Metaverse thought leaders tout visions at Nvidia GTC event

The metaverse has been the talk among science fiction fans for years, but it’s becoming more real as a point of discussion among the engineers who could potentially build it. And that’s why it was exciting to moderate a panel dubbed “A vision for the metaverse,” which is airing at both our GamesBeat Summit Next event and Nvidia’s GTC Fall 2021 event.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang is known for being a metaverse fan, as he has often said that we’re “living in science fiction,” thanks to the breakthroughs in artificial intelligence in the past six years or so. (Check out our post on the connections between science fiction, tech, and games). AI has enabled a wide range of things that could be useful for building out the metaverse, and the pandemic has made a lot more people see why we need a digital gathering place that is better than Zoom calls.

And gaming is so engaging as a popular form of entertainment that many people think it will lead the way. Our panel included Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games and a big proponent of the open metaverse. He doesn’t want the metaverse to be built as a walled garden, owned by just a single company, and to him a world like Fortnite’s could just be one of the nodes in the metaverse.

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Above: Our Nvidia GTC panel on the vision for the metaverse.

Image Credit: Nvidia

Christina Heller, CEO of Metastage, is a big believer in virtual reality as the pathway to the most immersive form of the metaverse. She started Metastage to help transform people and their likenesses into VR and enable people to leave behind a legacy that could outlive them in the form of things like 3D performance/dance capture. She was previously the CEO of VR Playhouse.

Morgan McGuire is the chief scientist of Roblox, the maker of the platform for user-generated content (UGC) that went public at a $41 billion valuation earlier this year. Roblox has 43 million daily active users, and it is building the plumbing to turn its virtual world platform into something more like the metaverse, with users leading the way.

Jinsoo Jeon is vice president and the head of Metaverse Co. at SK Telekom. She is leading the South Korean telecom company’s efforts in enabling metaverse-like technology — whether on AR, VR, or smartphone screens — so that users can become more immersed in everything from AI avatars to volumetric capture of surroundings.

Cui “Willim” Xiaochun is the corporate vice president of the interactive entertainment group at Tencent, China’s big social media company and maker of games such as PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Honour of Kings. It also owns stakes in a wide range of game companies, such as Riot Games, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, and Supercell. Tencent has its own views on how to build the metaverse in different markets of the world.

Vans World is a skating place inside Roblox.

Above: Vans World is a skating place inside Roblox. This is user-generated content.

Image Credit: Roblox

Patrick Cozzi, CEO of Cesium, is dedicated to advancing the field of 3D geospatial technology, or scanning the real world using drones and other sensors to enhance understanding of places such as construction sites. It teamed up with Epic Games to bring its 3D geospatial work to the Unreal Engine. It provides an open-source plugin for the engine that unlocks global 3D data and geospatial technology. This means that games that use it will be able to discover in real time the location of a player in a given 3D space, using accurate real-world 3D content captured from cameras, sensors, drones, and smart machines.

And Rev Lebaredian is vice president of simulation technology and Omniverse engineering at Nvidia. He is in charge of creating the “metaverse for engineers” that Nvidia has been building for years with a common standard for representing 3D data around Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (USD) format. USD enables many companies — there are now more than 700 companies and 70,000 3D designers building in the Omniverse — to integrate their 3D creations into a common format and run simulations for things like “digital twins.” BMW is building a digital twin of a factory, fully simulating it in the Omniverse so it can fix design flaws and then build it in the real world.

Our panel offered a wide overview of the visions and possibilities for the metaverse. Please check it out. Here is an edited transcript of our talk. You can also watch it on video.

GamesBeat: My name is Dean Takahashi. I’m the lead writer for GamesBeat at VentureBeat, and I’ll be moderating this session. I’ve been writing about tech and games for decades, and I also run our GamesBeat Summit events. We’re honored to be able to run this session at our own GamesBeat Summit next event. I’m happy to be immersed in yet another metaverse discussion. I feel like my job lately is being a metaverse moderator.

