The hot word of the year in 2021, “Metaverse” must have a name.
With the popularity of the movie “Ready Player One” and the name change of Facebook, the old term “Metaverse” that was once dormant in science fiction novels in the 1990s became active.
On October 29, Facebook founder Zuckerberg announced that the company had changed its name to “Meta” (meaning the meta of Metaverse) and the company’s stock trading code was changed to “MVRS”. The thumb background board in front of the company headquarters was also torn off and replaced with an “infinite” symbol. “From now on, we will put the Metaverse first, not Facebook first.” Zuckerberg said in an open letter.
The capital market is very “upper” to Metaverse. In March this year, Roblox, an American game company with the concept of Metaverse, went public, creating the most exciting story in the capital market. When the growth of the traffic dividend is exhausted, Metaverse allows mobile Internet companies including Facebook to see the next chapter of the story where they can continue.
The squandering flowers are gradually becoming fascinating. When the Metaverse becomes a basket that can be filled with everything, 5G, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and other technologies that are actually evolving, become subtle. Some artificial intelligence researchers even avoid being involved with the Metaverse. But when the Metaverse can truly become the second space of mankind parallel to the real world, the key to the answer lies in the above-mentioned technology. Only the solid advancement of each link can make the virtual world no longer just stay on PPT.
On December 23, at the 2021 Artificial Intelligence Future Application Scenario Forum hosted by the Daily Economic News, Shen Xiangyang , a top expert in the field of artificial intelligence, a foreign academician of the National Academy of Engineering, a foreign academician of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and a double-appointed professor of Tsinghua University Institute for Advanced Study magic enamel and Technology founder and CEO Chai Jinxiang , perfect World CEO Xiao Hong , century Huatong chief strategy officer Fang Hui , vice president of Science and Technology Co., Ltd. Guangzhou Jiu Liang Zhen sound , iQIYI intelligent COO Sun Feng , deputy director, Institute of Securities days the wind Chang Wenhao and many other industry leaders jointly discussed the future application scenarios of artificial intelligence and conveyed the rules for constructing the future artificial intelligence ecology.
Games are the best touchstone for artificial intelligence, and AI empowerment in other industries is gradually unfolding
“You want to talk to someone without calling them, and their avatar can be teleported.” In Zuckerberg’s words, “This (Metaverse) is a place where you are, not just for watching and using Internet.”
Whether virtual content is valuable may still be tested, but it is indeed being practiced on a large scale. Domestic and foreign technology and Internet companies have invested billions of dollars in the creation of virtual content.
A few days ago, Meta opened the virtual world platform Horizon Worlds. After entering Horizon Worlds, users need to create a 3D virtual avatar to start online social entertainment. However, the image has only the upper body and no legs, which has caused many players to complain. This reflects that the current level of industrial production of virtual scenes and characters is still at an early stage.
“AI has begun to penetrate all walks of life like electricity, and we also believe that AI has a huge future development space, but today’s AI penetration rate is only 4%.” Li Kaifu, chairman and CEO of Innovation Works, said in a speech last year. In other words, the development stage of AI today is equivalent to the era when search engines have not yet appeared in the Internet industry, and it is equivalent to the era when there are electricity applications but no power grids.
In the view of Perfect World CEO Xiao Hong, the game field is undoubtedly the best touchstone for the development of artificial intelligence technology.
The movie “Out of Control Player”, released in August this year, tells the story of a bank clerk who finds himself a game NPC (non-player character) in a boring life day after day, thus launching an escape program setting Adventure course. In the existing games of various categories, silly NPCs always assume a relatively fixed and single function. How to make this virtual image composed of code also have more diverse and free behavior choices like players? This is inseparable from the blessing of artificial intelligence technology.
Perfect World’s mobile game “Fantasy New Zhu Xian” released this year has introduced artificial intelligence technology, which uses AI to collect and analyze server data, thereby making the interaction between NPC characters and players more real and natural.
In an exclusive interview with reporters, Xiao Hong elaborated on the application of AI technology in NPC in more detail: “We are trying to define this based on the player’s game data when the player enters a dungeon to fight against the NPC. A process. This means that even if players enter the same instance, they will face different situations, and we don’t know what players will experience, and even NPCs will create some new characters to participate.”
