Two years after the launch of Mark Zuckerberg it enters orbit, the metaverse crashes back to Earth. As the hype fueled by the Facebook rebrand fades in the middle overwhelming losses, risky selfies, and the generative AI boom, reality sets in — and then it starts to get interesting.
Metaverse stalwarts are now fighting for competing visions.
On one side are the centralized platforms owned by, among others meta and Roblox. Under the control of almighty tech giants, these virtual worlds exist in silos.
On the other hand, advocates stand for open, interconnected and decentralized metaphors. In these utopian worlds, users can freely traverse spaces and take ownership of their experiences.
In that latter camp, Improbable has firmly planted its flag. The company has spent ten years building immersive virtual worlds, from army simulations Unpleasant K-pop parties, before moving on to building metaverse infrastructure. While the focus of the unicorn (en fortunes) fluctuated, Improbable’s confidence in open spaces remained.
“We’ve seen walled gardens and closed networks exploit the people who spend time on the services for the benefit of the few,” said Herman Narula, the company’s co-founder and CEO. last year.
More recently, Narula has pitched an alternative.
“We want to contribute to ensure the metaverse fulfills its promise to be a network of meaning that unlocks creativity, social interaction and economic opportunity, free of gatekeepers,” he said last month.
To bring this vision to (virtual) life, Improbable has launched a new venture: msquareda network of metaverses.
The location of the country
Today virtual worlds are shielded. For example, in Roblox you can use building games, buy weapons and spend the Robux currency. But you can’t take that into Fortnite.
MSquared hopes to break down these barriers. Leveraging a range of technologies, services and standards – as well $150 million (€138 million) in funding — the project promises to power a cohesion of interconnected worlds.
If all goes according to plan, the virtual experiences will span multiple platforms and an interoperable economy.
“I’m going to get yelled at for calling it that, but one way to describe it is a ‘meta-metaverse,'” Rob Whitehead, co-founder and chief product officer of Improbable, told TNW.
Whitehead compares the concept to international travel. In this analogy, virtual worlds are akin to individual nations with open borders. If you want to visit a new country, just take your wallet and belongings with you.
Upon arrival, your digital assets can be accessed through blockchain-powered decentralized identities and cryptocurrencies, or traditional Web2 logins and digital goods, such as Fortnite outfits and tools.
“We’re the layer that connects those different worlds,” Whitehead said. “And it’s agnostic whether that metaverse uses crypto or non-crypto stuff.”
Unlikely, MSquared divides participants into four groups: metaverse owners who run the virtual spaces, creators who produce the experiences, service providers who drive the network, and users who consume the content.
Of course, they don’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts. Metaverse owners can charge to access their spaces, but they have to payment service providers for the provision of the infrastructure. Creators, meanwhile, can monetize their content.
For example, users can buy tickets to concerts, digital clothes to wear, furniture for virtual homes, or upgrades to make their avatars fly. It may sound ridiculous to those of us struggling to make ends meet IRL, but folks already spending billions in virtual base worlds. As experiences improve, the digital economy can expand rapidly.
Improbable wants to add more than 10,000 people to the MSquared network in the long term. But before they come, someone has to build it.
Weaving a metaverse fabric
Users have not yet been invited to the MSquared virtual party. Unlikely has built the foundations of the ecosystem, but it will to expand the network before public release.
The current centerpiece of MSquared is Improbable’s Morpheus platform, which consists of tools and services for creating, managing, and monetizing metaverse experiences.
The system is already armed experiences on a large scale. In demos shared online, Morpheus has enabled virtual spaces for 10,000 real users, all interacting in the same place at the same time.
According to Improbable, Morpheus can now enable immersive, shared and simultaneous experiences for more than 20,000 people across all devices.
Another important component is the Metaverse Markup Language (MML), which makes it possible developers to build virtual objects that can live in any world on the network. Also offered is the M² Cross Construct, a sandbox environment, and the M² Cross Metaversal Services, which enable interoperability.
A circle of partners has added further capabilities. NVIDIA provides the backbone for high-fidelity graphics, Google Cloud provides cloud infrastructure, Dolby provides video content, and Ubitus supports global streaming.
The virtual future
Unlikely hope that the first crop of metaverse launches will arrive soon. The next step is to create and stimulate a cross-metaverse economy through shared commercial structures and free movement.
In the end, Narula envisions the system becoming distant larger than any company or individual metaverse.
“MSquared is initiating a radically different and new business model, where ownership and interoperability work together, creating an environment where creativity flourishes alongside the growth of economically viable businesses within a shared space,” he said.
It is a great ambition that has yet to become reality. But at least MSquared offers hope for an escape from platform monopolies and walled gardens. Our technical overlords will monitor progress closely. Hello Mark!