We had our first metaverse conference with GamesBeat last January, and we’ll throw our second annual GamesBeat Summit metaverse this coming January again. I’ve also enjoyed moderating a session on the Omniverse at the spring GTC. Let me get started with introductions for our panelists here. We have Tim Sweeney, CEO and founder of Epic Games. Christina Heller, CEO of Metastage. Willim Cui, vice president of Tencent Games. Morgan McGuire, chief scientist at Roblox. Jinsoo Jeon, vice president and head of Metaverse Company at SK Telecom. Patrick Cozzi, CEO of Cesium. And Rev Lebaredian, vice president of simulation technology and Omniverse engineering at Nvidia.

We’ll start with a bit of vision for the metaverse and ask our panelists to give their idea of what their vision of what the metaverse is in a couple of minutes. Let’s start with Tim Sweeney. A couple of minutes on, what is your vision for the metaverse?

Tim Sweeney: I think we’re just seeing it emerge now, this new social entertainment medium. It’s a place to get together with your friends and have a good time while being entertained by a variety of different experiences. Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft have pioneered it, along with PUBG Mobile and lots of new entrants along the way. Our overarching goal now is to figure out how to expand and bring in all creators and all players, not just shooter players in Fortnite, but how to reach the next level of the audience. There are ultimately billions of users out there that are candidates for this. And how we can link these experiences together from different companies to create an open metaverse in the future, where everyone can participate as equals.

Fortnite features a new Ferrari car.

Above: Fortnite features a new Ferrari car.

Image Credit: Epic Games

Christina Heller: For me, the metaverse is kind of like a virtual reality or a digital reality, which for a long time has been focused on this box in front of our faces. But it’s increasingly breaking free from the frame and starting to look more like our physical reality in 3D space around us. As Tim said, we’re just starting to see it blossom in the past few years. Even if you look at where we’ve come with VR headsets–I remember lugging a desktop computer around with an old DK1, and now I have an Oculus Quest where I meet up with friends every week. We world-hop from virtual world to virtual world and talk about our weeks and have a lot of fun as avatars.

When we’re looking into the future, we’re going to see some huge strides with augmented reality glasses, which will layer some of these 3D digital components in with our physical reality to entertain and give us better tools and allow us to connect from distances. For me, the metaverse is a very broad term, but it encompasses a lot of exciting technology. It bridges all the fun we have in our computers with all the fun we have in our physical spaces as well.

William Cui: We believe the metaverse can connect the largest groups of people and achieve a huge user scale, if we continue the improvement of development and lower the bar for game development, making more and more people participate in game content development. Gaming is an experience for letting users feel and build emotions. It’s the next thing to the real world. Looking at the whole industry, there are already some metaverse-like games, contents created with different levels of difficulty around games.

A large number of producers and consumers are working with game publishers to expand the content of their game universes, and then free the game itself. As the industry continues to develop, games will increase and improve their use of technology and lower the barrier to entry, making large-scale realtime content production possible. In the future, we can express new narrative methods and production methods.

Morgan McGuire: I like Christina’s definition of world-hopping in a digital reality. That’s exactly where the Roblox vision starts. We want to connect the world through shared experiences. We want those experiences themselves to be connected to a metaverse by having a unified persona, inventory, economy, and user interface.

What’s particular about the work we’re trying to do is to ensure that metaverse, the metaverse we’re building, has three essential qualities. One is civility, privacy, and security, so that everyone feels safe and can project what they see as their true selves into that space. The ability for everyone to be able to create in the metaverse, and an economy that protects the uniqueness of those creations and rewards the creators. And then many interfaces for entering the shared space, so that everyone can participate fully, independent of your real-world abilities or whatever device is appropriate for you, whether it’s a phone or a console or full AR/VR.

We’ve been doing this since 2006. We now have a community of hundreds of millions of monthly active users. We think the metaverse is just getting started. I’m super excited to be here with all these great thinkers today.

An example of how PUBG Mobile monetizes.

Above: An example of how PUBG Mobile monetizes.

