Raw highlights from Matthew Ball’s metaverse book

the numbers roughly correspond to locations out of the total on the Kindle app.

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For a communist and centrally planned country ruled by a single party, the potential of a parrellel world for collaboration and communication is a threat, regardless of whether it is run by a single corporation or decentralised communities.

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The internet: The global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a “network of networks” that consists of private, public, academic, business and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies.

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The metaverse: A massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds that can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications and payments.

** Virtual worlds **

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Biggest uptick in virtual world creation has been via worlds which has no “gameplay” whatsoever (winning, killing, scoring, defeating, or solving).

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Governance of virtual worlds
Self-govern through various forms of democracy. Some blockchain-based games aspire to operate as close to autonomously as possible after launch.

** 3D **

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3D environments are required in order to make possible the transition of human culture and labour from the physical world to the digital one.

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Humans seek out digital models that most closely represent the world as they experience it – richly detailed,mixing audio and video, and with a sense of being “live” rather than static or outdated.

667
No part of the metaverse requires an immersive virtual reality or VR headset. There may eventually be the most popular way to experience the metaverse, but immersive virtual reality is just one way to access it.
** Real-time rendered **

** Interoperable network **
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Interoperability of the internet is made possible by the adoption of the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP), a set of communications protocols that tell disparate networks how data should be packetized, addressed, transmitted, routed, and received. This suite is managed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a nonprofit open standards group established in 1986 under the US federal government (it has since become a fully independent and global body).

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Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
common standards for files on the internet

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Almost all the popular virtual worlds today use their own different rendering engines, save their objects, textures, and player data into entirely different file formats and with only the information that they expect to need, and have no systems through which to even try to share data to other virtual worlds.

3D avatars are a more complex question. Is an avatar a complete 3D person with an outfit, or is it made up of a body avatar plus an outfit?

In addition, users expect an anthropomorphic jellyfish avatar and a box-like android to move in different ways. Tattoos move differently than clothes.

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For goods transferred across virtual worlds, where is the user’s ownership record managed and how is this record updated?

There are additional and largely unique challenges involved in interoperable identities, digital communications, and especially payments.

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Accordingly, the driving force behind interoperability is unlikely to be given a visionary voice or newly introduced technology, but instead will be economics.

** Massively scaled **
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The combination of “meta” and “verse” is intended to be a unifying layer that sits above and across all individual, computer generated “universes”, as well as the real world.

Further, there may be “metagalaxies”, a collection of virtual worlds that all operate under a single authority and that are clearly connected by a visual layer.

** Persistence **
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In current games, the players cannot themselves affect whether the consequences of a given choice or event endures indefinitely.

additional questions of detail – if a tree is felled, is it just “gone”, or is it felled on the ground? What happens after that? Is there decay? Is that decay a reduction in the number of wood chunks that can be collected, or does it grow mushrooms and become mulch? Are the mushrooms specific to the local environment? Should players know which side it was chopped from?
The more information that persists, the greater computational needs and the less memory and power that is available for other activities.

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Behind EVE Online’s extraordinary virtual world is an innovative systems architecture – but also (and mostly) brilliant creative design. The virtual world of EVE Online is essentially just empty three-dimensional space with wallpaper backgrounds that look like a galaxy.

(Our papercut background can do the same – but rendered to be geographically true)

Very little happens in EVE Online. Much of EVE Online actually takes place in the real world, via third-party messaging application and emails,and not even on CCP’s servers.

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Stephenson imagined individuals waking up in the metaverse, inside their virtual homes, walking, or traveling like you would IRL, to a virtual bar. But most participants would rather teleport between locations.

For human society to shift in a meaningful way into vitual spaces (i.e. for education, work, healthcare), what we do in these spaces must reliably endure, just as our grade school reports and baseball trophies do.
Identity can be understood as continuity of memory.

** Sunchronous **

The internet was not designed for synchronous shared experiences.
while some experiences feel like a live, continuous, and two-way connection, it is actually just batches of one-way, varyingly routed, and non-live data packets.

This experience, like pre-loading video play, feels smooth because it is buffered. But you can’t “pre-do” anything for content that is being produced live.

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challenge of synchronicity
networking capabilities
We will need new cabling infrastructure, wireless standards, hardware equipment, and potentially even overhauls to foundational elements of the Internet Protocol Suite, such as the Border Gateway Protocol.

