In March 2021, the voice social boom caused by Clubhouse has not yet passed, and the Metaverse concept mentioned in the Roblox listing prospectus on the other side of the ocean once again aroused heated discussion in China.
This term translated as “meta universe” is derived from the science fiction novel “Avalanche”, and it describes a computer-based virtual world that can be faked. Everyone can have their own “incarnation”, shopping in the meta-universe, getting married or even blocking a “life” duel-the experience of death and rebirth can also be virtually constructed.
Similar concepts are not uncommon in sci-fi works, but the financial report data of Roblox, a UGC game creation platform, allows people to see the possibility of constructing a virtual world. Relying on providing users with game development tools and trading platforms, Roblox has attracted a large number of young teenagers from 9 to 15 years old. These young users use the virtual currency Robux to buy and sell games, and form a relatively stable social relationship and economic system on the virtual platform.
On the other hand, under constant iteration, the immersion provided by V/AR products is getting stronger and stronger, and the increasingly mature supply chain makes the product prices more affordable; coupled with the promotion of Meta, Microsoft, Epic and other companies, this The concept is more widely known.
But Rome was not built in a day, and the same is true of the meta universe. A continuous virtual world that can satisfy multiple immersive experiences at the same time will inevitably involve many infrastructure and technical support. It is the consensus of the industry that Meta Universe products will be completed by many partners.
Looking back at domestic and international attempts related to Metaverse, V/AR technology and product development, virtual world content production, and social system construction have become the main directions of exploration. After the concept became popular for more than half a year, what are the results of these explorers?
Each has its own results on the meta-universe puzzle
In the virtual world attempts that have appeared before, where the massive content that can attract users to stay is a prominent question.
AIGC and UGC are two exploration directions to solve this problem, but the two are not completely independent and parallel, but there is a possibility of cooperation. “The two are not mutually replaceable, but AIGC has a function that can reduce the difficulty of UGC.” The person in charge of the relevant track of Joy Capital once told the interface news.
Roblox is a typical case of the UGC model, and there are also players exploring this aspect in China, and Yahaha Studio, established in 2020, is one of them.
In this direction, how to balance the difficulty of game development and game quality is a difficult point. Unlike Roblox’s pixel style, Yahaha Studio’s game interface will be more 3D realistic, and the development barrier will be higher. Previously, Patrick, the head of Yahaha’s strategy, investment and financing, revealed that the second edition of the editor tool will be officially launched in the first half of 2022.
On the other hand, AI technology has also been applied in content production. rct studio has independently developed an AI-based Morpheus engine. Through the study of a large number of scripts, the engine can understand the internal logic and relationships between the plot and characters, and automatically generate branch stories. This engine has been used in game development.
In November 2021, rct studio cooperated with Youmi Interactive Entertainment to participate in the production of the 3A-level open world MMO game “Code: Odyssey” using the Chaos Ball algorithm and Morpheus Cloud. According to the player’s choice, the game will dynamically and personally generate the plot, and the NPC will react in real time accordingly to achieve the effect of NPC’s “thousand people and thousands of faces”. Currently, this game is still under development, and the release time has not yet been determined.
V/AR technology and product development is another direction. In the process of continuous iteration of V/AR products, the portable and affordable price of To C headsets is an obvious trend. On the other hand, To B’s offline VR scenes are also showing new changes.
The prices of mainstream VR products such as Oculus Quest 2, Pico Neo 3, and Dream VR all-in-one, released in recent years, can be as low as RMB 2,000. Consumer AR products such as Nreal Light also cost RMB 3,800. Analyst Ming-Chi Guo mentioned in his forecast that Apple Glass, Apple’s AR glasses product, is expected to be launched in 2022.
Based on the development of V/AR products, B-side application scenarios such as virtual meetings and virtual performances have begun to emerge.
The virtual meeting is not only a new landing scene of V/AR, but also an exploration of the social system under the concept of meta-universe. Meta launched the VR conference software—Horizon Workrooms, and Microsoft also launched MicrosoftMesh, both of which can provide users with interactive virtual spaces based on V/AR devices. The domestic AR brand EM3 is also paying attention to this direction. Based on its AR terminal and technology, it is building a virtual social system for corporate meetings and other scenarios.