Image Credit: Bluehole

Jinsoo Jeon: When people talk about the metaverse, they usually mention VR and AR or social communication games. But I think the metaverse is something bigger than that. As there were big changes in people’s lives when smart devices appeared alongside the PC, the metaverse will definitely be some sort of next internet platform that people can use to communicate, play, and do business in a more immersive and interactive way.

The experience will be changing from a two-dimensional experience to a three-dimensional immersive experience. When the metaverse becomes popular, traditional communication methods such as keyboards, mice, and touch screens will be replaced by virtual interactive user interfaces like gesture, voice, eye tracking, haptics, and so on. The information in the physical and the virtual worlds can be connected, and users can easily dive into the virtual world by wearing a head-mounted display device. Coming back to the real world, they can continue this experience by wearing live glasses. This kind of seamless experience will be very natural in the future.

We’ve been working in the AR and VR industry since 2013. We’ve gone through a lot of trial and error in AR and VR, in both the human and the metaverse areas. We commercialized the world’s first device network and livestreamed a giant AR experience in a baseball stadium. During the COVID-19 situation, we created volumetric K-pop celebrities with the group Super Junior, who appeared as a giant volumetric show at an online concert. We worked with the world-famous esports star Faker. Last year we captured the BTS member Suga, who was able to appear as part of an AR experience during a concert while he was going through surgery. Most recently we did a project with BTS to make them appear as hologram characters in a new music video.

We started our social VR service five years ago, providing rich media content inside virtual worlds. We rolled out an upgraded avatar communication service named Ifland two months ago. People have used Ifland to do events such as counseling, meditation, lectures, cinema premieres, wedding proposals, and daily meetings. We’ll be continuously moving on from here.

Patrick Cozzi: We see the metaverse as evolving the internet to be 3D immersive thanks to the advancements of many of the folks on this panel, such as game engines from Epic and GPUs from Nvidia. We hope for a future where what we think of as a web browser today may be a 3D engine tomorrow.

If you look back at computing over time, transistors enabled PCs. Networks enabled the internet. The monetization of both of those enabled cloud computing. We live in a really exciting time right now. You look at the quality and affordability of VR headsets today. I think we’re at the dawn of wearable AR. GPUs are giving us incredible computing power. We have a lot of compute at the edge. Sensors are collecting the real world everywhere. The metaverse is going to be what we as a community build with this foundation to create these immersive, connected experiences.

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We also believe the metaverse should be open and should be interoperable, that it won’t be built by one organization. Many organizations need to work together. Just like the internet is a network of networks, the metaverse will be a metaverse of metaverses. The transmission of assets and entire environments between these metaverses is important.

Finally, we look at the metaverse as a two-way bridge between the physical and digital worlds, creating a digital twin of our world at scale that has semantics — knowing a door is a door and which way a door can open — and can vary over time. We think that will be central to the metaverse.

Rev Lebaredian: I particularly like what Jinsoo said about how the metaverse is going to be much bigger than what we’re talking about today. Entertainment, gaming, and socializing are important parts of it, but it’s going to be much more. In the same way we saw this progression from the internet to the web–the web expanded what the internet could do for most people. It brought the internet to more people. The greater numbers of people that joined the internet through the web figured out many things they could do there. They could live their lives. They could purchase things. They could communicate with each other. They could do work, play games, enjoy movies and such.

We believe that the metaverse is a progression of this. It’s going to make the internet much bigger. The metaverse is essentially an evolution of it. It’s one of the grand challenges of computing for mankind. Figuring out how to build all of this stuff and fill the metaverse with the things that we’re going to experience in there is a huge challenge in itself. And the other part of the challenge is simulating it. How do you make these worlds work? All the different kinds of worlds we’re going to create. That’s where Nvidia, we feel, can make a unique contribution. We’re a computing company. We have deep roots in computer graphics, physics simulation, and AI. We think these are all important components of the foundation of building the metaverse.