** Unlimited uses and individual presence **

concurrent users (CCUs)
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Concurrency is one of the foundational problems for the metaverse, and for a fundamental reason: it leads to exponential increases in how much data must be processed, rendered, and synchronised per unit of time.

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The principles of web3 (more decentralisation) is critical to establihsing a thiving metaverse. The metaverse will be constructed, not by governments or large corporates, but by independent users, developers, and small-to-medium businesses, just like the physical world.

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trust
Some believe that the only way to provide the computing resources needed for the metaverse is through a decentralised network of individually owned – and compensated – servers and devices.

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metaverse = successor to the mobile internet

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It’s more likely that the metaverse will be produced through the partial integration of many competing virtual world platforms and technologies

MOreover, the metaverse will not replace or fundamentally alter the internet’s underlying architecture or protocol suite. Instead, it will evolve to build on top of it in a way that will feel distinctive.

** Why are video games driving the next internet? **
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In a word: Fun. They allow the suspension of needing to be realistic, and can focus on just being fun. This allowed development to focus on more powerful CPUs and GPUs, which in turn enabled more serious work.

In 2010, the US Air Force Research Laboratory built the 33rd largest supercomputer in the world using 1,760 Sony Playstation 3s. The project director estimated that the “Condor Cluster” was 5% to 10% the cost of equivalent systems and used 10% of the energy.

Eventually graphics-based computing would be needed to solve queries and problems that general-purpose computing never could.

Game developers, publishers and platforms have had to fight and work around the internet’s networking architecture for decades and thus have expertise as we shift to the metaverse.

The dominant business model of the internet era has been breaking down anything made from atoms into bits.

Part II, building the metaverse

Networking, bandwidth

Online games remain mostly offline, because connections are not reliable, bandwidth is not reliable, latency is not reliable.

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hybrid local/cloud streaming data model in which the “core game” ispreloaded, but several times as much data are sent on an as needed basis.

Microsoft Flight Simulator has more in common with a diorama than a virtual bustling street.

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Latency is the greatest networking obstacle on the way to the metaverse.

In truth, the internet backbone is really a loose federation of private networks.

It’s much easier to upgrade wireless infrastructure, but e.g. 5G’s ultra-low latency only helps the last few hundred meters of data transmission.

Fibre optic cable is much less “lossy” than light transmitted through the atmosphere, especially during cloudy days.

**Computing **
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The data must also be understood, code must be run, inputs assessed, logic performed, environments rendered, and so on. This is the job of central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), broadly described as “compute”

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Games get ahead because of specific design decisions that allow them to work around current computation constraints.

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One argument to achieve increases in computational efficiency is that as much “work” as possible should be performed in remote, industrial-grade data centers rather than in consumer devices.
Google Stadia and Amazon Luna, for example, process all video gameplay in remote data centers, then push the entire rendered experience to a user’s device as a video stream.

On the other hand, Tim Sweeney has argued that “initiatives to place real-time processing on the wrong side of the latency wall have always been doomed to failure because, even though bandwidth and latency are improving, local computing performance is improving faster.”

Networks get in the way and will continue to do so.

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rendering what is needed:
“viewing-frustrum culling”
“occlusion”
“level of detail” (LOD)

Microsoft’s electrical power plant is really just a network of single-household power generators, rather than a single, neighbourhood-sized one.

When consumers own these servers, in the form of consoles or gaming PCs, it doesn’t matter that they’re unused or offline. However, data-center economics are oriented toward optimising for demand.

As the number and diversity of customers increases, demand tends to stabilise, resulting in geater average utilisation rates. Of course, this also means increasing teh distance between remote GPUs and the end users, thereby increasing latency. And this doesn’t solve for the distance between users, either. Shifting computing resources into the cloud creates many new costs.

For the foreseeable future, what I call “Sweeney’s Law” – improvements in local compute will continue to outpace improvements in network bandwidth, latency and reliability – seems likely to hold.

** Decentralised computing **
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Although the technology to split GPUs and share non-data center CPUs is nascent, some believe that blockchains provide both the technological mechanism for decentralised computing as well as its economic model. The idea is that some owners of underutilised CPUs and GPUs would be “paid” in some cryptocurrency for the use of their processing capabilities.

provide the ultimate and infinite computing mesh that enables the metaverse.

