Building Metaverse Infrastructure — How and Why
Updated: Apr 16
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A tidal wave is coming called the Metaverse! But many are unsure what that actually means and how it will affect their everyday life in the future. Turns out, the tech industry itself doesn’t fully know either. But what is clear, is that the Metaverse will require a massive investment in infrastructure, both physical and digital, to make it scalable.
The nature of building emerging technologies is siloed. Hardware and software compatibility, power, specialized skill, funding, and adoption are primary reasons these new technologies don’t make it past just being a novelty. Believe it or not, even companies like Netflix were considered emerging technologies at some point. They waited over 10 years to be taken seriously after laying down the groundwork for all the new streaming services popping up these days, from Disney+ to HBO Max.
Infrastructure is critical here. Without a deeper understanding of HOW, it’s hard to think, “What can we do?” Some of the pieces are there, they’re just not assembled or built yet. Looking at the golden age of the Internet, one could notice that 2D-focused web & mobile services were able to scale only once key server-side cloud-based technologies were introduced. But these tools and infrastructure are not a fit for a 3D world. 3D content offers unique challenges, as opposed to 2D content, such as images and videos. For example, there is no standard 3D file format and 3D content is fragmented and has multiple files representing a single asset. 3D content is also interactive and location-aware and can even be moved or changed. Finally, 3D assets are considerably larger in size.
So key tools and infrastructure are missing to empower developers to build better and more scalable 3D/AR/VR apps across different platforms and for any purpose. These are critical to the success of the Metaverse and would unlock the potential of 3D technology to benefit society in the areas such as virtual training, 3D-aided healthcare, augmented navigation, gaming, and more.
Strategic Partnerships Are Needed
Meta (formerly Facebook) is pushing heavily on marketing and developing the “Metaverse”. The unique factor about the metaverse is that it’s shaping up to be an immersive world in real-time which allows for other technologies to operate within like blockchain, NFTs, AI and ecommerce. Meta made the metaverse more popular, jumping to 25x more searches after announcing its name change. For big projects like this, companies need big partnerships.
Meta is partnering with Nvidia to help expand the technical infrastructure and components needed to sustain the immersive worlds. Nvidia’s AI conference was centered around discussions of the metaverse. Some of the planned features are interactive avatars, a synthetic data generator and a virtual model of the Earth to help forecast climate change. Companies like Intel and echo3D are also working together to explore 3D-first content management & delivery systems and building a backend for the Metaverse.
Many companies are trying to figure out their positioning for the new and very different form of technology. In order to sustain such a complex web of massive immersive activities (think the internet thousand-fold), significantly more computing power will be required. This infrastructure will not so much rely on the consumer-facing hardware like the cool VR headsets and AR glasses, but it’ll be the computers, chips and servers behind them.
Intel believes that computers just can’t keep up as it stands and there won’t be enough supply to build the infrastructure needed. Many companies are hopeful that AI and machine learning will automate “bridging the gap” but Intel’s primary concern is hardware infrastructure. Game engine Unity announced its new simulation engine that allow roboticists and engineers to train AI systems in the Metaverse. echo3D, a Unity Verified Solutions Partner, is offering a 3D-first content management and delivery system and tools for compression, conversion, or optimized streaming of 3D assets. Together, more and more companies are working to build infrastructure suited for a 3D world.
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On the engineering side, 3D developers constantly seek ways to minimize latency when using realistic 3D assets, sometimes compromising quality for performance. We can’t tolerate lagging internet, why would we tolerate latency in a world that’s intended to be real-time? Infrastructure for 3D Metaverse content requires built-in compression and poly-reduction algorithms that allows you to dynamically stream 3D assets in different network conditions.
5G is going to help the technologies we depend on improve in a significant way, including resolving latency issues. Verizon believes 5G is the main missing piece of the Metaverse. Meta is painting a picture of people that can drop into virtual worlds appearing as they are in the real world. These worlds take meticulous building that require time, money, and power.
The idea of building real-time peer-to-peer communication in real time sounds amazing, but existing digital and physical infrastructure were not built to sustain that type of 3D-based communication, making Intel’s concerns certainly valid. Recreating a virtual environment where just two people are immersed in a Ready Play One-esque world would require “much, much more computer power” according to Venture Beat.
A 3D-First Approach
The Metaverse has a strong foundation and technology is improving at substantial rate. Are we looking at another Netflix decade-long pursuit? Probably not. With tech giants working together, there is a lot of opportunity for innovation. New companies are also already working to building tools and cloud infrastructure that would allow for a way to build scalable and engaging 3D applications.
Given that current infrastructure does not natively support 3D content, it is painfully accepted that assets storage is local and 3D applications are huge (700MB+ on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store) with large periodic update bundles (“seasons” that require you to download an additional 1GB+ every couple of months). That should not be the case for the Metaverse being build.
Today, many developers struggle to create scalable and dynamic 3D (for healthcare, education, commerce, training, etc.) and 3D apps remain single-user experiences with static and hard-to-update content. It’s difficult to update 3D content across different platforms (i.e. different mobile smartphones, headsets, and smart glasses, and devices) which often have platform-specific specifications.
Developers struggle to attract users since any change in the app results in endless development and redeployment cycles.
echo3D’s vision is different —Metaverse experiences and application builds should be tiny, updates packs should be small and frequent, and developers should expect user-generated content (UGC) through bi-directional content streaming. With 3D-first cloud infrastructure, 3D assets are stored, compressed, converted, and streamed from the cloud, allowing for a reduced app size, frequent updates, automatic analytics, and more. Editing, managing, and streaming new 3D assets into the Metaverse can happen with ease and in real-time, eliminating the need to account for engineering challenges such as different 3D file formats for different end-use devices and operating systems.
To learn more about how 3D-ready cloud infrastructure and computation tools can support the Metaverse, read the echo3D blog here.
echo3D (www.echo3D.co; Techstars 19’) is a cloud platform for 3D/AR/VR that provides tools and network infrastructure to help developers & companies quickly build and deploy 3D apps, games, and content.