We completely agree with Patrick on the metaverse having to be open, built on open standards, just like the web was open from the very beginning. That’s what fueled having so many companies contribute and work with each other, building on each other’s work to create something much greater than any one company could do. It’s even more important that we do this with the metaverse, because the metaverse is going to be bigger. No one company can do it all. Our unique contribution is going to be the computing elements of this, the stacks that we can build on.

Cesium for Unreal allows users to integrate global high-resolution 3D content in the formof photogrammetry, terrain, imagery, and 3D buildings data into their applications.

Above: Cesium for Unreal allows users to integrate global high-resolution 3D content in the form
of photogrammetry, terrain, imagery, and 3D buildings data into their applications.

Image Credit: Cesium/Epic Games

GamesBeat: I note that nobody had the same answer, which is par for the course in trying to define the metaverse. I’ve heard quite a few people talk about it, and I think the quick viewpoints that I like are that the metaverse–it’s important because it’s the next version of the internet. I also like Matthew Ball’s description of what it should be, that it should make you feel like you’re inside something, as opposed to looking at something. Looking at a screen doesn’t feel like what a metaverse is or should be to me.

Now we’re going to take little chunks of topics here and have some of our panelists tackle them bit by bit. I’ll start with Tim Sweeney and Morgan McGuire. I’m curious what you think about the metaverse and user co-experience, ownership of digital assets, and bringing them from one world to another world.

Sweeney: I think this is going to happen. It’s inevitable. Ecosystems that connect together to enable users to own the same things everywhere they go are going to be more valuable than ecosystems that don’t. There’s going to be a lot of forcing function, both by users and also by brands. When the bigger media companies come in and they want to do crossover events and enable these platforms to sell items, they’re going to want those items to be owned by all of their customers. They’re going to want to be able to be involved in those transactions as a supplier. I think everybody doesn’t want to be locked out of their own content by an intermediary, as we saw happen in the era of social networks.

There’s a lot of good progress there. This isn’t companies giving up money for the greater good. All of these platforms can experience a lot more growth and success if we do interconnect and enable it to grow. Of course it’s a terribly hard problem that will take years to solve, but I’m optimistic about it.

McGuire: Brands are a super important step. We’re all seeing, on various platforms, the notion that once companies are starting to engage, that’s driving both consumer excitement — because they’re brands we all like and that represent aspects of our personality — and that brings up all these ideas about how you present that consistently in different environments, how you protect copyright and trademark, things like that.

There’s an interesting set of technical challenges. Just asset interchange within the professional film and games industry has been a huge technical challenge that really hasn’t been surmounted yet. There’s great work going on from our friends at Nvidia with the Omniverse project, from Pixar with USD, and other interchange formats, trying to tackle some of the technical aspects of that.

But then there’s other interesting technical aspects around fidelity. If you create an asset and you want to move it in or out of a world, there are questions about how it’s rigged for animation or simulation. Are the same properties present? Can you do the same things with it? Is it solid modeled or a mesh? This, again, goes back to the classic graphics, whether the entertainment or CAD world–how do you create digital assets and make them work the way you expect everywhere?

A key area that Roblox focuses our innovation on is that notion of protecting the players in many ways. Both protecting the investment when you buy something in a digital economy and protecting the creator to make sure they’re rewarded, but also protecting players in general in the sense of moderation, so you’re not exposed to content that’s offensive or not age or culturally appropriate. These are all really fascinating social, process, and technical challenges that we’ll all face together and figure out.

GamesBeat: Willim, Tencent is one of the world’s leaders in gaming and virtual player experiences. What are you most excited to see with a unified metaverse?

Cui: After decades of development in the game industry, the content and the presentation of gaming has already surpassed people’s expectations. The connection between games and the real world is becoming a reality. This not only changes the entertainment landscape, but also has a positive impact on people’s lives by increasing meaning and clarity. Looking to the future, games as a hyper-digital reality will continue to harness the technological power we provide, creating new values and positives in different spheres.

