Metaverse needs “infrastructure madman”

When the Internet industry has gradually evolved from a symbol of advanced productivity to a capital force with original sin, Metaverse, as the meta-narrative of this industry, has become a panacea that can relieve all worries.

Litchi said that he was a "sound meta-universe", Soul said he was a "young people's social meta-universe", Facebook is now in the meta-universe, and Tencent does not talk about the meta-universe, but it seems to be doing meta-universe everywhere…

Only Apple CEO Tim Cook made it clear that he did not mention the term, saying that it is AR?

In short, the meta universe is an ideal country, and the meta universe is a utopia.

Yuanju Yuanwei's Yuan universe is still far away

Empty talk will mislead the country and work hard to rejuvenate the country, and the meta-universe needs "infrastructure madman."

Regarding Metaverse, we have seen too many empty talks, and such empty talks have also appeared in AR/VR, AI, IoT, autonomous driving, cloud computing and other fields.

Wait, we can't say that the above areas are all bubbles, but they are too optimistic and radical when propagating.

About 30 years ago, when a city Jinling was holding a bulky Nokia 1011 mobile phone, using the most advanced GSM network at the time, and sending text messages, he might not realize that the infrastructure of the mobile Internet had already begun.

▲ Snake, Nokia, 2G network

The prototype of equipment, computing, network and content already exists. Later, when I used 5 yuan and 30MB of data to browse the news on a color-screen mobile phone with a large screen full of fruits for the first time, amazing had already come to my heart. Isn't it true that the times have progressed?

Everyone knows the next thing.

If we talk about Metaverse, the current level of our infrastructure construction is probably similar to the mobile Internet support provided by the combination of Nokia 1011 mobile phone + GSM network + SMS. Even when the iPhone came out in 2007, it was horrible. It only supports 2G networks. The original iPhone without an app store is very mobile, but not so interconnected.

What do we have now?

A flagship mobile phone with a resolution of 2K, or a VR device with a 4K level of eyes; the strongest mobile chip is still M1 (4×3.2GHz large core + 4×2.064GHz small core, 8-core GPU); the peak speed is 3.2Gbps 5G millimeter wave network; and, countless PC and mobile games…

Don’t look at the fact that many netizens are now clamoring for excess hardware performance and excess content, but even a VR device with a 4K resolution for both eyes still has clearly visible pixels. The M1 chip on the iPad Pro can be subdued to the "Original God". What the hell is the 5G network now, I believe that all 5G users want to say the phrase "XXX, refund!".

Moreover, in 2021, many games will have to line up to enter, and a game of chicken eating can accommodate hundreds of people at the same time. Platform content like Roblox still stays in pixel style to ensure a smooth experience. Facebook's meta-universe conference application Horizon Workrooms still looks rough.

In short, although some analysts, investors and manufacturers are shouting "Prepare for the meta-universe", in fact, we are still waiting for Godot. A meta-universe experience scene like "Top Player" is still in the horizon.

However, when we wear VR devices, play "Original God" on our mobile phones, use 5G networks, and look at Moore's Law that has not failed and the past technological development curve, the metaverse is likely to be "Thing.

▲The virtual concert of "Fortress Night"

Meta Universe Infrastructure kicked off

In fact, the basic construction of the meta-universe has already begun. Even though the familiar "Fortress Night", Roblox and Horizon Workrooms are self-proclaimed, they are more or less in line with the industry's imagination of the meta-universe.

Yang Dong, Director of Unity Greater China Platform Technology, said to Ai Faner:

Why are we going to talk about the meta universe now instead of talking about it three, five or ten years ago? Because the current technology has developed to a stage where we can talk about it, or even say it can be achieved.

Unity is well known as a game engine, but their more official description is: Unity is a real-time 3D interactive content creation and operation platform. All creators, including game development, art, architecture, car design, film and television, use Unity to turn their ideas into reality. The Unity platform provides a complete set of software solutions that can be used to create, operate and realize any real-time interactive 2D and 3D content. Supported platforms include mobile phones, tablets, PCs, game consoles, augmented reality and virtual reality devices.

▲ Spielberg (middle) on the set of "Ready Player One"

If this is somewhat confusing and professional, there is a Unity case that can help you understand what it can do: the movie "Number One Player" uses Unity technology for virtual shooting, and the director Spielberg can directly wear a VR headset. , Enter the scene in the movie in real time. Unity-based tools and the cooperation of the post team can realize real-time adjustments to the filming scene.

In other words, with Unity, people can create VR game scenes in movies. The movie is real and the game is fake, but the scenes are also real and fake.

This is very "meta universe".

In addition to Unity, Roblox and Epic are also meta-universe concept stocks. They have games Roblox and Fortnite respectively. The latter also has a game store and Unreal, a game engine that competes with Unity. Roblox also built its own game. engine.

