These days metaverse is talk of the town and every brand is gearing for it, but the question is are we truly ready for it? It is envisioned as a seamless integration of virtual worlds, with each world developed by separate providers. The connectivity devices for users are getting better and will increasingly become very smart “fashion accessories” in much the same way that mobile phones have become. But fundamental to the metaverse will be interoperable, immersive, and shared virtual ecosystems, navigable by user-controlled avatars. Low latency connectivity and computing power moving close to the edge are two fundamental capabilities required to make the metaverse a reality, most likely delivered by communications service providers (CSPs). Ubiquitous connectivity will be needed as a foundation for the metaverse, which will be down to them to provide.
Along with this new level of connectivity, we should consider several challenges the industry needs to overcome for the metaverse to succeed.
Interoperability to address the “metaverse of madness”
One of the significant advances of the metaverse will be to propose a single virtual universe, where we can join from anywhere and do different activities together (play games, watch movies, work, etc.).
There will likely be multiple different metaverses that people will look to join depending on their specific interests. We may have to enter several metaverses to be able to interact with our other groups of friends.
We don’t know if we’ll have to connect the different universes to move from one to the other quickly, so interoperability between metaverses is critical. Interoperability suggests standardization, a 3GPP type approach to 5G or TMform promotion of open API come to mind, as necessary to ensure consumers have a seamless experience between metaverses.
So, who is going to take responsibility for this? Some commentators suggest Meta could play a role here. However, for it to be successful, whoever fills the void will need to take on a platform-like part to enable various metaverses to function side-by-side. Expanding the platform analogy, they need to act as ”The Salesforce” of the metaverse.
Consumers have made it clear security is a barrier
The metaverse will require transferring vast amounts of data, much of it personal and critical (e.g., location). The risk of cyber-attacks will be heightened and ever-present—primarily as consumers rely on it more deeply over time. But like the issue of interoperability, who will protect the metaverse? Will it be the responsibility of cybersecurity or the interfaces of each metaverse? Who is going to test for weakness continuously? What can operators of individual metaverse do to mitigate the risk? Does decentralized storage of data reduce this risk?
Any unique attack can only affect a small part of the network rather than taking the whole metaverse down. Some experts suggest that blockchain could play a role in the cybersecurity solution by storing and transmitting information non-centralized and reducing the risk. This will be a significant factor requiring innovative solutions to protect end-users of the metaverse effectively.
Real-world resources are required to make this virtual world a reality
While it may be virtual, the metaverse impacts our physical world to enable it at scale. A high level of resources will be required to make it function, which are real and limited, such as rare metals for electronic devices, energy sources for data centers power, etc. As the number of users increases, we risk exhausting these resources. If the metaverse succeeds, it will require ubiquitous connectivity and exponential growth in edge computing capability. In particular, the high volume of data exchanged to support AR/VR services that travel between the virtual worlds and the physical world requires a highly efficient edge networking and communication infrastructure that optimizes the trade-offs between rate, reliability, and latency.
Data rate supports the end-user experience, and ultra-low latency is necessary for enhanced AR/VR services. Latency determines how quickly players receive information about their situation in the virtual worlds and how quickly their responses are transmitted to other players. Mobile edge networks move the compute power closer to the end-user. For example, a gamer taking part in an outdoor multiplayer game relies on the computing power being closer to the hardware to ensure a seamless experience without any delays between command and execution. The metaverse will need these high rates of data transfer, ultra-low latency, and computing at the edge to succeed, but the flip side of the coin is a more significant impact on resources—which the right balance remains to be seen.
Those proponents of the metaverse are still only at the beginning of the journey to create a fully immersive virtual experience for users. Ubiquity connectivity, edge computing, security, and interoperability of different metaverses are all key challenges to be conquered. It will be interesting to see how this evolves. The pieces all exist, but who will put them together?
The article has been written by Niall Norton, General Manager, Network, Amdocs