Some observers say the metaverse is an expanded set of digital worlds that will grow out of the online environments that people are already familiar with, such as enhancing the extended-reality (XR) experience used in online gaming. The world they imagine is expected to offer new features and capabilities that accelerate society’s digital transformation and enhance sustainability by reducing the need for people to travel to meetings and perform resource-intensive activities.
Others say the metaverse will usher in a decentralized ecosystem that empowers users to create digital assets of their own choosing and engage in digital commerce. Because the architecture would be open, decentralized, and without gatekeepers, this version is expected to democratize the Internet by making it transparent, accessible, and interoperable to everyone.
However the metaverse evolves, one thing is certain: It has tremendous potential to fundamentally transform the ways we work, learn, play, and live. But there will be issues to deal with along the way.
That is why the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) is working to help define, develop, and deploy the technologies, applications, and governance practices needed to help turn metaverse concepts into practical realities, and to drive new markets.
Technical and societal challenges
The technical and societal challenges that come with designing and building metaverse environments include:
- Better user interfaces.
- Lower system latency.
- More tightly integrated, interoperable XR technologies.
- Better 3D modeling and volumetric video rendering.
- Improved ways to acquire, render, store, and protect geospatial data.
- Lower power consumption.
- Interacting with the Internet.
Consensus is needed to address the wide variety of views held on technosocial issues such as user identity, credentialing, privacy, openness, ethics, accessibility, and user safety.
New technical standards
IEEE SA recently formed its metaverse standards committee, the first committee of a major worldwide standards development organization designed to advance metaverse-related technologies and applications. It will do so by developing and maintaining technical standards, creating recommended practices, and writing guides.
In addition, technical standards and activities are incubating new ideas on topics that are expected to be of great interest to industry.
The IEEE P2048 Standard for Metaverse: Terminology, Definitions, and Taxonomy, for example, is designed to define the vocabulary, categories, and levels of a metaverse to establish a common ground for ongoing discussions, facilitate the sustainable development of metaverse-related activities, and promote the healthy growth of metaverse markets.
The IEEE P7016 Standard for Ethically Aligned Design and Operation of Metaverse Systems will provide a high-level overview of the technosocial aspects of metaverse systems and specify an ethical assessment methodology for use in their design and operation. The standard will include guidance to developers on how to adapt their processes to prioritize ethically aligned design. In addition, IEEE P7016 will help define ethical system content on accessibility and functional safety. Also included will be guidance on how to promote ethically aligned values and robust public engagement in the research, implementation, and proliferation of metaverse systems to increase human well-being and environmental sustainability.
Two industry-focused initiatives
IEEE SA also recently launched two Industry Connections activities specifically for the metaverse. The IC program facilitates collaboration and consensus-building among participants. It also provides IEEE resources to help produce standards proposals; white papers and other reports; events; software tools; and Web services.
The Decentralized Metaverse Initiative has identified a goal of developing and providing guidelines for implementing decentralized metaverses, which not only could capitalize on intellectual property and virtual assets in decentralized ways but also could benefit from other potential features of decentralized architectures.
The Persistent Computing for Metaverse Initiative will focus on the technologies needed to build, operate, and upgrade metaverse experiences. It includes computation, storage, communications, data structures, and artificial intelligence. This group will facilitate discussions and collaborations on persistent computing, steer and give advice on research and development, and provide technical guidelines and references.
Webinars with experts
The IEEE Metaverse Congress offers a series of webinars that provide a comprehensive, global view from experts who are involved with the technology’s development, design, and governance.
Join the Metaverse Community to help develop this new area, advance your organization’s viewpoint, and engage with others.
This article is an edited excerpt of the “Why Are Standards Important for the Metaverse?” blog entry, published in November 2022.
This article appears in the June 2023 print issue as “IEEE Standards Initiatives Focus on Extended Reality.”
Yu Yuan, an IEEE senior member, president of the IEEE Standards Association January 1 - November 19, 2023.
Srikanth Chandrasekaran, an IEEE senior member, is the practice lead and senior director of the IEEE Standards Association’s Foundational Technologies Practice.