description: This next decade will give rise to spatial computing with big tech investing billions of dollars into it. What does it take to build the most open and extensible gaming platform?
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###### tags: `devlog` `webxr` `dweb`
Originally published December 2019
> “Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...” - Neuromancer
We're close to arriving into that universe of a massive, persistent, digital spatial reality adjacent to our own. These books have always inspired us from the beginning, it's time now.
In these books the characters live a dual life between the physical and the virtual world. Ready Player One in particular has a pretty dystopian take on this potential future where their version of cyberspace is largely built and owned by a single company.
> While the book (Ready Player One) is entertaining, since IOI owns and controls the OASIS’ servers and databases, they could do whatever they want: delete other people, access any information, change the rules of the world, and print themselves infinite currency.
So it’s pretty clear that one company can’t control the Metaverse — otherwise it could take away everything you own, change who you are, or even delete you. [Source: VR is a Killer App for Blockchains](https://medium.com/@FEhrsam/vr-is-a-killer-blockchain-app-3a4122d7f505)
We can not allow so much power to be in the hands of one company, especially with a medium like VR/AR which hoovers up more data about our surroundings, actions, and reactions to sensory information than any other technology before it. For this reason, **Building the Open Metaverse is a Moral Imperative**.
The question is, who is building the open Metaverse and why? What incentives do they have?
> **Always take the high road, it's far less crowded and the view is better.**
#### Good news
The Metaverse is already here, we are just experiencing it in 2D. The next hardware cycle in 3-5 years with 5G deployment and lightweight spatial computing devices will take us from dial-up age tethered headsets to an always connected frictionless access to information around us physical virtual duality.
The science fiction dream of a persistent virtual universe with millions of avatars working, playing, and inhabiting the world around us is less than a decade away. Watch 5 minutes of this presentation from the [CEO of Magic Leap](https://venturebeat.com/2019/03/02/magic-leap-ceo-rony-abovitz-interview-the-magicverse-will-have-an-ethical-foundation/) give an intro to the Magicverse at ATT SHAPE:
<iframe width="100%" height="400" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/82Hzx-6OBuo?start=624" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
> The future isn't escaping the real world. It's breaking the limitations of the real world.
#### Bad news
FAANGs ([Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook,_Apple,_Amazon,_Netflix_and_Google)) are closing in, accumulating control of more and more control over people's data. Google in particular is at the center of power with Chrome and Android.
Also, over half of all gaming titles and 60% of VR/AR experiences are made with Unity3d, a non-free gaming engine. At one point, [Facebook mulled a multi-billion dollar acquisition of Unity](https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/13/facebook-mulled-multi-billion-dollar-acquisition-of-unity-book-claims/):
> Third, Unity increases our ability to ensure other platform companies support our platform services.
If we own Unity, then Android, Windows and iOS will all need us to support them on larger portions of their ecosystems won't work. While we wouldn't reject them outright, we will have options for how deeply we support them.
For open platforms like Android and Windows, this helps level the playing field and helps to ensure we can continue offering our app stores and other key services. For iOS, this will not influence Apple to let us offer an app store, but it could give us other important bargaining chips as part of our AR/VR strategy or otherwise. [Source](https://www.scribd.com/document/399594551/2015-06-22-MARK-S-VISION#from_embed)
Unity is an amazing engine but like Chrome it puts great power into a single company. We've seen huge privacy violations happen [time](https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/07/14/facebook-is-embedding-hidden-codes-to-track-all-your-uploaded-photos-report/#7600cbc11592) and [time](https://twitter.com/wongmjane/status/1167463054709334017) again. It's simply not within the current incentive structure for big tech to support individual liberty.
Another troubling situation for the open Metaverse lies in the distribution of resources. Social VR is arguably the most compelling feature of spatial computing - having [presence](https://www.vrfocus.com/2017/11/why-is-presence-important-for-virtual-reality/) with others is incredibly powerful. This chart represents companies building social VR platforms with data gathered from [Crunchbase](https://www.crunchbase.com/):
There are several red flags that appear upon seeing this chart:
1. All but [JanusVR](https://janusvr.github.io/guide/#/) and [High Fidelity](https://highfidelity.com) are building their platforms with the Unity game engine.
2. **High Fidelity and Decentraland absorbed 99% of funding for open source social VR.**
3. Decentraland has shelved VR support [based on what HiFi was saying](https://i.imgur.com/tpZDfWY.jpg) about the numbers.
JanusVR is the ONLY company represented that has a strong [WebXR](https://immersive-web.github.io/webxr/) focus. The team has even gone as far as making functional web clients for [High Fidelity](https://xrdevlog.com/hifiweb.html) and [Decentraland](https://xrdevlog.com/dclflow.html#DCL-Client).
**Update**: JanusVR has closed down the company and reborn as [JanusXR](https://janusxr.org), an open source community project. [Webaverse](https://webaverse.com) carries the torch on the list of funded social VR/AR projects and has a strong crypto + WebXR focus.
