August 16, 2022

Parties interested in turning Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite buzzword into a reality announced on Wednesday that they have formed The Metaverse Standards Forum. Meta is a founding member, naturally, and big tech names like Adobe, Microsoft, and Nvidia are also founding members. Initial membership notably lacks participation from Apple and Google, however.

The forum, according to today’s announcement, is meant to “foster the development of open standards for the metaverse.”

“The Forum will explore where the lack of interoperability is holding back metaverse deployment and how the work of Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) defining and evolving needed standards may be coordinated and accelerated,” the group said in its announcement.

Other founding members include Adobe, Epic Games, Ikea, Qualcomm, Sony, the XR Association, and SDOs The Khronos Group, World Wide Web Consortium, and Open Geospatial Consortium.

Apple, which is expected to release an AR headset by 2023, isn’t participating. Neither is Alphabet, which owns Google. Both parties have joined open industry groups before, including Matter and FIDO, but neither has promoted the phrase “metaverse.”

Beyond its unannounced (but much-discussed) AR headset said to be in development, CEO Tim Cook said Apple’s role in the metaverse market is “a big question” in Apple’s Q1 2022 earnings call in January.

“We’re always exploring new and emerging technologies… Right now, we have over 14,000 AR kit apps in the App Store, which provide incredible AR experiences for millions of people today,” Cook said when asked about Apple’s metaverse plans, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “We see a lot of potential in this space and are investing accordingly.”

Alphabet’s Google, meanwhile, has been linked to a new AR headset of its own. And AR is a touted feature of various Google products, from Pixel phones to software.

Google also joined the VR Standards Initiative in 2016, as noted by TechCrunch, alongside then-Facebook’s then-Oculus VR brand. The initiative was led by The Kronos Group, a nonprofit focused on emerging technologies that is also hosting The Metaverse Standards Forum.

The new group provides free, open membership, so both companies could join the metaverse forum down the line. But with many questions surrounding the metaverse—what it means and how it will be monetized and moderated—we’re not surprised that some big names in tech aren’t eager to sign up. There’s also the fact that Meta is adamant about using a term that’s synonymous with its own brand.

Those organizations will miss out on “pragmatic, action-based projects,” like “implementation prototyping, hackathons, plugfests, and open-source tooling to accelerate the testing and adoption of metaverse standards,” according to the forum’s announcement. The group also said it will work to develop “consistent terminology and deployment guidelines.”

The group’s focus will vary based on membership, but potential topics posited are “3D assets and rendering, human interface and interaction paradigms, such as AR and VR, user-created content, avatars, identity management, privacy, and financial transactions.”

The Metaverse Standards Forum also highlighted potential areas of collaborative spatial computing, including AR and VR, of course, but also “photorealistic content authoring, geospatial systems, end-user content tooling, digital twins, real-time collaboration, physical simulation, online economies,” and more.

The forum expects to hold its first meeting in July.

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