Without efficient multimedia distribution there will be no metaverse(s)
As Nishant Batra, Nokia’s Chief Strategy and Technology Officer said, we don’t believe in a single metaverse.
We believe there will be many metaverses, each catering to different customers, companies and communities. A company might build one metaverse for its customers, while maintaining a separate metaverse for its employees where they have the tools to create content. The potential number of metaverses is staggering, but we see them falling into one of three general categories: the industrial metaverse, the enterprise metaverse and the consumer metaverse.
Every metaverse will offer immersive real-time interaction, centered around human collaboration, creativity, and self-expression, no matter what type of device is used. And each of these metaverses will require efficient means to distribute captured and modeled reality over communication networks. Nokia’s advanced multimedia research and standardization efforts will play a fundamental part in this.
Extended reality is already here
Think of the thrill of a live sporting event. Now think about being able to share it with your friends in real-time, no matter where you are, using 360-degree video and voice chat surrounding you. These kinds of breathtaking experiences will be available sooner than we think. In the meantime, we can already see the emergence of extended reality services in multiple different areas. In gaming, virtual clothes try-ons in e-commerce and property viewing, to name just a few. Furthermore, digital co-design and digital twins in various metaverse applications are expected to deliver significant improvements in sustainability, productivity, and worker safety. All of this is fueling the demand to capture the real world digitally and distribute this content to users, enabling them to freely navigate these digital 3D representations.
Metaverses are built on interoperability between devices and applications
As content becomes more complex, the services delivering these experiences need to process ever more complex tasks in real-time. New emerging experiences, such as 360-degree video streaming, spatial audio communication and ultra-low latency video applications, and the application of ultra-high definition and high dynamic range for a more realistic presentation of content, all pose unique demands on multimedia distribution.
Nokia has been innovating the technologies that enable audio and video to be transported across communications networks for over thirty years. And during that period, we have contributed to multimedia standards in the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), famous for their technical excellence in audio, video, and media systems standards. These standards enable seamless interoperability between devices and services.
The MPEG-I standard family is a true masterpiece of collaboration between hundreds of engineers with immense experience in the field of multimedia formats. MPEG-I standardizes fundamental media formats and technologies for immersive and interactive metaverse experiences. The versatile video coding (VVC) standard, for example, suits immersive and interactive video services better than any other video coding format, thanks to its unique low latency and viewport-dependent video delivery features. VVC is also perfect for emerging MPEG-I volumetric video formats enabling, for instance, lifelike 3D persons and dynamic volumetric worlds. When this volumetric video is combined with the upcoming MPEG-I immersive audio, users can enjoy volumetric audio-visual content from any position and angle.
What's more, MPEG has started the standardization of a haptics coding format, which will further enrich the sense of immersion. This new format will enable users to touch objects and each other in the metaverse, using, for example, haptic actuators which can be integrated into handheld controllers.
Life-like interactions in real time
Unprecedented life-like interactions are another key aspect of the metaverse. Think, for example, of a holographic meeting with a colleague on the other side of the world. You will be able to see each other vividly in the same room. Or how about remotely steering a mining or construction vehicle in challenging conditions where immersive situational awareness, augmented with real-time industrial data, can drastically improve decision-making?
This real-time immersive interaction requires extremely low-delay and high network bandwidth. It cannot be achieved without well-defined media services and underlying technical standards for media delivery and optimization over a 5G or 6G network.
Together with its partners in 3GPP, Nokia is already working on the standardization of the systems which will enable the XR communication services described above. The work of 3GPP also includes studying the different device and service requirements for metaverse related services with the aim of creating a unified end-user experience for standalone XR headsets or smartphone-tethered and low-power XR glasses. The services and communication standards developed in 3GPP will also provide the necessary network interfaces for the best Quality of Service (QoS) for metaverse experiences.
User-experience will make or break metaverse applications
Ultimately, the end-user experience is what will determine the success of any metaverse application, whether it is for a holographic participant in a virtual conference, a music enthusiast in a volumetric video concert or a teleoperator remotely driving an industrial vehicle.
No matter what experience we are looking for, making metaverse(s) a reality will require a suite of advanced technologies including wired and wireless communication, audio and video capture and compression, and a variety of cloud and network advancements. With our decades-long experience in pioneering communication technologies, Nokia is right in the middle of all of this.