The question of interoperability in the Metaverse
Before beginning to explore what the future of the metaverse may be, we must first answer the question of whether we are talking about the Metaverse, or metaverses. Whilst at first glance this may appear to be a grammatical choice, in truth, it speaks to a broader question of whether the Metaverse will become a singular, shared and interoperable space, or a series of isolated, but perhaps more secure, sporadically connected digital environments of metaverses.
Whilst the first offers unlimited opportunity for collaboration, innovation and competition, it does present questions surrounding security and accountability; if nobody has ownership of the metaverse, who ultimately takes responsibility for safety? Closed-off metaverses offer a partial solution, in that whilst companies will – in principle at least - be more able to oversee and better protect user experiences, competitors could struggle to enter the market and users may feel locked into particular platforms.
When conducting our research and interviewing tech experts, regulators, and officials, we asked them for three keywords that defined the Metaverse. Interoperability was, by a considerable margin, the most used word across the UK, US and EU stakeholders we spoke to, as most felt it was a basic principle of what the metaverse should become. A common theme quickly emerged that many saw a successful metaverse as one where users could hold a consistent digital identity that could be carried in-between virtual worlds.
Our public polling on the other hand found that the issue of interoperability was not a core concern when compared with online abuse or safety. 56% of the UK public that we polled strongly supported rules which would require tech companies to protect children by restricting their experience of the metaverse, whilst only 33% strongly supported an agreement between metaverse companies to ensure their technologies were compatible.
The continuing growth of the video game sector has evidenced how important interoperability can be to shared experiences, however, with developers realising the huge potential that interoperability between games consoles, PCs and mobile gaming can have. Cross play, whereby users can connect with friends and players from other platforms, and cross-progression, where a single account for a game can be used by a user across any device have been features warmly welcomed by the gaming community. These features have increased player bases and playtime across games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty and Overwatch significantly, bringing together users from multiple platforms. Cross-players ended up playing Fortnite about 570% more on average than non cross-players according to Epic Games’ analysis, speaking to the power cross-platforms can provide both to user enjoyment and player base for developers.
As the Metaverse continues to develop, platforms and developers will have to attempt to navigate both security and interoperability, to ensure that users are both safe, and able to move between worlds seamlessly. Creating a wild west of interconnected, unsecure virtual experiences would risk the safety and data privacy of the public, an issue our polling has found is already front of mind. Isolated metaverse bubbles on the other hand risk hampering innovation and creating ‘walled gardens’ that limit the metaverse's full potential.
Further insight into our findings, polling and conclusions of our international research into the Metaverse can be found in our report, Regulating the metaverse - Global Counsel report | Global Counsel (global-counsel.com).
In the meantime, why not check out techUK's event on the metaverse?
Earlier this year techUK was joined by IBM, NVIDIA, Baker McKenzie and Metanomic to explore what is the metaverse, and what this term means for the UK tech sector
Sue leads techUK's Technology and Innovation work.
This includes work programmes on cloud, data protection, data analytics, AI, digital ethics, Digital Identity and Internet of Things as well as emerging and transformative technologies and innovation policy. She has been recognised as one of the most influential people in UK tech by Computer Weekly's UKtech50 Longlist and in 2021 was inducted into the Computer Weekly Most Influential Women in UK Tech Hall of Fame. A key influencer in driving forward the data agenda in the UK Sue is co-chair of the UK government's National Data Strategy Forum. As well as being recognised in the UK's Big Data 100 and the Global Top 100 Data Visionaries for 2020 Sue has also been shortlisted for the Milton Keynes Women Leaders Awards and was a judge for the Loebner Prize in AI. In addition to being a regular industry speaker on issues including AI ethics, data protection and cyber security, Sue was recently a judge for the UK Tech 50 and is a regular judge of the annual UK Cloud Awards.
Prior to joining techUK in January 2015 Sue was responsible for Symantec's Government Relations in the UK and Ireland. She has spoken at events including the UK-China Internet Forum in Beijing, UN IGF and European RSA on issues ranging from data usage and privacy, cloud computing and online child safety. Before joining Symantec, Sue was senior policy advisor at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Sue has an BA degree on History and American Studies from Leeds University and a Masters Degree on International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Birmingham. Sue is a keen sportswoman and in 2016 achieved a lifelong ambition to swim the English Channel.
Laura is techUK’s Head of Programme for Technology and Innovation.
She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.
Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally in London, Singapore and across the United States as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.
Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.