> **Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.** - [Rorschach](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSt6q0K1KTw)
## Tech Revolution
> “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - Buckminster Fuller
[**WebXR**](https://github.com/immersive-web/webxr) is a movement happening that will evolve a metaverse from individual creators creating experiences that interoperate with other experiences. Here are some reasons why:
#### 1. No gatekeepers
The web offers enormous reach in a frictionless manner.
- Content runs on pretty much everything
- Permissionless publishing
#### 2. Less friction
It's way faster to start and ship a project with the web.
- Changes happen instantly, no compiling
- No installs, access from a link
#### 3. Openness
The live feedback loop makes it easy to find emerging behavior as you experiment.
- **View-source**, great for onboarding new devlopers
- Web lends itself to experimentation
There are a number of other open source projects that can have a huge impact for the open metaverse movement, I will name as many as I can:
- Storage Protocols: [IPFS](https://ipfs.io) and [Dat](https://dat.foundation)
- XR Frameworks: [Aframe](https://aframe.io) / [BabylonJS](https://github.com/BabylonJS) / [JanusWeb](https://github.com/jbaicoianu/janusweb)
- Compositors: [Exokit](https://exokit.org/) and [XRdesktop](https://gitlab.freedesktop.org/xrdesktop)
- Browsers: [Janus](https://github.com/janusvr/janus) / [Firefox Reality](https://github.com/MozillaReality/FirefoxReality) / [Metachromium](https://metachromium.com/)
- Currency: We're currently exploring [Bitcoin](https://bitcoin.org/en/) and [Ethereum](https://ethereum.org/)
Even with 1% of the resources compared to HiFi + DCL, JanusVR has overall made impressive progress in building an open and decentralized Metaverse. Since content for Janus is just static HTML files they can be hosted anywhere which lead the community to [experiment with IPFS back in 2016](https://vimeo.com/164043852). The Janus C++ client was also the first VR web browser of its kind to support the Oculus DK1 and [Linux](https://web.archive.org/web/20140425041515/http://janusvr.com/).
Earlier this year we started a [public working group for makers](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yoi0SZ3A--4&list=PLFvnZ7So4-FX24FRo_EyY4Cqi3RVEG3PG) that organizes bi-weekly to share knowledge and collaborate on cross-platform projects. The [VRBA](https://vrblockchainalliance.org) has great initiatives but collaboration has been difficult to achieve effectiveness.
[M3](https://github.com/M3-org/schedule) as a group focuses on utilizing web solutions and platforms, less friction for collaborating.
> **Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.** - Arthur Ashe
One project in particular, [Exokit](https://exokit.org/), is causing waves in the webxr community for its open design and vision of a composable immersive web. [Exokit engine](https://github.com/exokitxr/exokit) throws out all the fluff from 2D browsers and enables developers to build XR experiences using the same code that runs on the web but closer to the metal, giving an average **3x performance boost** to webxr apps.
Exokit allows for interesting possibilities such as the ability to seamlessly connect apps, even (especially) if they aren't designed to cooperate. This can take the form of portals like those [seen in JanusVR](https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=104&v=a8a93wKiFUc) but between two disparate virtual worlds. Another interesting behavior is the ability to blend virtual worlds together via "reality tabs". Each app is an `<iframe>`, except they are 3D and you can run them simultaneously stacked together.
> Concept of Cryptovoxels, Hubs, Decentraland, and other WebXR content running at the same time within Exokit. Presented at the August 26th M3: https://youtu.be/3htL9RfGdHg
This capability doesn't even have to be exclusive to only web platforms. One can imagine the ability to have 3D overlays in SteamVR, like putting on a pair of imaginary AR glasses in VR!
:sunglasses: **AR IN VR** :exploding_head:
Many people in crypto land are also deeply interested in the fight for cyberspace. The Metaverse is by extension part of the internet and needs to be decentralized and built on open standards to preserve our liberty and freedom.
> “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” —African Proverb
We recently met at [dweb camp](https://xrdevlog.com/dwebcamp.html) to hack on meshnets and share a vision of a future internet with spatial computing equipment with the dweb community. Our demos ran on completely off-the-grid hardware and software via [dat](https://dat.foundation) and [IPFS](https://ipfs.io)!
The [current state](https://panopticon.spyduck.net/) of a VR cyberspace looks like the middle graph: decentralized. All of those dots represent virtual worlds that are hosted on independent servers, much like the web with HTTP and HTML.
[Augmented perception](http://augmentedperception.com/) allows for a spatial fly-through of the open metaverse. Elation engine, which JanusWeb is built upon, was originally geared towards a physics based space shooter.
The next version can have 360 previews instead of dots and the ability to land on them while the constellations appear visible in the Metaverse night sky. Like No Man's Sky for the web.
Of the many amazing projects present at dweb camp, [Filecoin](https://filecoin.io) may have the strongest impact of shaping the future of the immersive web in the future. Since WebXR content is mostly just static HTML files, the swarm can scale distribution cheaper and faster as it gets more popular.
