- The Metaverse will have wide-ranging implications for research and education
- Lack of standards creates problems for scientists
- Working group aims to improve standards among scholars and educators
In the classroom of the future, a science teacher passes out virtual reality headsets to his class. After each student dons their headset, the teacher takes the group on a virtual tour of blood vessels. Bright red blood cells, white blood cells, and the yellow of plasma whizz by in an interactive lesson of how blood moves through the human body.
This is just one of many possible scenarios, thanks to the Metaverse, a future internet of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces.
“We want to be able to do in virtual reality more than we can do in reality,” says Chris Collins, founder of the Center for Simulations and Virtual Environments Research at the University of Cincinnati.
Currently there are limitations in how the Metaverse is operated, such as no uniform standard for inoperability between software and hardware developers of virtual reality applications.
In the long term, the collaboration we’ll be able to do in virtual reality will be more than we’re able to do in real life. ~Chris Collins
That’s where Internet2’s Metaverse Working Group comes in. Chaired by Collins and Gurcharan Khanna of Brown University, the group’s goal is to help create standards-based, interoperable, and interlinked virtual environments.
“Most of the virtual reality experiences we have today are proprietary in one way or another,” says Ben Fineman, program manager for NET+ Video, Voice, and Collaboration Services at Internet2.
“For virtual reality to become ubiquitous in a positive, open way in the research and education community, we think this effort is required to promote standards in interoperability.”
One of the group’s objectives is to create a set of conventions developers can follow when they are creating applications.
“When you think about web browsers in 1994,” says Collins, “there were a lot questions like, 'how do you navigate the web, how do you consume different kinds of media.' All of those conventions that we’ve iterated on for the last 15-20 years for web browsers, we haven’t done that yet for virtual and augmented reality.”
The Metaverse’s applications are already affecting daily life for some users. Projects such as Google Expeditions offer classrooms the opportunity to take virtual tours of sites such as Machu Picchu, creating interactive experiences for students to learn about diverse subjects.
Collins stressed that virtual reality requires an interdisciplinary approach, in which scholars from multiple fields can work towards a common goal of producing authentic virtual experiences.
“One of the things that’s great about virtual and augmented reality is that it’s not just computer programmers,” says Collins. “It requires artists and sound engineers and 3D modelers and storytellers. There’s almost no discipline across the institution or the university that doesn’t have some impact on virtual reality.”
Thanks to Internet2’s Metaverse Working Group, scientists are collaborating to discover how they can further the Metaverse uses in research and education, which could make going on a computer-generated adventure of the human circulatory system a reality.