The popularity of "Fortnite" is largely due to the cross-platform mechanism. Xbox players can meet PlayStation players, and the great freedom of it is the same as in "PUBG Mobile" or "Overwatch". Shooting is different from each other. In "Fortress Night", you can build houses and hold virtual concerts… There are far more IPs than other games. For example, DC and Marvel characters, which are in the same water and fire, can get together here.

This is an operational issue as well as a technical issue.

As a peer, Unity is also doing the same thing, Yang Dong said:

The users of our terminal have to really come into contact with the so-called meta-universe, which is essentially a virtual world, and it also requires many different terminals to get in touch with this world. If you can only use a PC or a mobile phone to touch the world, it will actually be blocked by many people. The current cross-platform technology, the ability to render different image quality on different platforms, the ability to process game logic, and there are many technologies on the server side.

Cross-platform is a very important connotation of Metaverse. For example, the recent popular "League of Legends Mobile Game Edition" and the "League of Legends" on the computer are essentially two games, which are not only reflected in the difference in game equipment and operation logic, but also Reflected in the non-interoperability of game data.

The reason why it is difficult for a game to interoperate across platforms is mainly because the performance difference between devices is very large. If you want to cross it, you have to look down, and then the experience deteriorates, but things start to change, and it has changed to a qualitative degree. Then I have the courage to talk about the concept of meta universe.

2016 is known as the first year of VR, but this year the VR industry "has not been half-started but collapsed in the middle" because the technology at that time, including engine technology, was still relatively rudimentary and could not support the explosion of content. This is just like Tik Tok’s popularity now, because mobile phone cameras have improved, screens have become larger, network speeds have increased, traffic has been sufficient, and editing software has become more convenient. In the era of 3G networks, Douyin could not be born.

▲ Screenshot of Unity HDRP technology demo film " Hearts "

The development of engine technology is similar now. Unity launched the High Definition Rendering Pipeline Technology (HDRP) in 2018. Initially, it only supports PC, Xbox and PlayStation, and does not support mobile platforms. This is because the graphics performance of mobile platforms is too far from that of desktop devices. . Unity subsequently opened a cloud gaming solution, placing the rendering in the cloud and providing it to local devices with poor graphics performance through streaming media.

In the series of articles " Framework for the Metaverse " by investor and analyst Matthew Ball, Matthew Ball highlighted a phenomenon, that is, the current game does not support multi-player interaction at the same time. 》It is excellent to accommodate 100 people in a game room at the same time, but the real-time online multiplayer of many large-scale online games is actually "asynchronous". This is easy to explain. The "Team Fight Club Card" is enough to explain: the local computing power can't keep up.

In the world of the meta universe, one or two hundred people can be online at the same time, which is obviously not enough to meet the needs, which is very different from the real world experience.

In order to solve this problem, Unity has also launched the "DOTS system based on data stack programming". The specifics are very complicated, but the effect is very simple. It is to make good use of the CPU's multi-core and multi-threading capabilities, which can well accommodate multiple people online at the same time. Five times ten times the magnitude increase, so that the chicken game can reach the capacity of a room with 1,000 people.

▲ Volvo uses Unity's real-time 3D technology to obtain an interactive virtual experience

The meta-universe infrastructure is not a meta-universe, but it makes the meta-universe look less nihilistic

Metaverse is like this. If you talk about the actual experience 30 years later, I'm sorry I can't give it now. If you talk about a small realization condition on the road leading to its vision, then the technicians are likely to be able to give a feasible solution. In the end, when many conditions are gradually fulfilled, the meta-universe experience there will not be far away.

Another person holding similar views is Wei Qing, CTO of Microsoft Greater China. In an interview with the media letter list, he said that Metaverse should be translated into "virtual space" rather than "meta universe." No matter how it is translated, the origin of the term Metaverse, the science fiction novel "Avalanche" has also profoundly affected technology companies such as Microsoft and Google. Wei Qing said:

In the specific realization process of (Metaverse, virtual space), pure virtual space is only part of it; the organic combination with the physical world, which is usually called the CPS cyber physical system, or digital twin, can express technology more accurately Trends and technology are people-oriented.

In the final analysis, all objects in the physical space, including their attributes, behaviors and relationships, need to be digitally modeled and mapped to the cyberspace, so that the physical space becomes an object that can be calculated in the cyberspace. But more importantly, the calculation results in cyberspace also need to be mapped back to physical space, so as to enhance the ability of human beings in the real world.

Under the constraints of this technological logic, whether it is called meta-universe, virtual space, cyber-physical system, digital twin, or the Internet of Things and Semantic Web, which do not sound so ostentatious now, they all have the same meaning.

Wei Qing also mentioned that to solve the ultimate proposition of Metaverse (metaverse, virtual space), it is necessary to pay attention to some over-professional and old-fashioned underlying technologies, such as unification of modeling, standardization of data, and RDF (Resource Description Framework). Description framework), OWL (Ontology Web Language, network ontology language).