<iframe width="100%" height="400" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EClPAFPeXIQ" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
> **To be great is to be misunderstood.**
What its made with will not be enough to make a difference to change anything. We can all agree that the Metaverse is fantastic and world changing but anything that calls itself that will need to reach a high standard of user engagement. Tim Sweeney mentioned something about this during his talk at Siggraph 2019:
> Key challenge for this new medium is that anything that calls itself the Metaverse has to be better than anything else that is competing for our time: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, Fortnite, Minecraft, GTA, or any other aspects of our lives. [Source tweet](https://twitter.com/kentbye/status/1156273122581991424)
There are multiple ideas floating around in how to overcome this key challenge.
2. Utilize SBS3D to engage audiences in immersive virtual environments more than current day flat screens. Not many people have seen 3D entertainment before but with stereo injectors and other graphics tricks many movies and games will feel completely different.
<iframe width="100%" height="420" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5tXno7ebwfI?start=166" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Try watching this video in a VR headset to understand the difference, 3D is more engaging.
3. Simply bring the 2D Metaverse into the 3D by using websurfaces or desktop streaming. This way you can absorb the competition for attention by not depriving people of that information feed. Equivalent of bringing your phone/laptop into any virtual world.
Current tools for creating and publishing majority of games and XR content today are based on closed ecosystems.
Desire is increasingly aligning with accessibility as headsets become cheaper and more wireless but content creation may become a bottleneck.
> The content creation piece of the equation, however, has not been aligned with the rate at which consumers adopt the technology. Even as the hardware becomes widely available, our current computing paradigms create roadblocks to content creation as we enter the age of the metaverse. [Source: USV Digital Currency for Virtual Worlds](https://www.usv.com/blog/digital-currency-for-virtual-worlds)
Building virtual reality content is *extremely fun* but not everyone wants to be a game dev to make their own worlds. Also, it's difficult to share your virtual experiences with your friends if you have to ask them to install something just to view the content with.
> Hyper-centralization under a single protocol. It is almost impossible to achieve interoperability among siloed platforms. This means we are unable to create dynamically with anyone else in the metaverse. [Source: USV Digital Currency for Virtual Worlds](https://www.usv.com/blog/digital-currency-for-virtual-worlds)
This topic deserves its own dev log because its super critical to make the open ecosystem foundation grow. The biggest challenges to solve is how to close the content discovery and monetization loop so creators can make it worth their time to build content for WebXR. How do we engineer incentives for people to learn new skills, contribute, and compete against the app stores?
We're putting the mastermind to work on this since it affects all of us. [There has been discussions](https://youtu.be/4cRwS1Z0rA8) on current business models in XR and ideas for what might scale with Web.
Some topics we discussed include:
- In-game crypto transactions
- Artificial scarcity
- Renting time
We strongly believe that the digital currency is an excellent path to building components for virtual worlds. For example, if you wanted to pay someone for voice acting or remote mocap in VR you could build something with [Sablier](https://sablier.finance), a protocol for real-time payments. We're always open to new ideas, feel free to comment below or join the [discord](https://discord.gg/UgZDFZW) if you have any!
**Update**: We created a list of 100+ [WebXR monetization](https://hackmd.io/@XR/monetization) ideas.
We're exploring collaborations with various Web3 projects to see how we can influence people to take the harder path via culture. One of these projects is [Metafactory](https://medium.com/@themetafactory/metafactory-rearchitecting-culture-for-the-digital-metaverse-df2693b7ec3b), whom is producing digi-physical tokenized goods starting with fashion. Pictured below is a physical jacket that comes with digital twins for your avatar made in multiple formats for interoperability across virtual worlds.
When a person receives a product from the Metafactory, they will get information about the NFT included with it - inviting them down a rabbit hole about avatar culture and decentralized finance.
There's a number of steps users have to take to enter the non-fungible token ecosystem, such as setting up Metamask and learning how to secure their private keys. However, past that is a big community ecosystem where there's less friction between platforms because we're all building upon the same open standards.
Avaer Kazmer ([@webmixedreality](https://twitter.com/webmixedreality)) has been building a discord bot for easy minting and trading NFTs. This has huge potential for making NFT onboarding frictionless to a wide userbase of over 100M monthly active users. It just takes 1 server admin to invite the bot for the entire servers benefit, allowing new users to play with NFT concepts without needing to set up Metamask.
[Webaverse](https://webaverse.com) takes the Discord bot to the next level by tying it into a virtual world. It's the right time to get serious about many of these ideas. Check out this article to learn more about the project: https://blog.webaverse.com/building-the-webaverse/
## Closing thoughts
Keeping the web open and free is the fight of our lifetime. I've given the past 6 of my best years to researching and building a decentralized metaverse because freedom f*cking matters. Nobody owns the internet or web, it just exists which is why they serve as an excellent foundation for spatial computing.
My hope is that together we can find a way to sustain development, through patronage or ethical monetization schemes, so that our work can reach and liberate the masses. Thanks for reading, let me know what you think.