New metaverse standards to address lack of interoperability

Big-name tech companies such as Meta, Microsoft, and Epic Games have formed a standards organization called the Metaverse Standards Forum (MSF). This is meant to be a group that creates open standards for all things metaverse, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D technology.

Over 30 companies have signed on, some of which are deep in metaverse technology like Meta itself. Others include Nvidia, Unity (the creators of the popular game engine), Qualcomm, Sony, and even the web standards organization itself — the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3).

Meta Quest

According to the official press release:

“The Forum will explore where the lack of interoperability is holding back metaverse deployment and how the work of Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) defining and evolving needed standards may be coordinated and accelerated. Open to any organization at no cost, the Forum will focus on pragmatic, action-based projects such as implementation prototyping, hackathons, plugfests, and open-source tooling to accelerate the testing and adoption of metaverse standards, while also developing consistent terminology and deployment guidelines.”

This seems to imply that many of the future technologies created for the metaverse will include some level of interoperability between companies. That doesn’t mean the metaverse will be the Internet 2.0, but it may allow users to use certain profiles or data across metaverse platforms. In fact, this is directly stated in the press release:

“The metaverse will bring together diverse technologies, requiring a constellation of interoperability standards, created and maintained by many standards organizations,” said Neil Trevett, Khronos president. “The Metaverse Standards Forum is a unique venue for coordination between standards organizations and industry, with a mission to foster the pragmatic and timely standardization that will be essential to an open and inclusive metaverse.”

A vision of Meta's metaverse in the work setting.

Besides the W3, other standards organizations have also joined the Forum, such as the Open AR Cloud, Spatial Web Foundation, and the Open Geospatial Consortium. This gives a lot of weight and much needed legitimacy to the organization, as the metaverse is very much a burgeoning field of technology.

Interestingly, major VR/AR players are conspicuously missing at the moment. Apple, who has already invested much in AR technology and is planning its own headset, has not yet joined the MSF. Niantic, maker of popular AR game Pokemon Go, is also missing from the roster. Protocol also points out that the Roblox Corporation, maker of the wildly successful Roblox game, has also declined to join for now.

While not considered a “metaverse” in the popular usage, Roblox in particular has been able to create an immersive 3D world where people can create entire games within it.

The exclusion of Apple, Niantic, and Roblox isn’t a forgone conclusion, however, as the MSF has just begun. The good thing is that most of the major players in the metaverse tech are agreeing to create some kind of unified standard to make development much easier. The press release named several important technology fields, including avatars, privacy and identity management, and financial transactions.

The Metaverse Standards Forum is scheduled to begin meeting next month.

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Band of AI startups launch ‘rebel alliance’ for interoperability

More than 20 AI startups have banded together to create the AI Infrastructure Alliance in order to build a software and hardware stack for machine learning and adopt common standards. The alliance brings together companies like Algorithmia; Determined AI, which works with deep learning; data monitoring startup WhyLabs; and Pachyderm, a data science company that raised $16 million last year in a round led by M12, formerly Microsoft Ventures. A spokesperson for the alliance said partner organizations have raised about $200 million in funding from investors.

Dan Jeffries, chief tech evangelist at Pachyderm, will serve as director of the alliance. He said the group began to form from conversations that started over a year ago. Participants include a number of companies whose founders have experience running systems at scale within Big Tech companies. For example, WhyLabs CEO and cofounder Alessya Visnjic worked on fixing machine learning issues at Amazon, and Jeffries previously worked with machine learning at Red Hat.

But in a conversation with VentureBeat, Jeffries referred to the endeavor for small to medium-size businesses in AI as a “rebel alliance against the empire” that will serve as an alternative to offerings from Big Tech cloud providers, which he characterized as “building an infrastructure just to lock you in.”

“Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing wrong with a big proprietary tool if you’re all in, but a true canonical stack is one that’s portable across environments,” he said. “To become part of a truly foundational stack of the future, you’ve got to run in multiple environments. And you’ve got to play nice with others in the sandbox, and you have to have interoperability in that market.”

“Not everyone in the group will survive. But we’ve talked about this. Like we’re in this Cambrian explosion period, and the Alliance at this point, it will serve where we are in the adoption curve. Some of these companies will go away or fold into whoever the eventual winner is,” he said.

The alliance initially plans to focus on things like small partnerships between developers working on tools and frameworks, facilitating joint documentation, and creating test software for integration. How to eliminate bias in algorithms before being deployed will not be considered as part of what Jeffries refers to as the canonical stack.

Examples of alliances formed in the AI space to tackle include the Open Source Neural Exchange (ONNX), created by Facebook and Microsoft in 2017, and open source projects like MLFlow, TensorFlow, and Apache Spark, which cofounders of Determined AI contributed to while at UC Berkeley.


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