Although most of us don't have much understanding of these professional technologies, the thinking of engineers is very important to the infrastructure construction of the meta universe.

Now Unity is the game engine for most mobile games, including the well-known "Glory of the King" and "Original God". Not talking about the snake-eating era 20 years ago, just talking about 10 years ago, playing on mobile phones with the current picture quality "The Original God" would definitely be considered impractical. Yang Dong believes:

The reason why we think this thing (meta universe) can be done is actually the same as we said more than ten years ago that we can use this for mobile games. We thought that the technology was feasible at that time, so we did it, and we did it now.

Matthew Ball divided the infrastructure of Metaverse into multiple aspects: hardware capability, network level, computing capability, payment tools, technical standards… This is actually similar to Wei Qing's idea. Ai Faner also asked Yang Dong, what is the positioning of tools like Unity in the construction of the metaverse?

Yang Dong said:

If there is no technology itself, the meta universe does not exist. Not to mention that people can create UGC (User Generated Content), which is impossible. You do not have the technology of an editor, and the content generated by the editor is run through the Runtime (real-time engine) of the engine. You can think that Runtime is a comprehensive thing that allows our rendering system, scripting system, physics system, and sound effect system. start running. If you don't have this thing, it can't run, then we won't have a meta universe.

Not only did Unity recognize the importance of the engine to Metaverse, but domestic manufacturers also started to make up lessons. Xing Shanhu, a veteran of the domestic game industry, founded Code Qiankun. Its business focus is on self-developed physics engine. The physics engine is used to calculate the motion interaction between objects and scenes, objects and characters, and objects and objects in 2D or 3D scenes. And dynamics.

As mentioned above, virtual space cannot exist alone. It has to be connected with the physical world and must be mapped to each other with the physical space. Then the physics engine plays a very important role in it. Nowadays, the animation effects of smart phones are increasingly using "non-linear animation" to simulate natural and real interaction effects, and this logic is also consistent with this logic.

▲ The virtual factory built by BMW through the Omniverse platform contains various elements of the real factory

Similarly, Nvidia's Omniverse platform, its ability and purpose are to deal with the mapping relationship between the virtual world and the physical world.

Just as not all meta-universe concepts are making meta-universes, not all technologies are suitable for becoming the infrastructure of meta-universes.

Pinwan wrote in " Depth | Blood Eater Divides Meta-Universe " that many players who have been in the currency circle have begun to enter the meta-universe field to make hype, and many investors have also begun to make irrational investments, so this concept It was cast a shadow of the Ponzi scheme of spreading flowers by drumming, just like the various "air coins" before cutting leeks.

Yang Dong said frankly that the addition of blockchain technology is a non-essential option based on the meta-universe technology they are doing at this stage. The addition of technology like NFT can protect virtual assets, which does have some significance. But just add it in and make a gimmick, it's totally unnecessary. Now more blockchain applications, such as various coins, including meta-universe concept games such as "Axie Infinity", are of little practical significance, but they consume a lot of power.

If you often watch TV commercials, many Tibetan medicines and Mongolian medicines claim that ancestral formulas can cure all diseases and cure all diseases, then it must be a lie, just like which manufacturer claims "I am XX Yuan Universe". But if a certain drug claims to be aimed at "XX disease caused by XX, the effective rate is 90%, what are the side effects, and what are the contraindications", then it is more credible. This is almost the case in the basic construction of the meta universe.

When the Internet hesitated at a new crossroads, people opened a 29-year-old science fiction novel, pointed to a term called "Metaverse" and said: "This is the next generation of the Internet."

"Meta universe" is the most popular concept in the current science and technology circle. However, there are 1,000 "meta universes" in the eyes of a thousand people. No one can give an accurate definition. Most of them are a vague piece of science fiction. contour.

"Meta universe" may be a digital utopia like in the ending of "Ready Player One", or it may be like Liu Cixin's depiction of tens of billions of virtual humans living on computers in the basement, and their bodies are completely dead.

In the view of Kevin Kelly and other futurists, cyberization is the home of mankind. The "meta universe" will give birth to a new form of virtual species, accelerating the transition from "carbon-based life" to "silicon-based life."

Is "Meta Universe" "The Next Big Thing" or is it a technology that is too early for mankind? We will discuss in depth through a series of topics, this is the third article in the "Meta Universe" series.

Liu Cixin, China's first "metauniverse architect" | Metaverse series①

The Internet is bad enough, don’t mess with the meta universe | meta universe series ②

The picture of the title comes from the stills of "The Number One Player"

In the plastic greenhouse of destiny, every cabbage that has been sprayed with too much pesticide once had a dream of becoming a pollution-free organic vegetable.

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Ai Faner | Original link · View comments · Sina Weibo