Meta now involved in making metalevel standards for the metaverse

So are Microsoft, Adobe, W3C, Huawei, and… IKEA? Not Apple, though

A smattering of big and not so big tech companies have linked arms to shape the emerging industry known as the metaverse.

Although the metaverse has been around for a considerable amount of time, it gained much more attention and nurturing in the past year, particularly with Facebook's October 2021 rebrand to Meta.

But many questions have remained over how an disjointed heap of technologies developed in different corners of the world could eventually become compatible or daresay interoperable.

The new standards body, dubbed the Metaverse Standards Forum, said on Tuesday that it will "explore where the lack of interoperability is holding back metaverse deployment and how the work of Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) defining and evolving needed standards may be coordinated and accelerated."

The focus will be on pragmatic, action-based projects, said the forum, citing things like implementing prototyping, hackathons, plugfests, and open-source tooling "to accelerate the testing and adoption of metaverse standards, while also developing consistent terminology and deployment guidelines."

But don't expect the forum to create standards: it explicitly said it will not. Instead it will take on a more top-level, one might say "meta," role by coordinating requirements and resources to "foster the creation and evolution of standards within standards organizations working in relevant domains."

The forum said it is open to any organization at no cost and counts Microsoft, Adobe, Alibaba, Epic Games, Huawei, Meta, Nvidia, Qualcomm Technologies, Sony Interactive Entertainment, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and the flat-pack furniture maker IKEA among its founding members.

In a conversation on general metaverse matters last month with Nina Xiang, author of the book Parallel Metaverses, Xiang told The Register existing tech giants will have an outsized role in developing the metaverse.

For example, companies with great market share in XR (extended reality) hardware will translate that hold to lead users into the ecosystem. Xiang cited Meta, Bytedance, and Apple as leaders in terms of XR hardware "for sure."

Curiously, Apple was absent from the list of Metaverse Standards Forum founding members, as was Bytedance.

And although IKEA may seem out of place in the list, one of the clear early uses of the metaverse is indeed retail. While learning environments and work spaces have also been thought of as major beneficiaries of the tech, researchers [PDF] who recently asked volunteers to work in VR for an entire 40-hour work week saw poor results. Two of the 18 volunteers dropped out entirely and the rest felt frustrated. Some reported significant nausea and sore eyes.

Of course, this isn't every user's experience. Singapore-based surgeon Yujia Gao, who spearheads various projects in holomedicine at the National University of Singapore, told a crowd at a recent conference that he's used XR goggles for seven-hour surgeries without nausea, vomiting or other negative side effects. Gao did concede that without long-term data there is no knowing what the tech can do to the body.

"Tech itself will correct some of these [issues]," said Gao, who cited continual improvement of TV screens with more eye-friendly image projection as an example.

Perhaps a standards forum is where that correction starts. ®

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