** Virtual world engines **

virtual worlds are data and code, which must form part of a broadetr framework of code

one can try integrate different virtual worlds into each other, but currently the data structures and codes on every side are likely incompatible.

We need lots of code for handling vast amounts of data, and all in the same ways

A “game engine” is a loosely defined term that refers to the bundle of technologies and frameworks that help to build a game, render it, process its logic, and manage its memory.

As the global economy continues to shift to virtual worlds, these cross-platform and cross-developer technologies will become a core part of global society.

Who better to establish common data structures and coding conventions across virtual worlds than the companies that govern their logic?

** integrated virtual world platforms **
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[an integrated marketplace] makes it easier, cheaper and faster for others to build their virtual worlds. The process also drives further standardisation of virtual objects and data.
For an IVWP, everything is a priority.
Every developer in an IVWP is effectively collaborating to populate an ever-expanding and increasingly capable network of virtual worlds and objects.

one metaverse, many worlds.
Roblox = metagalaxy

1939
The growing value of virtual worlds and the metaverse increases the incentives for a developer to in-source their technology stack.

Also allows a developer to manage its own account systems and operate its own in-game economies.

As such, we should assume that no matter how much more successful Roblox or Minecraft become, they will power only a minority share of all games.

The fastest-growing category of virtual software may be those that scan the real world.
https://www.planet.com/
Planet Labs’ goal is to make the entire planet, in all its nuances, legible to software and to update its data on a daily to hourly basis.

** Interoperability **
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AR and VR experiences, 2D and 3D games, realistic and cartoon-styled worlds, high concurrent users and low concurrent user simulations, high-budget and low-budget titles, and 3D printers – all use different formats and store data differently. Full standardisation would likely mean underserving one application, falling massively short on another, and so on – often in unpredictable ways.

To achieve even a measure of interoperability, the gaming industry will need to alignon a handful of so-called interchange solutions – various common standards, working conventions, “systems of systems”, and “frameworks of frameworks” that can safely pass, interpret, and contextualise information from or to third parties, and consent to unprecedented (but secure and legal) data-sharing models that allow competitors to both “read” and “write” against their databased and even withdraw valuable items and virtual currency.

** Interoperability is a spectrum **

If we want to achieve the metaverse we need to establish firm ownership rights.

Economics, then, will drive standardisation and interoperation over time.
e.g. even banks were convinced over time that credit scores with better data and more coverage would be of collective benefit.

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Nvidia’s Omniverse enables companies to build and collaborate in shared virtual simulations built upon 3D assets and environments from different file formats, engines, and other rendering solutions.

** Hardware **


interesting:
haptic interface devices that emit ultrasonic sound (mechanical energy waves beyond the audible range for humans) from a grid of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)

https://quixel.com/


unlike GPS ultra-wideband (UWB) offers precision down to a few centimeters.
a phone could be a user’s “edge computer” or “edge server”, providing connectivity and compute to the world around us.

Devices with a smaller Bluetooth chip, sending their data to a smartphone to manage? Personal data may be the most important consideration. We probably don’t want our data being collected, stored, or sent to a wide network of devices. Instead, most of us would prefer that this data is sent from these devices to the one we trust most (and one that is stored on our person), and for that device to manage which other devices can have access to other parts of our online histories, information and entitlements.
(== SOLIDbox?)

** Payment Rails **
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A thriving real-world economy: rigorous competition, a large number of profitable businesses, trust in its “rules”and “fairness”, consistent consumer rights, consistent consumer spending, and a constant cycle of disruption and displacement, among others.

there is some middle ground between “free market competition” and “fairness” which benefits all parties.

Most payment rails largely predate the digital age, so we don’t tend to think of them as “technology”. But they are the embodiment of digital ecosystems – complex series of systems and standards, deployed across a wide network and in suppot of trillions of dollars in economic activity, and in a primarily automated fashion.

Payment rails have different requirements, merits and demerits, related to fees that are charged, network size, speed, reliability, and flexibility.

Digital payment (peer-to-peer, or P2P) networks. Once funded, these platforms then serve as a decentralised bank used by all accounts; transfers between users are effectively just reassignments of money held by the platform itself. As a result, payments are instantaneous and can be made irrespective of the day or time.

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the 30% mess.

