VRBA’s beliefs are that VR will soon be used on a global scale for entertainment, work, communication, and commerce, but that it is too large an undertaking to be efficiently developed by any single organisation. Therefore, we are working to establish protocols and standards to enable people, property, and money to move freely between virtual worlds, as a decentralised network.
In other words, we are tackling the inter-operability issues between virtual worlds. Blockchain is a elegant solution to that problem. But rather than diving in technical details, this article aims to answer a larger philosophical question: “why does it matter and why are we involved?”
A brief History of Interoperability
Inter-operability issues is not new. Take the World Wide Web, invented by Sir Tim Berners Lee in 1991. The Web is a standard protocol to navigate the web via browsers. Before the web, the internet was more akin to static servers, without interface, or easy way to access it. The internet era can therefore be divided in two phases: pre and post World Wide Web.
Similarly, we believe that virtual reality’s (VR’s) history will be divided between pre-Metaverse and post-Metaverse era. Right now, we stand in the pre-Metaverse era – like the old internet, the number of VR experiences is limited, and there is no way to communicate between them. We need to build the equivalent of hyperlinks in VR, for users to seamlessly teleport between apps, as a first step towards interoperability.
Technically speaking, interoperability is about compatibility between differents worlds, just like the web enables users to go navigate from site to site. In VR however, the worlds of tomorrow are currently being built by various companies such as High Fidelity, VRChat, Sansar, Janus or Somnium Space, and do not currently have a common standard. To avoid a highly fragmented VR ecosystem operating in silos, and be able to communicating across platforms, interoperability standards are needed, and fast.
The 3 Pillars
But at a high level, interoperability goes beyond technical compatibility – it’s about freedom. The freedom of movement across platforms, to build real relationships anywhere, to build, communicate, learn, explore wherever you please, across the VR universe.
In the real world, Freedom of movement is an official article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating that citizens have the liberty to travel, reside in, anywhere they want, within the limits of the law. Practically speaking, to be free to explore the real world, three things are therefore needed: a document attesting your identity; a currency for expenses; and some belongings. Identity, currency, and inventory, are the defining elements of your freedom.
This isn’t any different in a virtual world. Whoever they decide to be online, citizens’ identity, currency and inventory should be maintained across worlds. In doesn’t mean that they’ll necessary have the same appearance in each world – that is just a disguise – but their right to personal identity states that they’ll be recognized as the same citizen of the metaverse.
Each world might have a different currency, but local money can be traded against the currency of other worlds, and citizens can own virtual goods anywhere in the metaverse. Goods might not be usable in each world – just like the law of certain countries will prevent carrying firearms, for example – but they still belong to the citizen, per their right to property.
Building Digital Freedom
Enforcing identity, currency, and inventory standards across VR experiences is therefore the first step towards the post-Metaverse era, bridging the gap between multiple nodes of a fragmented ecosystem. That is what we had started to do with the Oasis, our portal to teleport between VR apps.
And this is why, to go further, we are joining the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance, to work on these issues with other companies building the future. We understand the Metcalfe law – that opening borders will accelerate the development of virtual economies, enabling audience cross-promotion, networks effects, and trades between worlds which wouldn’t otherwise know each other, or unable to do deals for compatibility reasons.
The Metaverse is the globalisation of virtual worlds, and globalisation boost economies – including ours. Therefore, as one of the first company building a scalable business model for the mediums of tomorrow, we want to contribute to its globalisation and build the standards of a thriving economy.
But more than anything, we want to build digital freedom ?.
? Building something cool in VR/AR and interested to join the VRBA? Comment below!
✏ This is an altered version of my article initially written for VRFocus.