Matthew Ball – The Metaverse

Matthew Ball – The Metaverse

Matthew ball is definitely an apostle. His ideas of metaverse are big. From school classes that can travel through the human body to immersion in three-dimensional digital spaces where you can save the world with superheroes. The realistic business meeting in virtual space is of course also in his vision. But if he’s an apostle, at least he’s not preaching alone. Big names in the computer and video game industry such as Nvidia boss Jensen Huang or Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney attach great importance to the coming metaverse. Management consultancy McKinsey has also forecast a total value of $5 trillion for the economy in the metaverse by 2030.

Ball himself is an author and investor. He was previously the head of strategy for the Amazon Studios media arm of the online mail order company. On his website, he writes about the economic importance of the video game sector and how the metaverse “is going to revolutionize everything”. From the essays that appeared there grew his book The Metaverse.

The most important thing Ball achieves with his typeface is probably the definition of the word “metaverse”, which actually comes from science fiction author Neal Stephenson’s dystopian future fantasy “Snow Crash”. There, the metaverse was a virtual space that people took refuge in to escape the grim reality. Ball speaks of the Metaverse as a “massively scalable and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds synchronously and persistently used by a virtually unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence and with a continuity of data such as identity, history, permissions, Objects, communication and payments can be experienced”.

The long road to utopia

As a result of the definition, he sets about explaining its individual parts. And he asks: what is necessary to bring about the metaverse? Above all, enormous computing power is needed to operate a metaverse in which an unlimited number of users can actually move constantly. In addition, large bandwidths of the Internet connections and fast data traffic are required. In addition, affordable hardware will be necessary, with which as many people as possible can enter the metaverse. He still considers the glasses for virtual reality (VR) that are currently available on the market to be too expensive and not very common.

Ball also draws parallels between the emergence of the Internet in its present form and the emergence of the metaverse. Crucial to the Internet, governments and non-governmental organizations have worked together and established open standards for data transmission. He would like something similar transferred to the metaverse for the interoperability of different virtual worlds. For example, so that digital possessions such as clothing or special movements of the digital likeness can be easily transferred from one virtual world to another.

stumbling blocks

The companies that work on the technologies for the metaverse stand in the way of such a development. For example, Ball names Apple and Sony as players in the metaverse who rely heavily on closed systems. In this way, they protect their own business models and keep developers in their fee structure, which tends to disadvantage users.

Despite all the obstacles, a grim optimism runs through the book. Ball accepts that his ideal of an open metaverse will not materialize because too many business interests and ideas of individual governments such as those of America and China are at odds with each other. But he is certain that one or more versions of the metaverse will come. Too many business leaders and politicians are using the word at the same time for that. The Facebook group Meta even sees its entire future in the vision.

The metaverse in the portfolio?

In some places Ball writes about the current and future players in the metaverse economy, his book reads like an investor’s guide. Whether companies develop hardware, software or infrastructure – he gives many examples of candidates who can shine in the metaverse itself in the future or will earn from its support. And he names those who are ill-equipped to do so.

The reading experience is marred by a poor German translation. One or the other spelling error would be tolerable, but grammatical errors as well as crooked language images and incorrectly translated vocabulary let the reader falter again and again. When asked by the FAZ, the publisher stated that it had made a translation in-house in order to be as close as possible to the time of publication of the original edition.

Image: Vahlen

At least the argument is conclusive: some of the information in the book is already out of date. For example, John Carmack, often mentioned by Ball, is no longer chief consultant on VR at Meta, but deals with artificial intelligence in his start-up Keen Technologies. Perhaps that alone shows that the Metaverse theme is breathing and moving quickly. Ball provides solid fundamentals about the new technological development.

Matthew Ball: The Metaverse. And how it will revolutionize everything, Franz Vahlen, Munich 2022, 328 pages, 24.90 euros.

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