John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity Technologies, is well aware the metaverse is coming. But he’s also well aware that it’s overhyped, and that many things people think will make it up aren’t important. Digital avatars, for example, could be a distraction, only used for certain experiences. He’s also not sold on interoperability being the backbone of the metaverse. So what does he think?
While it’s usually Epic Games’ Unreal Engine getting all the love, Unity Technologies is the next in line to the throne. Known for the development of Unity, a cross-platform game engine used to create video games and other applications, Unity are also owed their dues in helping to create the metaverse’s substructure.
Unity has been used to create over 3,000 games and applications, with 45% of the market share in mobile for game engines. With many believing that phones will be the central processors of the metaverse, connecting us to the newly immersive internet, Unity are a company that any investor should have their eyes on.
And their CEO, John Riccitiello, is also a firm believer in the metaverse. But he’s not so convinced by hyper-interoperability and ubiquitous digital avatars. About the metaverse, he said “The term means a lot to me, but I think it’s one of the most misused and abused, hyperinflated terms I’ve seen in a long time”—And it’s hard to disagree. The metaverse could be one of the most transformative technological achievements ever, and yet it’s still overhyped and misunderstood. Interoperability and digital avatars are two things he thinks aren’t so necessary
“It’s really kind of hard to figure out what I want to bring from World of Warcraft into my Gucci shopping experience.” says Riccitiello. While he has a good point, no doubt people will want to bring their Gucci t-shirt to virtual parties, laid back digital conferences and metaverse bars. Similarly, people might want to bring their Orc Warrior’s gargantuan axe from World of Warcraft into another game-like fantasy world, to show off or scare the enemies.
Interoperability is a continuum, rather than binary, and we think it’s safe to say people will want some form of interoperability. But for that, there’ll have to be standards, maybe using Universal Scene Description, a format for data and rendering—which in its current form, isn’t the best for rendering in 3D. In any case, Riccitiello might be right that interoperability isn’t as much of a key underpinning to the metaverse as everyone thinks, but it might be necessary for an open metaverse.
When you picture the metaverse, what do you see? People dressed as monkeys, astronauts and anime cat girls running amok in a virtual office? Or something more like Meta’s Horizon Worlds, where the avatars are considerably more boring and well, they can’t run amok because they have no legs? Whatever the case, avatars might only play a part in certain social experiences, while things like virtual tours and checking in at a hotel won’t need avatars—they’ll just slow things down.
In other words, avatars will certainly be involved in certain experiences. For spatial, immersive 3D experiences, we’ll need avatars to meet the right criteria for personal interactions, self-expression and conveying emotions. Disembodied voices won’t be quite as good.
So maybe, like with other technologies, the metaverse will involve many of these things to certain extents. So interoperability, avatars, and VR might not be biconditionals for the metaverse’s existence after all, but there’s a pretty good chance we’ll see them and use them in all sorts of underlying experiences in the future of the internet.