Chinese researchers have analyzed the open challenges regarding the metaverse and proposed a three-layer blockchain-based architecture to connect the physical and virtual worlds
Over the past few months, there has been huge hype for the Metaverse, the 3D virtual space in which users, through their avatars, can interact with other people and software applications. Rapid advancements in multimedia technologies such as virtual and augmented reality have certainly accelerated the development of the metaverse. At the same time, this virtual world will certainly benefit from the technical advances of the blockchain, which will make it possible to build a fair, free and sustainable virtual society.
In this article, researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong propose a three-layer blockchain-based architecture for the metaverse, analyzing and discussing several open challenges that we will need to consider in order to improve the virtual world in which many people will spend several hours of their life. The researchers also implemented a prototype metaverse of their campus, in which they conduct different studies for further research. In the figure below you can see a screenshot taken from such a prototype.
Currently, we are in the early stages of Metaverse development, so there is not yet a consistent architecture definition. For this reason, the researchers propose the three-layer architecture shown in the following figure to connect our physical world with the virtual of the metaverse.
the Infrastructure The layer contains the physical world infrastructure we need to support virtual world operations, such as computation, communication, blockchain, and storage.
Calculation and Communication: Since it is a large-scale multimedia system, the metaverse requires huge computational costs. We therefore need to improve the user experience by considering how to support this consumption while coordinating different computing resources like cloud computing and mobile devices. At the same time, the metaverse must be accessible from anywhere at any time, so we also need to design methods that can transmit large-scale virtual data in real time.
Blockchain and Storage: With the Metaverse, a huge amount of data will be generated by many people around the world. Therefore, another critical infrastructure will be mass storage. At the same time, blockchain should be included in the virtual world to ensure decentralization and fairness.
Immersive user experience: To ensure an immersive user experience, the Metaverse will allow users to control their avatars through technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and haptic devices. One challenge will be, for example, to understand the emotions of users during their interactions to enrich their experience in the virtual world.
Digital twins: Digital twins are virtual copies of objects that exist in our physical world. There will be consistency between the states of these physical objects with their corresponding virtual copies. IoT technologies should be leveraged to collect data related to physical objects to update their digital twins. At the same time, the operations applied to the digital twins in the virtual world will be transmitted to the physical devices to modify the real states of the objects.
Content creation interface: To accurately reconstruct existing physical buildings in the virtual world, users can use 3D modeling software applications such as Maya or Blender. However, such applications require professional knowledge and experience. Therefore, a crucial challenge that we will face when developing the metaverse is: how to facilitate the process of creating content for users with existing or new modes of interaction?
User Generated Content: In the Metaverse, the goal of many users will be to freely explore the virtual world and create their own content. This means that the virtual world requires ownership. This is why you can see huge expectations around blockchain-based non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Indeed, they can be used to certify that a digital good is unique and not interchangeable. This way, users can store their creations as NFTs on the blockchain and also trade them to earn money.
Economy: The main problem of setting up a decentralized finance based on smart contracts and NFTs is that we will face potential external attacks. Thus, cybersecurity will be another important element of virtual world applications.
Artificial intelligence: Artificial Intelligence (AI) already covers an important role to analyze and understand the flows of Big Data that are generated around the world. Considering the Metaverse, AI will certainly be used to create Non-Player Characters (NPCs), i.e. computer-controlled characters who act, for example, as enemies or partners. NPCs are able to offer challenges and help users as well as support any scenario. We need to harness artificial intelligence technologies such as deep learning and reinforcement learning with their incredible advancements in computer vision and natural language processing (NLP) to improve user experience and enhance the capabilities of understanding and communication of NPCs.