Extending to the field of e-sports, the role controlled by artificial intelligence can also become the “strongest sparring” for e-sports players in training. In terms of winning rate prediction and other aspects, artificial intelligence can provide ordinary players with professional players’ play strategies based on big data. And win rate analysis, let users better understand the game.
Although some of the above attempts have not yet been fully realized, it is conceivable that, whether it is confrontation or companionship, more “smart” NPCs can bring players a more realistic, natural, richer, and more immersive gaming experience.
In addition to enhancing the user experience in game content, the rise of artificial intelligence has also enriched the solutions for game research and development. Xiao Hong gave an example that the use of artificial intelligence for scene modeling and texture rendering not only effectively improved the overall picture performance of the game, but also improved the efficiency and intelligence of the game’s research and development. “What if artificial intelligence is used in game design?” Xiao Hong believes, “Players can not only have more personalized experience in fighting against NPCs, but at the level of game design, AI can also provide real-time services based on player characteristics without prior A well-designed task or map gives the product greater flexibility.”
The barriers of AI tools themselves are not high, data and scenarios are the key to victory
There are also refined virtual content, but more AI still needs to be completed manually. The refined chain division of labor largely comes from the specificity of production tools. In the current virtual content industry, upstream software companies have developed various software to meet the needs of different links. For example, Autodesk has developed Maya, 3Ds MAX, etc. Numerous digital content production tools. Chai Jinxiang, founder and CEO of Mofa Technology, believes that single-point tools cannot form a vertically integrated industrial production line, so the current industry is very low in intelligence and industrialization.
“We don’t talk about the end of the Metaverse. Just mirroring the entire content industry that exists today into the virtual world will generate a market of several trillion yuan.” Chai Jinxiang said in an interview with reporters.
According to data from iResearch, the gaming industry has the highest penetration rate of virtual content in the domestic market, reaching 90%. In other industries such as long and short videos, live broadcasts, advertising, and corporate services, the penetration rate of virtual content is within 30%, of which corporate services are only 5%.
“Enterprises’ external publicity, recruitment, webpages, websites, including the company’s internal employee training, etc. can all be AI virtual humanization. If our overall penetration rate can reach 30%, this is a very large market. ” Chai Jinxiang said.
Chai Jinxiang explained: “People from all walks of life have different understandings or definitions of Metaverse, because they will define it according to their own company’s products. Although it is very hot now, there are good and bad, and there are behaviors of cutting leeks. But I don’t think the Metaverse is an empty thing, because at least there is a consensus that it is the next generation of the Internet. So it will happen, it’s just a matter of timing.”
Chai Jinxiang also said that during the preliminary investigation of the entrepreneurship, the team found that most AI companies are just making tools and do not have relevant data or scenarios. “We want to have data and scenarios, because as a technology company, it depends on where you are in the industry chain if you want to build barriers. We feel that the barriers of the tools themselves are not high, so we want to be the supply side.”
AI is the “most powerful brain” of the Metaverse? The virtual content industry urgently needs supply-side reforms
“From the PC era to the mobile Internet era, to the Metaverse era, in fact, they are essentially solving the same problem, that is, how to move the various offline traditional formats or business models to the online.” Chai Jinxiang said.
“Nowadays, the production of virtual content is basically done by suppliers, that is, outsourcing. For example, the popular movie “Nezha: The Devil Boy”, its animation is provided by many suppliers, thousands of art, The animators worked together.” Chai Jinxiang said, “The current virtual content industry chain has two characteristics. First, the chain is very long. Taking animation as an example, there are more than a dozen mirrors, original paintings, models, special effects, lighting, and rendering Each link. Secondly, each link is mainly manual production, which is labor-intensive. Therefore, this industry is not industrialized, but a manual workshop style. However, this is not only the current situation of the domestic industry, but also a global problem.”
Looking back at the successful commercialization cases in the past, scale is an inevitable process, and without industrialization, scale is a castle in the sky. As for how to achieve industrialization, Chai Jinxiang believes that the clothing industry can be referred to. “In the past, clothing was tailor-made, because everyone has a different body shape, and clothes are typical non-standardized products. But now we can determine different size standards for a piece of clothing, so each size can be produced in an assembly line.”
