VR and AR have gone through decades of exploration, and they have been widely recognized by the public for more than ten years, and various technologies are quite mature. Astute innovators are already asking, are existing products really the “virtual reality” we want? Are there new possibilities other than visual improvements? History and experience tell us that the relationship between technology and requirements should be: We want to achieve a certain requirement and use a certain technology, not because of a certain technology to achieve any requirements. How to better understand ourselves by realizing deeper interaction in the open digital world has become one of the current development directions of technology.
Since last year, the concept of the “metaverse” in science fiction has been pushed to the forefront again. On March 11, Roblox went public on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation of $45 billion on its first day. Roblox is the first company to write the Metaverse into its prospectus. This new narrative has detonated the technology and investment circles, and also triggered the infinite imagination of players.
Ma Huateng, chairman and CEO of Tencent, once proposed the concept of “full Internet” in December last year, and believes that the trend of the Internet in the next era is that the door between the virtual and the real world is completely open.
Mihayou CEO Cai Haoyu also He once said that he hopes to create a “virtual world in which one billion people around the world are willing to live in” by 2030.
Nvidia CEO Huang Renxun also regards its real-time simulation and collaborative design platform Omniverse as a major breakthrough in the non-game field of the Metaverse.
However, the concept of the metaverse is still so advanced that no one could have foreseen its final form. We believe that the best experience field of the Metaverse is still in the game. Starting from this C-end scene with the highest level of preparation, the Metaverse may gradually become infinite.
Literally, Metaverse means “beyond the world”, it is a continuous virtual space that can be shared. In this virtual space parallel to human society, people can not only entertain, but also socialize, consume, etc. These behaviors do not require human participation, but can interact with reality. In an ideal metaverse, players can do almost everything in the real world in virtual space – go to school, play, socialize with other people in the virtual world, buy goods from their favorite brands, watch their idol’s live concert , and even earn money on virtual jobs and convert them into real money.
The concept of the “metaverse” originally came from science fiction. In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel “Avalanche,” he conceived of a parallel metaverse that was born out of and parallel to the real world. People in the real world can break the boundaries of time and space, live in it as digital avatars, and never go offline. In 2018, Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” brought the concept into the mainstream. In the “Oasis” depicted in the movie, not only the classic IPs from different dimensions of film and television games are gathered here, but also the fully functioning social and economic systems, countless digital contents and digital items can be used in the metaverse.
After the concept of the metaverse was invented, it has remained at the level of imagination, but the changes in 2020 have accelerated the arrival of the “future”. During the epidemic, many real scenes were moved to the virtual world. Product launches, school education, graduation ceremonies, concerts, all kinds of experiences are moving online at an unexpected speed. With the connection between online and offline, people tend to spend more time and money in the virtual world, so their cognition has gradually changed. A new social consensus is being born—the virtual world is not fake and irrelevant, but a new state of human existence.
After nearly three decades of development, the Internet has gradually stabilized from madness. But capital, tech giants and every ambitious entrepreneur are looking forward to a new “revolution”. At the same time, users are also used to being immersed in the Internet world. To a certain extent, humans have become a digital species, with real individuals and virtual individuals coexisting. In this way of thinking, social networks, games, etc. are no longer just tools or appendages of the real world, they themselves are another world where the human mind can be placed.
The connection between the virtual world and the real world, that is, how to create and enter a virtual world, still needs to cross a certain technical threshold.
First, build a sufficiently realistic metaverse, based on Digital Twins technology. Digital twin is to use physical model, sensor update, operation history and other data to complete the mapping in the virtual space, so as to reflect the whole life cycle process of the corresponding physical equipment. Simply put, a digital twin is a dynamic twin of real things in a virtual space. With the help of sensors, the running state of the ontology and external environment data can be mapped on the twin in real time. Originally used in industrial manufacturing, digital twins enable all stages of product development, manufacturing and maintenance to be tested and experimented on simulated models, resulting in significant cost reductions. In games, digital twins allow us to replicate the real world 1:1, infinitely close to reality.
In order to achieve an improvised experience that simulates the real world in the metaverse, the game also needs to generate a large number of vivid characters and scenes. In the metaverse, where countless stories are being played out at the same time, AI is required to automatically generate content. For example, an AI proficient in deep learning and natural language processing can become a more anthropomorphic NPC that can communicate emotionally with the player. AI can also assist in the generation of narrative systems and level design in the metaverse, reducing the threshold and cost of creation. The quality of improvised content created by AI may one day surpass even that of humans, paving the way for us to socialize and spend more time in virtual worlds.
Secondly, for immersive and immersive experience, current PCs, mobile phones and other devices still cannot perfectly restore the sensory experience in the real world, and limited by hardware, there is little room for improvement in immersiveness. If we want to make significant progress in the future, we can only rely on XR head display devices that can realize 3D display, large field of view, and intuitive somatosensory interaction.
In addition, the current 3A games also have certain requirements on the hardware equipment of players due to their high picture quality. If you want to continue to “out of the circle” to attract a large number of users, it is bound to lower the terminal threshold. For this, the technology of separating computing and display of cloud games is the key. Existing games still have a big gap with the video quality due to their over-reliance on real-time rendering of the terminal. If rendering on the cloud GPU can be realized, the computing power will be greatly optimized and the image quality will be improved. In our expectation, the Metaverse should be cloud-native, capable of satisfying click-to-play, online updates, and flexible deployment of computing power on the cloud. At the same time, it is necessary to further shorten the delay by arranging edge nodes and optimizing the codec to achieve a more extreme experience. At present, many cloud game platforms have been launched at home and abroad, the cloud game is becoming more and more mature, and cloud-native games have also been actively studied by domestic teams, and high-definition games have become lightweight. Cloud native will also be an infrastructure that cannot be ignored in the future Metaverse.
The goals of all these technological evolutions can support the realization of imagination to form a huge virtual space-time industry. “Imaginators” who take the lead in embracing new technologies and new platforms will be the winners in the future content industry.