Ali Research Institute: Is the Metaverse a new technology or a new bubble?

On October 28, 2021, the global Internet social media giant Facebook (Facebook) announced that the existing company will be renamed “meta”, and the company’s future development will focus on building a “Metaverse”. The concept of the Metaverse was instantly detonated, and major technology companies followed suit and launched technology development plans; the media fueled the flames and overwhelming propaganda; capital was also gearing up and eager to try.

The public is more focused on the 2C (consumer-oriented market) Metaverse scenarios such as games, social networking, and entertainment, and the development of Metaverse technology will have a revolutionary impact on the 2B (enterprise-oriented market) market. For China, which is in the process of transforming its strategy from a manufacturing power to a manufacturing power, it is even more necessary to pay more attention to the industrial changes that may be brought about by the application of Metaverse technology in industrial informatization.

At the same time, future technological developments, including the Metaverse, will continue to change the business world, as well as the way we live and govern our society. In the era of widespread technological popularization, we should consider the issue of technology and people, especially how to prevent the negative impact of technology on people and society in advance, and how to transform the power of science and technology into more useful value for people. For the hotly discussed “Metaverse” topic, we need to think coldly behind the hot topic, and explore how the development of Metaverse technology can be more inclusive and responsible from multiple perspectives.

What is the Metaverse? From “Second Life”

“Second Life is an application that allows people to have a second life by creating a digital avatar (Avatar) for themselves in an online virtual world or Metaverse.” Two Lives” description. Yes, the concept of the Metaverse was all the rage almost twenty years ago with Second Life. Most of the answers to what the Metaverse is can be found in Second Life.

Ali Research Institute: Is the Metaverse a new technology or a new bubble?

In the Metaverse order designed by “Second Life”, residents can purchase real estate in the online virtual world , create and distribute various digital works on the real estate, and residents own the virtual real estate and the created digitalworks .

The virtual currency “Linden Dollar (L$) ” was issued in “Second Life” to trade digital works. Linden Dollar can be converted into USD at a dynamic exchange rate on the specially set up exchange LindeX .

“Second Life” provides company users with the option of creating a virtual workplace in a 3D virtual world for communication tasks such as employee meetings, events, and training. It can also be provided to customers as a demonstration center to try out new products. For example, technology company IBM purchased more than a dozen islands in Second Life to build product training and demonstration centers .

The governments of Maldives, Sweden, Estonia, Colombia, Serbia, North Macedonia, the Philippines, Albania, Israel, Malta and other countries have opened embassies in Second Life .

Various art exhibitions, sports competitions, distance education, religious ceremonies, scientific activities , etc. appeared in the virtual world of “Second Life” , and even “riots” and “demonstrations” appeared . The media and social media in “Second Life” also naturally become important tools of mass communication in the virtual world.

Because of its huge business prospects, “Second Life” appeared on the cover of “Business Week” in May 2006, and the report specially introduced a millionaire who was born through digital commodity trading in Second Life. Time has become a new social phenomenon and cross-border trend.

Most of the scenarios that the public discusses about the Metaverse today have more or less tried to land in Second Life.Since the monthly active users exceeded the milestone of 1 million in 2007, “Second Life” began to quietly slip from its peak, and a new generation of young people turned this social addiction to Facebook and Instagram. Today, when a newer generation of young people flocks from Facebook to TikTok and Snapchat, Facebook, already past its prime and troubled, suddenly changed its name and embraced the Metaverse in its entirety, raising doubts about its true motives.The excitement level of the capital market obviously exceeds that of the technology circle, and a new investment hotspot is about to emerge. Will the Metaverse become a technology bubble again?

The development of human-computer interaction technology, from 1D, 2D to 3D interaction

One-dimensional (1D) interaction based on byte stream

On October 29, 1969, using packet switching technology, a computer at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) and a computer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) achieved a remote connection, which was the historical starting point for the development of computer networks. It was not until the early 1980s that the TCP/IP protocols that make up the Internet architecture began to be deployed on a large scale. Before that, in 1978, with the gradual extension of computer networks in campuses, a MUD (Multiple User Domain) online game with a pure text interface had begun to become popular in North American university campuses. In the early MUD system, a server was responsible for all operations in the virtual world. At that time, the computer terminal was still a text interface. Players used a remote terminal program (such as telnet) to connect to the server to play online games, and the remote terminal program on the client was responsible for displaying The message returned by the server and the commands entered by the player are sent to the server.

