Microsoft, Epic Games, Meta, and 33 other companies and organizations have formed a standards group for “metaverse” tech. The Metaverse Standards Forum is supposed to foster open, interoperable standards for augmented and virtual reality, geospatial, and 3D tech.
According to a press release, the Metaverse Standards Forum will focus on “pragmatic, action-based projects” like hackathons and prototyping tools for supporting common standards. It’s also interested in developing “consistent terminology” for the space — where many players can’t even agree on what a “metaverse” is. In addition to the companies above, the group’s founding members include major pre-metaverse entities like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Nvidia, Qualcomm, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Unity, in addition to newer ones like Lamina1, a blockchain payments startup co-founded by Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson.
It’s missing a few big names, though. As Nick Statt of Protocol points out, there’s no sign of Apple, which is working on VR and AR tech. Niantic and Roblox, which have made early strides in blending games and virtual worlds, are also notably absent. More members may end up joining after the group begins operation; it expects to hold its first meetings in 2022.
“Industry leaders have stated that the potential of the metaverse will be best realized if it is built on a foundation of open standards,” the group says in a press release. “Building an open and inclusive metaverse at pervasive scale will demand a constellation of open interoperability standards.”
The “metaverse” is a catch-all term for virtual worlds, VR, and AR, and many of its subfields already have standards bodies, some of which have joined the Metaverse Standards Forum. Open standards don’t necessarily mean companies will create “the metaverse” as an interlinked space like the World Wide Web. (Epic describes its game Fortnite as a self-contained metaverse, for instance.) Open standards could simply make it easier for developers to build the same content for different platforms or for users to export data from one service to another.
Nonetheless, the forum suggests an interest in formalizing “metaverse” development as a unified field. And it hints at which companies are most interested in creating accepted standards for it — or at the very least, which ones want to be perceived as supporting these standards.