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The entire world is becoming game-like. That means it’s being forced into the 30% models of the major platforms.

But all of these capabilities are forcibly bundled and consequently not exposed to direct competition.

Apple and Google collect more in profit from the creation of a new digital business or digital sale than those who invested (and took the risk) to make it.

3135 – Roblox is trying to help developers, but due to how Apple is structured …
A tutor that develops an interactive lesson (over a one-way video, for example) needs to increase the price of their lesson by 43% or more just to break even due to Apple’s 30% cut. But if they shift to Roblox, their price would need to increase by 400% to off-set the 75.5% collected byRoblox and Apple combined – through no fault or policy of Roblox.

The policies of Apple and Google limit the growth potential not only of virtual world platforms, but also the internet at large.

Many in the metaverse community thus believe that the web and web browser should be the focal point of all metaverse development. Several open standards are already being shepherded, including OpenXR and WebXR for rendering, WebAssembly for executable programs, Tivoli Cloud for persistent virtual spaces, WebGPU, which aspires to provide “modern 3D graphics and computation capabilities” inside a browser, and more.

Apps have more efficient, optimised, and consistent performance. Web pages and web apps cannot directly access native drivers.

** Blocking blockchain **
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Only Epic Games store allow games that accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment.
It is more likely that these platforms refuse blockchain games because they simply do not work with their revenue models.

For the metaverse to emerge, it is likely that developers and creators in the West will need to find ways around the gatekeepers. Here, finally, we arrive at why there is such enthusiasm for blockchains.

** Blockchain **
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programmable payment rails
“trustless” / universal trust
“permissionless”
These attributes create a self-sustaining system through which a blockchain can increase capacity while decreasing cost and improving security.

Revenue and profits are set by the market, which differs from traditional financial services industry, which is controlled by a handful of decades-old giants with few competitors and no incentive to cut rates (or innovate).

The arc of Android … disrupting today’s gatekeepers may still result in ending up with new ones.
Just as an entry on a blockchain ledger is considered incorruptible, many believe the blockchain itself is too.

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Most blockchains are structurally designed to prevent this arc of ‘lock-in’. The service cannot dictate, let alone control, how this data is used.

** NFTs **
Under centralised server models, a user can never truly take ownership of a virtual good. Instead, they are simply povided access to a good that’s held, via digital record, on someone else’s property (that is, a server). And even if the user took that dataoff that server and onto their own hard drive, that’s not enough either, because the rest of the world needs to acknowledge that data and agree on its use. Blockchain can do this by design.

Most of the games that do use NFT titles are limited to the web browser and as a result have rudimentary graphics and gameplay.

Using a virtual good requires both access to its data as well as code to understand it. Most blockchain experiences and games do not have such code. In fact, most NFTs today place the rights to the virtual good on the blockchain, but not the virtual good’s data, which remain stored on a centralised server.

Blockchains are not a technical requirement for a simulated experience, but many believe its trustless, permissionless and frictionless structurs make such experiences more likely to take off, thrive, and most importantly, prove sustainable. Sustainability stems not just from increased user involvement in and ownership of an application, but from the ways blockchain discourages the application from betraying user trust and instead forces the application to earn it.

Blockchain can also be used to support the provision of compute-related gaming infrastructure. Tapping into the billions of CPUs and GPUs that sit mostly unused at any given point in time.
e.g. Otoy,
Helium – a decentralised wireless network for ‘internet of things’ devices, powered by cryptocurrency.

a future in which a handful of exchangeable cryptocurrencies are used to power the economies of countless different games.
And in this future all virtual goods are at least partly intended for interoperation.

** Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) **

Komorebi Collective
https://syndicate.io/syndicate/komorebi_collective

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NounsDAO
https://nouns.wtf/
Nouns attempt to bootstrap identity, community, governance, and a treasury that can be used by the community.

Each day, a new noun is auctioned, with 100% of the net proceeds going to the Noun DAO treasury. Effectively this is a constantly growing investment fund governed by a constantly growing board of governors.

This https://nouns.wtf/playground but for maps.
Choose the map area, choose the overlays – resource flows, water emissions etc etc
choose the style, choose the colour scheme.

And then minting that NFT gives you membership of the MapDAO and contributing to the world through adding or verifying data earns you tokens and governance rights or something like that 🙂

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Blockchains, in other words, do not make everything trustless – just as contracts don’t solve for all bad behaviour.