In the MUD, the player plays a role in the virtual world, and the system outputs a short text describing the scene where the player is located, and the player interacts with it by entering text commands. The input and output methods of one-dimensional (1D) character streams constitute the technical foundation of the first generation of Metaverse.

You continue to go north and finally come to the front of the Songshan Mountain Gate, but you can see that the mountain is lush and green, the forest is dense, and the mountain is very majestic. In the open space in front of the mountain gate stands a big tree, and a vine man hangs down from the tree.

The obvious exits here are south and north.

Players can enter various commands after the command prompt “> “, such as “go north (move north)”, and the system will also have some hidden commands, such as “pull Tengman (pull the Tengman)”, Maybe you can find a treasure chest

Figure 2. Interactive interface of Chinese MUD

2D interaction enabled by mouse and graphics engine technology

After the computer entered the PC era, with the continuous enhancement of the computing power of the computer in terms of images and graphics, the graphics engine can be used to render a more complex and realistic virtual world. Multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), such as the King of Glory, Warcraft, etc. that everyone is familiar with today.

Before the invention of the term MMORPG, this style of game was actually called graphical MUD from the beginning. The first generation of MMORPG game designers also originated from MUD developers or players, such as Brian Green, the developer of the first 3D MMORPG game Meridian59, Raph Koster, the chief creative officer of Sony Online Entertainment, and the main designer of EverQuest games. Brad McQuaid et al. Shortly thereafter, Second Life, an MMORPG platform without a story script, appeared in the first chapter of this article. Using the rendering capabilities brought about by the development of computer graphics technology, players have realized two-dimensional (2D) interaction with the virtual world using a mouse and keyboard .

AR/VR technology enables 3D interaction

With the continuous development and maturity of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (Virtual Reality/VR), a new generation of human-computer interaction technology has built a bridge between the digital world and the physical world. The virtual world expands to the binary fusion of virtual and real worlds, and players realize three-dimensional (3D) interaction with the virtual world in space .

Ali Research Institute: Is the Metaverse a new technology or a new bubble?

Using AR technology, users can add virtual scenes in the real world, such as some virtual items, characters, digital information and related interactive forms. When shopping, you can browse in an interactive manner similar to that on e-commerce websites, search for discounts on nearby products, seek shopping route guidance, share personal reviews on businesses and products, and more. You can play and take pictures with pandas in the virtual world in the real world.

Compared with AR technology, you may be more familiar with VR technology. Various brands of VR glasses have entered the homes of ordinary people. There are VR games that young people love to play in shopping malls. You are brought into the concert scene that is being held on the other side of the earth, and you can also instantly travel through time and space to the edge of the solar system. VR is also used for training in many extreme scenarios, such as scientific expeditions in craters and maintenance in space stations. In the future, expedition members can wear VR glasses and controllers to remotely control the unmanned submarine on the seabed to collect ore samples in the Mariana Trench. Surgeons can wear VR glasses and surgical robots to perform remote minimally invasive procedures for astronauts in the space station. Operation.

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The combination of AR/VR technology in the Metaverse scene has opened up the boundaries between the virtual world and the physical world at once. Combined with robotics, the interaction between the two worlds has been enhanced to be interoperable, and the two worlds have been completely integrated. Under the framework of this generation of Metaverse technology, a group of new start-ups, a group of new business scenarios, and a series of industries will be transformed by the empowerment of new technologies.

Technological Challenges in Building a New Metaverse

In order to realize the combination of virtual and real, and the interconnection and interoperability of the virtual world and the physical world, the Metaverse needs strong cloud and terminal computing power support.

Ali Research Institute: Is the Metaverse a new technology or a new bubble?

