaverse concept.
Roblox is a former unicorn video game developer in Silicon Valley, USA. The company was founded in 2004 by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel in San Mateo, California.
Investment institutions include Warner Music Group, Altimeter Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group and Santa Barbara Investment Group, among others.
This company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in April 2021, and was hailed by Wall Street as a blockbuster IPO stock in 2021. The valuation on the first day of listing reached 45 billion US dollars.
Roblox is an online game and entertainment platform that brings global players and developers together. The company provides children’s content creation tools, featuring Lego type characters. Popular content includes going to a magic school, dressing up cute pets, and so on. Based on average monthly visits and game time, Roblox has been rated as the world’s top entertainment platform for audiences aged 18 and under. Roblox’s success is built on the strong foundation of millions of developers worldwide. Developers use the interactive 3D experience produced by Roblox Studio desktop design tools to create an immersive “experience”. Roblox is also trying hard to attract older audiences.
The infrastructure required by Metaverse does not yet exist. The Internet was not designed for this kind of experience. The underlying system of the Internet is designed around one server communicating with another one or end user device. The metaverse needs real-time, synchronized, and persistent communication for countless people.
Current video conferences and video games can achieve persistent connections and real-time updates to each other, but they do not have a high level of concurrency: for example, in a game like “Warcraft”, there are hundreds of thousands of players are online at the same time, but you can only see or interact with a few of them in real time. This is because different users around the world are assigned to different server nodes. If you need to go to another “galaxy”, you need to disconnect the current server and connect to load another server. There is a big gap between this and the real-time interaction of any person at any time required by the Metaverse.
The metaverse is just a vision. Developing the required technology, creating products and building the ecology may take decades or even longer. Every country, as well as large companies, are vying for control of Metaverse.