November 14, 2021 by Romain Bouqueau

The metaverse - alternative thoughts

The metaverse is a 2x innovation with a 10x cost. It will take time to take off if it ever does.

Introduction

Everyone seems to have an opinion since Mark Zuckerberg expressed himself during the summer. I like reading opinions and debate about them. But I thought that most comments were actually pretty unsatisfying.

The metaverse is a portmanteau word. It does not mean anything precise at this stage. So most comments are about a not well defined concept. Shouldn't we first agree on a final vision?

Why I have an opinion on the subject

As some of you know I used to be the CTO of a company called VideoStitch circa 2012. Initially we made a realtime 360-degrees stitching GPU-accelerated software for videos. However our fate changed in 2014 when Facebook bought Oculus for $2bn. Our company finally ran out of cash after raising ~$20m over 6 years.

For me this is no coincidence that graphics pioneers like John Carmack or Michael Abrash took part of the Oculus adventure. I read Abrash's books (this one) and tried to replicate Carmack games in my teenagehood. However their opinions on the metaverse is far more balanced than enthusiastic.

More recently (2017-2020) Motion Spell took part of a social VR project called VR Together. We based our experiments on three axis: realtime, photorealistic, social. This proved to be incredibly hard to achieve and to scale.

Immersiveness is good

There are several aspects which make technology incredible. One of them is to map our physical reality into a virtual reality. While this raises a philosophical concern about aligning views across people, the ability to project yourself is incredible.

People engage a lot more when their brain believe what they see. There a lots of studies about what make people engaged into an activity.

If I were to summarize the different VR waves trying to reach the consumer space:

  • First wave (1991): Sega VR
  • Second wave (1998): MPEG-4
  • Third wave (2003-2010): Second Life, Ready Player One
  • Fourth wave? (2021): Meta

It is really unclear at this point if the creation of Meta is concommitent with

Technology should bring us a sixth sense

Ubiquitous computing should transparently make our life better. It was not intended to make us dependent on it.

I read a lot of people acting that what happens is the consequence of free people's acts. As a consequence it would be people's responsibility to change.

I don't think so for three reasons:

  • The GAFAMs, who strived on interoperability, now operate in closed gardens.
  • The dopamin effect is not something most people control effectively.
  • The liberal self-organized communities are a myth. As an open-source project maintainer, and to my greatest despair, I can only confirm. I had also drafted an essay on liberalism two years ago: . The political status of the world confirms this.

The metaverse is not new

To the people who think this is rather new or inspired by the dystopian Ready Player One, I'd like to share a few thoughts.

The metaverse is not a nightmare

As stated in the previous section, the metaverse already exists.

The metaverse with AR may be a nightmare: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJg02ivYzSs (HYPER REALITY)

The metaverse is not attractive

That's looks really naive but text is mightier than the metaverse. We have video calls, we like them, but we prefer texting. We've mastered images but we still search using text. We could chat but we still massively use emails. We spend millions in movie but "the book was better" is what we invariably hear. The metaverse will be programmed with text.

John Carmack, Oculus CTO, warns that we should build applications, not a platform. Others say that Roblox or even Minecraft are existing metaverses.

Calm technology to the rescue

People don't have the time for the metaverse. That being said people spend 3 hours per day on average watching videos. The concern for getting more of your attenton time is probably what guides Meta/Facebook. In the meantime Netflix LINK-TO-FREE-BRAIN-TIME tries to extend to video games LINK.

Meta/Facebook is algorithmicly made to exploit your emotions. They predict at a mass level contagion's effects. https://www.vice.com/en/article/88g9vv/zuckerbergs-meta-endgame-is-monetizing-all-human-behavior

Seoul wants to be the first city ni the metaverse https://qz.com/2086353/seoul-is-developing-a-metaverse-government-platform/

Romain Bouqueau

Internship on 5G Video on the GPAC open-source...

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