Therefore, the division of labor is equally important. The prerequisite for the clothing industry to be standardized is to separate design and production. Chai Jinxiang said: “The content industry also needs to separate planning and production. Take games as an example. Once the preliminary planning is determined, the subsequent processes can be industrialized. Of course, intelligent tools in this process are very important. Manual production can’t be achieved either.”
Chai Jinxiang believes that the “high quality” without scale is actually worthless. “A few good games and a few good movies do not give much impetus to the creation of Metaverse. Only if many companies can produce high-quality, large-scale content, the value of Metaverse is large enough.”
Mofa Technology, founded in 2018 by the team led by Chai Jinxiang, is a technology company engaged in the production of virtual people and virtual content. One of the driving forces for founding the company was Chai Jinxiang’s belief that the supply side of the virtual content industry urgently needs an “industrial revolution.” “Once you enter the Metaverse era, the demand for virtual content, virtual people, and virtual scenes will increase dramatically. However, the current industry has the problem of imbalance between supply and demand, especially the lack of high-quality, high-efficiency, and large-scale content on the supply side. Production capacity.”
From hardware to content, Metaverse still has many pain points. Investor: Let the bullet fly for a while
“2021 is indeed the first year of the Metaverse.” said Wen Hao, deputy director of the Tianfeng Securities Research Institute. The judgment of the “first year” is of course related to the name change of Facebook. In addition, a series of events in the entire Internet industry have been linked by the “Metaverse”, including Microsoft’s creation of the “enterprise Metaverse”; Bytedance acquisition VR software and hardware manufacturer Pico; Tencent Music announced a strategic cooperation with VR performance service provider Wave, and so on.
“So we can see that when the mobile Internet user dividend is coming to an end, everyone is looking forward to the next wave of technology to give the entire industry a new development direction.” Wen Hao said, “It is reflected in the capital market and overseas feedback. It’s stronger. Although domestic leading companies have made some layouts, they are all relatively low-key. They are doing more and saying less.”
“The key feature of Metaverse is immersion, and VR is the key to realize the immersive system of Metaverse.” Recalling the technical charm of VR experience for the first time, Sun Feng, COO of iQiyi Smart, said, “When I wear VR When the device enters a game, in a confined 3D space, a virtual character stands in front of you. The shock brought by this immersion is completely different from the two-dimensional. In addition, VR hardware can do a lot of interactive things, through VR The tracking technology of the all-in-one machine naturally transplants human vision, hearing, and touch into the virtual world.”
Metaverse’s hardware not only includes VR equipment, but also requires upstream link technologies such as computing and analysis capabilities. The Chief Strategy Officer of Century Huatong said that Century Huatong has invested in the construction of the largest operation center in East China in Shanghai. “It will serve as a very important data storage and server computing center in the future metauniverse, and it will also be an upstream of our layout for the future of metauniverse.”
For Liang Zhensheng, vice president of science and technology at Guangzhou Jiu, who focuses on the application and research and development of virtual reality technology, Metaverse is definitely not just an entertainment scene, it can be applied to learning scenes, historical and cultural scenes, medical scenes, etc. Correspondingly, the technology entrance of the Metaverse is far from enough. “Now there are only tens of millions of people in the world owning VR devices, which is far from the penetration rate of smartphones owned by more than half of the world’s people.”
There is no doubt that the space of scenes in which the Metaverse can be landed in the future is huge. Some studies predict that the market size of Metaverse will reach 800 billion US dollars in 2024. However, with the popularity of the Metaverse, chaos and controversy also followed.
Wen Hao said frankly that most of the more professional and prudent investors are still on the sidelines for the investment of Metaverse. Because the development of this industry still takes time, everyone is embracing the Internet in different ways, but the secondary market is limited by the selectivity of the target, and there are too many conceptual investments in the current main investment .
“Investors from the industrial end to the primary market place more emphasis on substance than concept.” Wen Hao said. Although opportunities and challenges coexist, Metaverse is the general trend, but from the perspective of global VR and AR shipments in the order of tens of millions, the industry is still in its infancy.