The metaverse, as one kind of hyper-digital reality, is likely to become a new form of gaming. It will have more content, more extensive connections involved, and more immersive experiences, providing players with a place and sufficient interactions for everybody to live virtually. We’ll likely see more developers join this project and build the hyper-digital reality. In addition, we hope to see efforts that pay more attention to aspects of social responsibility. As developers build better interfaces between the virtual world and the real world, and provide more secure, user-friendly experiences for players, by building products that explore and fulfill players’ values, commercial value is also created for the industry and society.

SK Telecom and BMW show a connected car running on a 5G network.

Above: SK Telecom and BMW show a connected car running on a 5G network.

Image Credit: VentureBeat/Chris O’Brien

GamesBeat: Jinsoo, you get to look at the metaverse from the perspective of not just games, but the wider entertainment industry. I wonder if you have an opinion about where we’ll see the most rapid advancement toward the metaverse among those different industries you’re looking at.

Jeon: The industry which has core fandoms will grow in the very near future, very quickly. As everyone knows, the game industry has already proven to be a promising area. Instead of playing games in the scenarios we’ve seen previously, users can create their own content, design their own games, and make assets based on their own imagination. They’re no longer passive game players. They’re active creators and builders with a great degree of freedom within the metaverse.

Another important area is the entertainment business. As you know, celebrities also have associated fandoms, and it’s important to meet their needs. Currently, Korea is thriving with K-pop and other Korean entertainment content. Previously, K-pop stars could only appear in front of, at most, 70,000 people in one physical place. Since COVID-19, though, millions of fans have joined into metaverse concerts and interacted with celebrities as avatars or holograms in an unimaginable way.

In Korea the entertainment industry has advanced very quickly. In the cases of BTS and Super Junior, we’ve had a lot of opportunities to create avatars, volumetric holograms, and other expressions of existing celebrities. Based on cutting-edge technology, the industry is trying to create a whole new artificial extension of this space. It gives a huge degree of freedom for celebrities to interact more closely and easily whenever they want to. This is happening in Korea now, and moving very fast. In the future I imagine that every fan might meet their personal celebrities at the end of the day.

GamesBeat: Christina, I can guess that XR is your view of the best way to access the metaverse, but I do wonder what technological advancements you’d like to see that will get us there. Also, there are different visions for how to access the metaverse from companies like Oculus, but also Niantic, with augmented reality and going out into the real world. How are we going to see the metaverse evolving on those fronts?

Heller: My day to day work is similar to Jinsoo in volumetric video, super high quality volumetric capture. Before I got into all this XR stuff, I was a documentary filmmaker and journalist. I have a reverence for our physical, real world and the real humans that inhabit it. For me, I’m excited to, as much as we can, try to archive digitally our physical world, so that we’re able to–people can access these wonders from anywhere, and we can create this digital archive that generations to come can enjoy. That includes people. Every time we capture someone at Metastage, I always feel very privileged to capture that specific person at this specific moment in their life and history.

We can only just begin to comprehend what these captures might mean to later generations as the metaverse expands and becomes more commonplace. The technology will continue to advance, but you’ll never have, for instance, BTS at this age, at this moment in their careers again. I’m very passionate about scanning great people and iconic performers at this particular moment in their lives, and then preserving them on a server somewhere so that we can access them later.

Niantic is planning for a 5G world.

Above: Niantic is planning for a 5G world.

Image Credit: Niantic

I do a lot of social VR. That’s always been the promise of it for me. Once we got our Quests I coordinated this XR social club that meets up every week. Making it easier for private and exclusive groups to be able to meet and navigate in social worlds where you don’t necessarily have to interact with random strangers, that’s an improvement I’ll be excited about. It’s still a bit cumbersome to meet with just your crew and easily go through multiple worlds, although they’re getting better with that every day.

