As more tech companies develop virtual and augmented reality products, some oversight groups are trying to keep the industry on the same page. The newest of these is the Metaverse Standards Forum, which aims to drive open interoperability, which could make it easier for developers to build across platforms.
As announced today, the forum already has some major players on board, such as Meta, Microsoft, Epic Games, Adobe, Nvidia, Sony, Unity and others. But there are also some glaring absences, including companies like Niantic, Apple, Roblox and Snapchat, which are building consumer "metaverse" products as well.
The Metaverse Standards Forum is free to join and plans to focus on "pragmatic, action-based projects" like hackathons and open source tooling.
"There won’t be a Meta-run metaverse, just as there isn’t a ‘Microsoft internet’ or ‘Google internet’ today," explained Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg in a blog post last month. "Like the internet, the metaverse will be an interconnected system that transcends national borders, so there will need to be a web of public and private standards, norms and rules to allow for it to operate across jurisdictions."
Consortiums like these are only effective if enough companies adopt their standards, though.
Tiffany Xingyu Wang, chief security officer at AI content moderation company Spectrum Labs, launched the Oasis Consortium earlier this year. In an effort to promote greater commitments to safety from gaming and social companies, the Oasis Consortium developed a list of user safety standards, which it hopes will become an industry standard.
“If the metaverse is going to survive, it has to have safety in it," Wang told the Technology Review.
Content moderation is especially tricky in virtual reality, when online harassment or abuse can feel even more frightening due to the immersive nature of the technology. And in some cases, it seems like companies are prioritizing product development over robust safety tools.
Similar to the Metaverse Standards Forum, some key players are missing from the Oasis Consortium, like Meta. And in the past, groups like this have become smaller and smaller once internal conflict inevitably arises.
The Metaverse Standards Forum is led by the Khronos Group, a nonprofit consortium working on AR/VR, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more. Khronos has already tried to set a standard for VR APIs with its similarly named VR Standards Initiative in 2016, which included companies like Google, Nvidia. Epic Games and Oculus, which is now part of Meta.