Figure 5. Using AR augmented reality technology to reshape art exhibits, the artist’s paintings combined with AR technology greatly enhance the sense of interaction between the audience and the paintings, allowing the two-dimensional paintings to flow in the virtual world.

From the perspective of technology, the new generation of Metaverse needs to use technology to build the following four layers of capabilities:

The first layer is geometric modeling , which builds a geometric model of the world, including objects, characters, scenes, and more. Objects need to be manipulated, and structures need to be recombinable.

Ali Research Institute: Is the Metaverse a new technology or a new bubble?

 Figure 6. Large-scale scene mobile scanning device

Traditional computer geometric modeling requires the use of CAD software, which consumes huge professional labor costs and is very limited in large-scale use. Combining 2D image data acquisition methods such as image acquisition, radar scanning, remote sensing photos and other 2D image data acquisition methods to perform 3D geometric reconstruction through computer graphics technology is currently an economically feasible technical solution, and has been tried and promoted in many fields.

The second layer is simulation , which models the dynamic behavior in the virtual world and makes the virtual world move. Water needs to flow down, throw a rock to break glass, and avatars can respond reasonably to external input. The technical capabilities of the first and second layers together build a virtual world.

In fact, the difficulty of this layer is extremely difficult to solve with the current classical computer system. Even the simple process of simulating milk froth and pouring into coffee requires a huge supercomputer to complete. Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner in physics and an expert in quantum electrodynamics, has given a very clear assertion in an article in 1981: Only quantum computers can perfectly solve the problem of simulating the physical world, while classical computers can only solve this problem. A very simplified approximation of the process.

Ali Research Institute: Is the Metaverse a new technology or a new bubble?

The third layer is the fusion of virtual and real. The information of the virtual world is superimposed on the real world display, and the information of the virtual world and the real world are integrated. Any item in the real world is wrapped by a layer of information and presents different content for different users, and personalized recommendation will happen all the time. AR/VR and brain-computer interface are the current research hotspots in this layer.

The fourth layer is virtual-real linkage , the behavior of the virtual world generates feedback in the real world, and the changes of the virtual world are automatically closed to the real world. That is, changing the corresponding real world by changing the virtual world. This requires robotics. In this way, simulation and planning can be carried out in the virtual world, and the optimal solution can be found, and then automatically implemented in the real world. Robots in the real world and NPCs (non-player characters) in the virtual world all require the support of artificial intelligence technology at the bottom.

Ali Research Institute: Is the Metaverse a new technology or a new bubble?

If the technical vision of the 3D Metaverse is turned into reality, in addition to the virtual-real fusion layer that needs to solve the threshold for the practical application of AR/VR technology, there are still many technical difficulties that need to be overcome in the first, second and fourth layers. In front of the technology, there are still brain-computer interfaces, strong artificial intelligence, and quantum computing technologies that need breakthroughs. The future of Metaverse technology will continue the objective laws of technological development and continue to iterate. There is a long way to go.

Metaverse application main battlefield, from 2C to 2B

In this round of heated discussions on the Metaverse, the public mostly focused on 2C scenarios such as games, social interaction, and entertainment. In fact, the development of Metaverse technology is more likely to have a transformative impact on 2B business scenarios such as remote work, e-commerce, software development, industrial design, smart manufacturing, and urban management. The integration of a new generation of information technology and industrialization represented by Metaverse technology will further promote the depth and breadth of the intersection of two important historical development processes of human society . The universe is a technical system that builds and supports the deep integration of the two.

The cyber-physical system based on Metaverse technology integrates advanced IoT, robotics, AR/VR, next-generation wireless communication and artificial intelligence technologies to construct elements such as people, machines, objects, environment, and information in physical space and information space The digital twin system of mutual mapping, timely interaction, and efficient coordination realizes on-demand response, rapid iteration, and dynamic optimization of resource configuration and operation in the system. The combination of Metaverse and intelligent manufacturing technology will give birth to more intelligent technical equipment, collaborative product innovation system, flexible production methods, intensive resource utilization and precise management mode.