Another thing I’m excited about is bringing live events to the metaverse. We’re starting to see some early tech when it comes to bringing live events into 3D space. There’s a lot of complicated issues we need to solve to make that as compelling an experience as actually attending a live event. That’s definitely a future prediction. I don’t think we come even close today to simulating what it feels like to be at a concert by your favorite artist. But it’s certainly a great north star to shoot for. If we can even come close to what it feels like, that will be awesome. Those are a few of the areas I’m passionate about and excited to see advance in the future.

We all just want the easiest access possible. The least friction, the least amount on my face. That’s the hope. We always dream about just throwing on some sunglasses and being able to have VR, AR, just bouncing between the two. Obviously there’s a lot of great work being done with the browser in creating the spatial web as well. I’m not necessarily privy to VR versus AR in any particular way. I just think that we’re looking for the most seamless, frictionless, easy experience possible. All of the great people working on this call and beyond are doing–they’re doing it day in and day out, trying to make that a reality.

GamesBeat: Patrick, the metaverse will be infinitely large. How do we start tackling bringing content inside? How are you approaching that task?

Cozzi: I do believe content creation, especially for these massive environments, will be central to the metaverse. When you think about the scale of this, no pun intended, imagine playing Fortnite or Roblox in a city, whether it’s Philadelphia or San Francisco. Think about modeling every block, every building, every tree, the insides of buildings, the basements in buildings. Knowing the materials. What’s concrete? What’s glass? How do they reflect light? What’s a window or a door? How does that window open? What is destructible? Think about the scale of a true interactive, immersive experience.

Take that city and bring it out to the entire country, and then the entire world. Then think about capturing that over time, with historic data or future data. Think about users being able to make their own variations. The Philadelphia of the future, what is that? It’s truly a massive problem that will have challenges across the sensors to do data acquisition, photogrammetry algorithms to generate high quality 3D models from sensor data, AI algorithms to automate pulling semantic information from these models, and then hybrid techniques for applying procedural algorithms to generate things like foliage from real-world data. And then there’s a problem which Cesium is working on, the spatial tiling and subdivision. It’s essentially the massive spatial database to organize and be able to disseminate this data to the runtimes. Machine learning is part of the solution, but there will be many ways that content will be created, whether it’s from scanned data to ML, or artist-created data and procedural algorithms.

BMW Group is using Omniverse to build a digital factory that will mirror a real-world place.

Above: BMW Group is using Nvidia’s Omniverse to build a digital twin factory that will mirror a real-world place.

Image Credit: Nvidia

GamesBeat: Rev, everybody cares about getting objects and assets in and out of different virtual worlds so they can freely move around them while still owning the same thing. What needs to happen in the plumbing in order to accomplish that?

Lebaredian: Morgan touched on that with the complexity of being able to move assets between these different little metaverses and keep the fidelity, keep true to the intent of the creator of that asset. It’s an extremely difficult problem, but it’s one that does need to be solved if we want the metaverse to be as big or bigger than the web. The equivalent of webpages, which will be the spaces that we occupy, have to be able to interact with each other. We need to be able to move things between them and do it in a standard way.

We’re at the very beginning of this journey of figuring out how we can describe things inside the metaverse in a standard way that meets everyone’s needs. It took a long time to settle on web standards. HTML was a journey, from HTML1 to HTML5. That’s 1993 to about 2010, before we got many of the things that we build the web on today. We need to do the same for 3D assets, for all of the aspects of things we describe in a spatial world. It’s way harder and more complex, but it’s a challenge that everybody here is excited about. We’ll solve it.

I wanted to touch on something else, though, based on what Patrick and Christina were talking about: the bidirectionality of the metaverse. If we can connect it to the real world and get things from the real world and put them in the metaverse and back, potentially what we have when we combine that with display devices that make us feel like we’re there and immersed inside that virtual world like we are in the real world, and the simulation engines to make that world behave like what we expect in the real world, we essentially end up with some superpowers. We have teleportation. We have a time machine.

If you can create a metaverse, or pieces of the metaverse, out of parts of the real world, maybe even other planets, like Mars–you scan it well enough so that you can reproduce it and display it and present it to the humans who experience it in an immersive way. They can teleport there. But if you can also simulate and record that information over time, you go into the past. You can rewind and experience something that happened before, just like rewinding a videotape.