According to the previous introduction by EM3 COO Yuan Ye, the focus of EM3’s work in 2021 is to complete the components required by the virtual social system one by one, and the overall product demo is expected to take shape by the end of 2021.
The virtual performance is the other B-end landing scene of the V/AR equipment. Huaxi Jingxin, a subsidiary of the venue asset operator Huaxi Sports, is the provider of the overall virtual performance program. It is understood that Huaxi Jingxin adopts Pico Neo 3 customized model, digital human solution provided by tatame, and is equipped with special VR venue seats. In 2022, according to relevant personnel from Huaxi Jingxin, more virtual performances will be launched to the market.
It’s still too early to talk about “oasis”
Meta CEO Zuckerberg once described Metaverse as “the embodied Internet”. In Metaverse, you no longer browse the content but are in the content. Yu Jianing, the rotating chairman of the Blockchain Committee of the China Communications Industry Association and the principal of Huo University Education, believes that Metaverse is essentially the third-generation Internet Web3.0. The fusion of the virtual and the real in the meta-universe will be a new digital world in which everyone will participate.
Although under the concept of Web3.0, the ownership of Internet content belongs to users, not just monopolistic companies. However, the vision of the next generation of “embodimental Internet” still attracts large companies to enter the market, hoping to become the information-carrying infrastructure in the new era.
At the end of 2020, Tencent summarized the next wave of mobile Internet upgrades as the true Internet, and at the same time called this transformation another major reshuffle. “Just like the transformation of the mobile Internet, people who can’t get on board will gradually fall behind. “. In this context, Tencent and Roblox jointly built a game development team and invested in Epic Games, which is generally interpreted as a force in the universe.
In addition to Tencent, Bytedance has also successively invested in related companies such as Code Qiankun, Xiaoniao Kankan, Youmi Interactive Entertainment and other related companies. In response to the investment event, companies such as Tencent, NetEase, ByteDance, and Baidu have all registered trademarks related to “Meta Universe”.
Putting aside the concept and returning to the business level, it is a fact that Tencent, Ant, Baidu, JD.com, and Bilibili are working on blockchain and NFT-related technologies. Benefiting from the characteristics of blockchain technology, NFT is able to give digital commodities, digital assets, and digital artworks a unique proof that cannot be tampered with, and it also makes it possible to authenticate value attribution, circulation, realization and virtual identity in the meta-universe. This technology is of great significance in building a virtual world economic system and realizing the interaction between virtual and reality.
Since there are many technical capabilities involved under the meta-universe concept, each company has advertised the technical capabilities accumulated in the past and moved forward on this basis.
Thanks to the game business, NetEase has accumulated in virtual scene construction, virtual character construction, game AI, etc., and based on this, it has launched Yaotai immersive activity system, AI virtual human anchor, planetary blockchain and other meta-universe concepts related Products; Bilibili began to test the “high energy chain” function internally, providing users with identity certificates and asset accounts based on the existing user ecology, hoping to create a “digital world”.
JD.com entered the digital human scene while launching its NFT platform. The business has won the best presentation award of ACM Multimedia, the top conference in the multimedia field; Baidu recently released the immersive virtual social app “Hirang”. Baidu Vice President Ma Jieyu In the interview, I hope to incorporate more AI capabilities.
Although the concept of Meta universe has attracted much attention and large companies have entered the game, the time point for its actual landing is still blurred.
In November, Tsinghua University released the “Meta Universe Development Research Report 2020-2021” and pointed out that, from the perspective of industrial development, the current Meta Universe industry is still at the stage of laying the foundation for social + game scenarios and is far from achieving full industry coverage. With the ideal state of ecological openness, economic self-consistent, virtual and real interoperability, consumer-grade product concepts that combine AI, VR, AR, 5G, big data, digital twins, cloud computing, blockchain and other technologies have not yet emerged.
At the same time, the economic risks that may occur in the linkage between virtual currency and real currency, the extremely high requirements for computing power algorithms in the open world of massive multiplayer online, the indulge problem caused by high immersion, and the more essential problem-regulatory level The contradiction between the centralization of the meta-universe and the complete decentralization pursued by the meta-universe itself, these are the problems that need to be faced in the future to build the meta-universe. From this perspective, it may be too early to talk about the “Main Street” in “Avalanche” or the “Oasis” in “Ready Player One”.