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Blockchains are indeed inferior to most, if not all, alternative databases, contracts, and computing structures, but may nevertheless lead to cultural change around user and developer rights, interoperability in virtual worlds, and compensation for those who support open-source software. Perhaps these outcomes were already inevitable, but blockchains may usher them in more quickly and democratically.

Blockchains may not become the dominant means for storing data, computing, payments, and so on, but they may become key to many experiences, applications, and business models.

Blockchains provide a mechanism through which significant and diverse resources – from wealth to infrastructure and time – can easily be aggregated and at a scale that contends with the mightiest of private companies.

If we ever hope to produce richly, real-time rendered, and persistent world simulations, figuring out how to leverage the world’s entire supply of computing, storage, and networking infrastructure will be necessary (though this doesn’t require blockchain technology).

https://twitter.com/TimSweeneyEpic/status/1355574604979441670
Don’t read this as an endorsement of cryptocurrency investment; that’s a wild, speculative mess

But the tech is going places.

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cross-platform
cross-play
cross-purchase
cross-progression

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Ultimately the metaverse will be ushered in through experiences.

** Meta-businesses **
e.g.education
rather than a virtual tour of ancient Rome, build ancient Rome. Learn how aqueducts work by constructing them.

If their educational account history can be written “in school” and then read and expanded upon elsewhere, learners will be more likely to keep learning and their experiences will be more richly personalised.

lifestyle businesses
Mindfulness, meditation, physiotherapy, and psychotherapy are likely to be similarly altered, by a mix of electromyographic sensors, volumetric holographic displays,immersive headsets, and projection and tracking camerasthat collectively provide support, stimulation, and simulation never before possible.

https://rivalpeak.com/
https://www.genvidtech.com/

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Advertising:
The likely profits from successful advertising in the metaverse, the necessity of differentiation, and the lessons of the consumer internet era seems likely to inspire significant experimentation in the years to come.

Our identities are not purely online or offline, physical or metaphysical. They persist, just like the metaverse.

https://www.whitespacebt.com/see-water-street-tampa-virtual-city
https://lightact.io/portfolio/tampa-water-street/

https://www.newworld.com/en-us/
https://www.playlostark.com/en-gb

https://www.playstation.com/da-dk/games/dreams/

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Nvidia Omniverse platform is pioneering 3D standards, facilitating the interoperation of disparate engines, objects, and simulations, and may yet become a sort of Roblox for “digital twins” and the real world.

We should acknowledge that the growth of the metaverse benefits from both decentralisation and centralisation – just like the real world.
There are obviously policy approaches that follow if most companies, developers, and users accept the basic point that it cannot be one or the other.

The tech libertarian answer is decentralisation, likely through blockchain. Another, not mutually exclusive, answer is to extend the legal systems of the “real world” to reflect the materiality of the immaterial.

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Though they are delivered, facilitated, or exacerbated by technology, the challenges we face in the mobile era are human and societal problems at their core.

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Regulators should force platforms to unbundle identity, software distribution, APIs, and entitlements from their hardware and operating systems.

If the economy of the metaverse will one day rival that of the physical world, then governments need to take the jobs, business transactions, and consumer rights inside of it just as seriously.

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By setting the export conventions, file types, and data structures for IVWPs, regulators would also be informing the import conventions, file types, and data structures of any platform that wants to access this data. Ultimately, we should want it to be as easy as possible to take a virtual immersive educational environment or AR playground from one platform to another.

Smart contracts and DAOs should be legally recognised. Know your customer (KYC) should be expanded for cryptocurrency investments, wallets, content and transactions.

Government should take a far more serious approach to data collection, usage, rights and penalties.
Users must have the right to request the deletion of data, or to download it and easily upload it elsewhere.

If the metaverse will play an ever-greater role in human culture and labour, then it is also likely its emergence leads to more and stronger regional players.

South Korean Metaverse Alliance

There will be taxes, duties, and other fees, as well as the need for multiple identity systems, wallets, and virtual storage lockers.

Whenever a technological breakthrough occurs, consumers, developers, and entrepreneurs respond. Eventually, a thing that seems trivial – a mobile phone, a touchscreen, a video game – becomes essential, and ends up changing the world in ways both predicted and never even considered.

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