Production process design: In Metaverse, you can easily drag and drop production equipment, modify production processes, and optimize production efficiency and improve production safety through virtual world simulation.

Product design: Metaverse can build an open product design platform that is easier for multiple parties to interact with, so that relevant parties including sellers and end users can be included in the product design stage. The platform can also easily support crowdsourcing product design methods, design iterations based on feedback, and build a collaborative product innovation system.

Full Supply Chain Visualization: In Metaverse, customers can see the delivery status of purchased goods in real time in the 3D system of the full supply chain digital twin, improving the visualization of supply chain processes to an unprecedented degree.

Fairness and Justice, Law and Ethics in the Metaverse

Technology is changing business, but also life and governance. In the contemporary era when technology is popularized on a large scale, it is more important to consider the issues of technology and people and society, especially how to prevent the negative impact of technology on people and society in advance, and how to transform the power of technology into more useful value for people. Only by fully considering the negative effects of technology, even catastrophic effects, can we guide us to find solutions and ideas to solve these negative effects.

First of all, although it is called the “Metaverse”, it is actually a new existence formed by virtualizing people and things in reality through information technology. Whether it is a platform or a government regulatory department, a set of user authentication and account systems can map virtual people and the real people behind them. No matter how many avatars this account generates, in the digital world, as long as you capture this account, you will capture the key to governance.

Second, the digital infrastructure can be managed by hierarchical classification, and the system can be disassembled into various structural systems, and managed by different weights.

Third, it is necessary to establish a new legal system to protect data assets, and legal system construction should be carried out on the basis of new species and new applications generated by the application of new technologies.

Since the virtual network world and the real world are both twinned and dislocated, is the existing legal system applicable to the virtual world? Need to create a special legal system? In the face of new challenges, a better way is to first advocate morality, ethics, education, norms and behavioral conventions, and then use laws to solidify it after exploring some governance experience. The cost of the law is very high, so you can use softer means first, and then confirm it with the law after the development trend is clear. In addition, developers and technology providers need to be held accountable. Both technology providers and system operators should establish good morals and take responsibility for creating a positive virtual world.

Technology is neutral, but this round of technological revolution is not the same as the changes brought about by the power technologies of the Industrial Revolution. In the industrial revolution, human limbs were liberated through power or mechanical changes, and the physical structure of human society was changed. Humans use steam engines and mechanical systems to amplify their thoughts and actions in the system. When there is an external system that can perform all the functions that one’s own physical energy can achieve, the physical strength of human beings as a whole is declining. In other words, through the division of labor brought about by industrial technology, people’s physical capabilities are reduced, and more work is done through the brain. The biggest difference from the industrial revolution is that the information revolution is to digitize people and things. It builds a parallel world of atoms and bits, which acts on the human brain and enhances the perception ability of human five senses, thus forming the consciousness network of human society. .

Regardless of whether the future is the “Metaverse” or virtual reality technology, after the large-scale popularization of various applications, a large amount of data will be precipitated, and it will evolve into various powerful intelligent systems, data systems, or become system intelligence. These systems add up human intelligence to form a powerful intelligence. In this process, because many times there is no need to use the brain, the division of labor is given to a “plug-in” system to solve the problem. So, will the overall intelligence level of people decrease?

The “Metaverse” transcends the existing world, transcends time and space, and creates new digital identities. This digital identity system may not be important in the existing world, but it can create virtual characters in virtual reality. Through the system, these virtual characters will get “immortality”, and behind these “immortality” are various agents and agent machines. As such, digital identity and image will be at the forefront of discussions in the Metaverse. An interesting phenomenon is, in the “Metaverse”, what gender will the virtualized people choose? How are the legal issues involved?Can real people have multiple avatars? Humans in the “Metaverse” can exist for a hundred or a thousand years. What will happen to the accumulated data after the intellectual property protection period ends? These issues involving ethics and privacy need to be discussed with goodness as the guide.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/ali-research-institute-is-the-metaverse-a-new-technology-or-a-new-bubble/
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