This week Epic announced that they raised $1Billion towards their future in the Metaverse. The whopping number speaks volumes of the potential awaiting in this new sector, where games, work and social interfacing come together as one. Speaking on the funding, Tim Sweeney, CEO and Founder of Epic Games said “We are grateful to our new and existing investors who support our vision for Epic and the Metaverse. Their investment will help accelerate our work around building connected social experiences in Fortnite, Rocket League and Fall Guys, while empowering game developers and creators with Unreal Engine, Epic Online Services and the Epic Games Store.”
But what exactly is this ‘metaverse’ that has garnered so much hype? The term ‘metaverse’ was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash, where humans interact with each other in a digital world via avatars. Today, a cursory glance across the internet shows a plethora of different definitions in use. Most consider the metaverse to be a shared virtual world, holding the seemingly contradictory qualities of replicating reality, whilst also serving as an escape from it.
Increasingly, online games are often mentioned in the same breath as the metaverse and it’s easy to see why. Inhabitants of vast open worlds use the virtual space to build entire civilisations, host events and connect with friends around the world. This social element is a trend that has rapidly accelerated in 2020, in part due to the various lockdowns and social distancing measures in place as a result of the pandemic.
The dramatic shift in our lifestyles is having other profound implications – one of which is how we interact with the outside world. Virtual worlds are playing an ever more important role and there is a need and desire to seem at scale, accommodating as many features and/or people as possible. Technology that might have otherwise lingered on the cutting-edge before its gradual adoption, is rapidly becoming mainstream. Even large businesses are starting to use the metaverse as a way of recreating face to face interaction through social events, conferences and even virtual offices.
As complexity and level of detail in these immersive experiences increases, so does the strain on the underlying infrastructure. Indeed, maintaining performance in the metaverse has hitherto been dependent on capping user counts, limiting the scope of the world and simplifying the experience.
But this is now beginning to change with breakthroughs in distributed and spatial computing. Distributed spatial simulation, for instance, maps virtual space to CPU space. It allows for spikes in processing power, and allows for the development of virtual worlds with greater scale and fidelity than ever before. Providing enough processing power to support such complex worlds is one of the final barriers to break on our journey to the metaverse.
With persistence such a key feature within the metaverse, managing the ebb and flow of activity is the other side of the equation. Endlessly spinning up server after server creates astronomical costs, or large expensive teams to manually look after the infrastructure configuration and management; localised and seasonal events suddenly become daunting and off-putting. Ultimately, if virtual worlds are to fulfill their potential, provisioning and deprovisioning must take place automatically in order to make their development viable.
And as the metaverse grows in depth, complexity and realism, so does our expectation of the technology. It is leading to a new wave of innovation, with the same distributed spatial computing being explored in parallel across verticals as diverse as military planning and financial forecasting. In the era of the “new normal” disruptive breakthroughs are being ushered through at unprecedented speed, the applications of which have untold reach. For a distributed computing startup, it’s creating the opportunity to lead a technical revolution.
We’re excited to see our solutions contribute to the virtual expanse before us and share Epic’s mission to explore the new opportunities that await. With their funding round, Roblox’s recent valuation and a number of other contributions, the future looks bright for the Metaverse.