We can also fast forward into the future. If your simulations are accurate enough and close enough to the rules of physics and reality around us, we can try to predict. What will happen to our climate? How will a robot behave inside a factory? You can experiment and try many different realities, possible futures, and pick the right ones. This is extremely powerful, and I think the metaverse is going to change the way we interact with space and time in general.

GamesBeat: I heard another game designer talk recently about how he expects the only way to fill out all of this is going to be through human game design and user-generated content and machine learning. Maybe machine learning might have to do the heaviest of lifting. It’s interesting that we have all of those parties represented here. It’s clear that it’s going to take everybody working together to fill it out and make it feel like a real metaverse. Does anybody have other things they wanted to interject, anything you wanted to bounce off something someone else said?

Heller: I love that thought about the time machine and teleportation. It’s exciting to think that we’re building the foundation for all of our science fiction fantasies here today.

Travis Scott's concert in Fortnite drew 27.7 million viewers.

Above: Travis Scott’s concert in Fortnite drew 27.7 million viewers. 2 million watched it on iOS.

Image Credit: Epic Games

GamesBeat: This may wind up being our closing question given how many people we have on this session, but it’s an important one. What would you say about near-term advancements for the metaverse that you think the audience here should get excited about? Why should they care about the metaverse? What things are coming that, to you, are the most exciting?

McGuire: We’re extremely fortunate to be alive right now and experiencing technology. To my mind, even more so than the telecommunications revolution and the internet revolution, this is really the technology revolution of our time, and possibly for centuries. It’s fascinating to be privileged to contribute to it, but then also just to experience it. That’s one of the things that drives me personally. I want to help create these things, and I want to help create them because I want to experience them. I want to be in these worlds and I want to have these superpowers that only come with digitizing reality.

We talked a bit about machine learning and general AI technology. That’s been, even more so than the physical VR devices — which have finally, after decades of innovation, crossed the threshold into the consumer space–VR is super exciting, but we saw it coming for so long. AI has been a disruptive technology in the sense of, we’ve been working for it so long as a field of technology innovation, and then the strides that have happened from a combination of software and algorithms and systems and hardware, really in the last few years, were unprecedented. It wasn’t the road map that was necessarily expected. We thought it would be a lot longer until we could have these super tools, which is really what AI is.

That’s the exciting revolution. The metaverse is coming on the back of great technology for displays, technology for communication. We have 5G and beyond, all these new standards. But also we have this advent of AI at scale, machine learning at scale. We can suddenly solve problems and build on ideas that have been out there for decades, but we didn’t have all the pieces to execute.

For me, the next five years, maybe–we’re going to see an unprecedented, in our lifetimes, advance of technology, especially in a way that’s different from, say, the first computers. Those were very expensive. Only universities had them. Or you had space technology, which was amazing and inspirational, but it was very limited in who had access to it. There’s a democratization of both the experiences and the creation that’s coming on the back of these different technologies converging. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this for the next five years or so.

Jeon: We currently generate many digital clones of K-pop stars in our development studios. You can meet them through our AR service, Jump AR. We’re adding more and more stars that people can meet in AR in the future, anywhere they want. Another project, we’ve launched a different social communication metaverse platform just two and a half months ago, and we’ve built up more than 1,000 partnerships up to today.

The aerial view of Roblox's Insomniac Land.

Above: The aerial view of Roblox’s Insomniac Land.

Image Credit: Roblox

In the metaverse era, nobody can build the metaverse alone. Collaboration is very important. We’ll continuously invest in this market by incubating and collaborating with local and global partners. In a couple of years, many business areas will be penetrating into the metaverse, and we can do almost any kind of business interaction there.

Cozzi: I know it’s a bit of a geeky answer, but I’m excited for the advancement of open standards to help bring together all the different metaverses, whether that be glTF, 3D Tiles, or USD. When you build these bridges, you unlock these new experiences so quickly. That’s what I’m most excited for.

