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Metaverse 1.0: Setting the standards


Last week I spoke with Jean Gelissen, Senior Director Strategic Partnerships at Philips Research about the Metaverse 1.0 project. I have combined the notes of this meeting with the information I took from the project presentation.

Metaverse 1.0 is a project developed within the framework of ITEA, a strategic pan-European programme for advanced pre-competitive R&D in software for Software-intensive Systems and Services. Metaverse 1.0 has the purpose to set global standards among real and virtual worlds and bridging the gaps within virtual worlds and between virtual and real worlds.

Metaverse 1.0 is an initiative of Yesha Sivan, an Israelean entrepreneur and professor at the Tel Aviv University. Metaverse 1.0 is pushed by the Metaverse 1.0 consortium, which includes over 40 participants of large and small/medium enterprises as well as several research institutes and universities from 8 participating countries. Among the participants are Philips Research, Philips Design, Forthnet, Alcatel-Lucent, Telefonica I&D, Siemens IT, Barco, Geosim Systems Ltd., Technical University Eindhoven, Utrecht University, Technical University of Twente, Fraunhofer Rostock, Nazuka and Bertelsmann. IBM will also be involved in the next phases.

The Metaverse1.0 project will provide a standardized global framework enabling the interoperability between Virtual worlds (as for example Second Life, World of Warcraft, IMVU, Google Earth and many others) and the Real world (sensors, actuators, vision and rendering, social and welfare systems, banking, insurance, travel, real estate and many others). Currently the consortium is also talking to ISO, the International Organization of Standardisation.

The Metaverse1 framework will be mainly driven by a set of selected application domains:

  • Training/Learning/Simulation: serious gaming, emergency & disaster management and easy system setup
  • Tourism: including virtual travel to bypass practical obstacles of any kind
  • eInclusion: local, country, European government, cultural, historical, political, religious
  • Social Presence: being at ‘home’ while away, content sharing, experience sharing
  • Support for Elderly / Disabled / Minorities: including social presence, medical support, specific targeted information
  • Entertainment, Infotainment & Edutainment

Others will be defined during the following phases of the project.

Some of the innovations in interoperability have already been identified, for example:

  • Interfaces for displays, control devices, sensors, robotics
  • Definition of a framework for security, trust, privacy
  • Interfaces supporting avatar mobility and platform diversification
  • User profile characterization
  • Combining the new media paradigm with the best of traditional media
  • Application & service development platform
  • Business-models
  • Development of avatar based marketing strategies

Metaverse 1.0 wants to reshape the way companies interact with their environments (markets, customers, suppliers, stakeholders, etc.) in a fashion comparable to the Internet did. The program wants to push the development of new (breakthrough) business models, services, applications and devices. In order to do so, there are several bottlenecks concerning current virtual worlds that needs to be solved:

  • No feedback-interfaces exist into / from real world
  • No security, trust and privacy management
  • Metaverse content cannot be ported between virtual worlds
  • Metaverses are limited to “chat / text” oriented interaction
  • Metaverses are imperfect and incomplete
  • Metaverses are fragmented
  • Metaverses use different and cumbersome technology
  • No profound and sound knowledge on business models
  • No knowledge on who, how and why do people engage
  • No mechanisms to balance viral brand enhancement

However, the consortium acknowledges the potential market impact of virtual worlds, both on social (more processes and services move from the ‘real’ to the virtual world) and economic (emerging virtual market have a high growth potential and will replace for some part existing markets but also certainly create new market opportunities) aspects.

Metaverse 1.0 will be developed between now and 2010 and more details will be released during upcoming events such as the Virtual Worlds Conference.

Standardization and interoperability are some of the main issues if it comes to virtual worlds. We have heard several virtual world provides such as HiPiHi call for more open standards but for quite obvious reasons, providers have been reluctant with this. In order to create a truly world wide virtual network of virtual environments this should however be top priority. I am very curious to see what virtual world providers will join this consortium, i.e. how they

On 8 October there will be a summit the Virtual Worlds Conference in San Jose with most of the major players present (Linden Lab, Active Worlds, etc) to discuss standardization and developing a global framework.

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