Shaping the Future: The Road to an Open, User-Centric Metaverse

Nov 29, 2023

Marc Petit, co-chair of the 3D Asset Interoperability Working Group at the Forum, and co-host of the BuildingTheOpenMetaverse.org podcast.

In August, I was the MC of a panel of metaverse experts who gathered at the SIGGRAPH 2023 Conference for an expansive discussion on building open frameworks for the next-generation spatial internet powered by real-time 3D graphics. The conversation included representatives from the Metaverse Standards Forum, Khronos Group, Alliance for Open USD (AOUSD), IEEE, OMA3, and Open Metaverse Foundation and paved a path for cooperation that will guide us into next year. The speakers convened to address recent criticism from the media and others around the concept of the “metaverse.” Undeterred, speakers exhibited grounded optimism about the progress toward an open metaverse, highlighting the ongoing efforts to develop impactful interoperability standards that could rival the revolutionary role HTML played in the nascent stages of the web.

Central to the discussion were pivotal issues such as 3D asset portability, digital identity, safety, and ease of navigation across virtual landscapes. Spearheading efforts is the Metaverse Standards Forum, whose role is to mitigate duplicative endeavors and drive critical alignment between these groups. Neil Trevett, president of Khronos and the Metaverse Standards Forum, gave an update on critical milestones such as the Forum’s incorporation as an independent non-profit.

Delving into the specific initiatives, Alfred Tom, executive director of OMA3 as well as co-founder and CEO of Wivity, shed light on OMA3’s groundbreaking Inter-World Portaling System, designed to facilitate seamless voyages between metaverse spaces. The newly formed Alliance for Open USD was publicly presented for the first time by Guy Martin, AOUSD Steering Committee member, and director for open source and standards at NVIDIA. AOUSD is championing Pixar’s USD as the golden standard for exchanging 3D assets. The formation of AOUSD was applauded by fellow standard bodies and seen by the industry as a significant effort to enhance the interoperability of 3D assets.

Beyond technical challenges, some of the standard development organizations (SDOs) are aiming to prioritize the paramount task of weaving societal well-being and building user trust into the fabric of the metaverse. Yu Yuan, President of IEEE Standards Association and co-founder of VerseMaker, explained how IEEE fosters dialogue on digital ethics and civil liberties in its Metaverse Congress series and standards development. Through discussions around digital ethics, privacy, consent, and civil liberties, panelists hoped to proactively address risks and establish guardrails to avoid adverse outcomes witnessed on today’s social platforms.

On digital asset ownership, Matt White, co-founder and Chair of the Open Metaverse Foundation, Chair of Metaverse Standards Forum Digital Asset Management Domain Group, and CEO Berkeley Synthetic mentioned that the emergence of web3 architectures and smart contracts holds promise to empower users, giving them control over their personal data and allowing them to selectively license it for uses like AI training, rather than having the data exploited without consent. While the path is laden with regulatory hurdles and blockchain deployment is limited with real-world applications outside of currency, the panelists expect that to change. Collaboration between graphics pioneers, web3 visionaries, and seasoned standards professionals is vital to bridge creative and ownership requirements.

Rather than espousing monolithic standards, panelists advocated for modular frameworks to enable customization and interoperability between technical and industry verticals. Still, the consensus echoed the need for the steadfast development of foundational standards like USD and glTF, which require concrete definition and alignment before expanding into cutting-edge areas like volumetric video or neural radiance fields.

For governance, blended models serve societal interests best. The group envisioned a harmonized approach encapsulating industry self-regulation (as seen in health care and banking), government oversight, decentralized community engagement, and impartial judicial scrutiny. Panelists fervently stressed the enduring necessity for ongoing conversations around these topics to ensure ethical design and user empowerment remain central pillars as the metaverse evolves.

The panel concluded with an optimistic tone, recognizing the steady progress being made towards a user-centric metaverse. Through well-coordinated, transparent, and inclusive open standards processes and ethical design, panelists were confident that the foundation for the next generation of the internet, where innovation and societal values flourish in a harmonious open metaverse, will become a reality. There is hard work ahead, but the future looks bright for the open metaverse!

In addition to the Road the Open Metaverse BOF, Metaverse Standards Forum members also hosted the ‘State of 3D Asset Interoperability’ BOF at SIGGRAPH, a deep-dive session focused on 3D asset interoperability using USD and glTF. Led by experts such as Patrick Cozzi, Cesium; Guido Quaroni (He/Him), Adobe; Henrik Edstrom, Autodesk; Eric Haines, NVIDIA; Alexey Medvedev, Meta.

This session showcased the need for both USD and glTF and highlighted the progress that the Forum is making toward increased interoperability. Both events highlighted the growing demand for knowledge on building a robust foundation for large-scale real-time 3D and thus this topic has been recorded in a recent webinar available on the Forum website.

Where to find the Forum Next:

At CES the Metaverse Standards Forum will host a panel on The Future of a Post-Hype Metaverse.” We’ll be talking about traction that the metaverse is experiencing today in real-world applications. Speakers such as Neil Trevett, Christine Perey, Metaverse Standards Forum Board Member, Evo Heyning, XR Guild, and Daniel Diez, CTO of Magic Leap will share use cases where real problems are being solved across industrial metaverse, healthcare, and consumer applications. If you’re going to CES, we hope to see you there on Wednesday, January 10th from 11-11:40AM in LVCC North Hall, N258.

We’ll also be hosting a Metaverse Standards Forum meet up at SXSW and and Enterprise Metaverse Expo – stay-tuned for dates and details!