Lebaredian: Just personally, I’ve been dreaming about a metaverse since I was a kid. I started programming when I was very young, doing computer graphics in the ‘80s when I was in school. It’s such a privilege, like what Morgan was saying, that I get to live in a time where I’m going to experience the things that I read about in science fiction. The first book I read that really made me think about this was Neuromancer, from William Gibson, which even predates Snow Crash. It was in 1984. I dreamed about a future that would have that and wanted to work toward it, but I didn’t truly believe it would happen in my lifetime.

I don’t think that I have to work hard to get people excited about this. It’s already happening. I have two teenage children, and they’re metaverse natives already. As far as I’m concerned the metaverse exists. It’s in a primitive form right now. We’ll make it more immersive and a lot better. But they essentially were born and raised in a metaverse-enabled world.

Cui: The metaverse is a concept that’s been gaining context in recent years, and the widespread discussion of the metaverse is a mix of concepts and imaginations for the future of games. This conversation is becoming more pertinent as the relationship between games and technology has become more close. The continuous development of cutting-edge technology brings more space for innovation and exploration of games, creating new imaginations and new expectations for the game industry. Game performance has become an important force driving the development of hardware, AI, and other technologies.

At the same time, we’re also seeing the accumulated technologies of the game industry, such as game engines and digital humans, being applied to more areas and helping to improve productivity in different industries. We believe that games as hyper-digital realities, which are full of possibilities and new technologies, will enable all kinds of connections between people and industries, creating needed values in reality.

With the rapid development of technology, these hyper-digital realities will also grow into many different forms. The games of the future may be largely virtual worlds like the metaverse, but they’re also likely to be other forms of representations, different genres, with different levels of engagement and different purposes and functions. We see the metaverse as one format of the hyper-digital reality, a much-anticipated future form of gaming.

It will take a very long time to create a metaverse-level game. As the world’s leading game development and operations platform, as well as the advocate and touch point of hyper-digital reality, Tencent Games is exploring the next generation of industry productions, partners, and products, creating value for the development of industries and society through technology and innovation. At the same time, we’re also working with global partners to jointly open and propagate an industrial ecosystem to create high-quality digital experiences for users.

Heller: For me, the metaverse symbolizes freedom. It’s freedom from my chair, because I can now move around the room and compute in physical space. I am free to gesture as I might naturally gesture, speak as I might naturally speak, and still be connected to my virtual world. It’s freedom to express myself in new ways. Free from my gender, free from my physical identity. I can be an avatar. I can distort my voice. I can connect with people who are in a different country, and we can play together as if we’re in the same room. I do believe that the metaverse will free us from a lot of the constraints of our physical reality and allow us to tap into parts of ourselves that we didn’t know we had.

Mark Zuckerberg said games will be popular in the metaverse.

Above: Mark Zuckerberg said games will be popular in the metaverse.

Image Credit: Facebook

Sweeney: This being GTC, I’m very excited about the improvements in graphical quality that are happening quite rapidly now, if you look at the new generation of consoles. In the world of Fortnite we have Unreal Engine 5 coming to Fortnite soon. We have a new generation of tools for creators. If you look at Roblox just a few years ago versus the content people are releasing today, there’s a massive improvement as these metaverse platforms improve toward providing a high-end console experience, enabling all creators to use that. Between democratizing game development on an entirely new scale–if you look at the different revolutions in game technology, the metaverse is the next big one. It’s going to bring on tens of millions of new creators. We’ll see a whole new generation of people creating amazing stuff that pushes the limits in ways we can’t even anticipate yet.

GamesBeat: I love the phrase from Jensen Huang, that we’re living in science fiction. I agree with that, except I think there’s one thing that science fiction got wrong, which is that the metaverse has to be so dystopian. I think the metaverse can be very positive. It’s the place to unlock some new creative expression, economic opportunities, and freedom, like Christina said. Thank you all for coming to our session, and I hope you enjoyed it.

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