The Metaverse needs 1,000x more computing power, says Intel





With land in virtual worlds selling for millions of dollars, NFTs flooding the internet, and Meta (formerly Facebook) employees saying the word “metaverse” more than 80 times in a keynote presentation last month, it seems like the metaverse of the ground – or at least buzz around the idea of ​​it. All hype? Does anyone really understand? When will it get here, if it isn’t already?

According to information released this week by chip maker Intel, the metaverse is on the way — but it will take a lot more technology than we currently need to make it a reality, and the company plans to lead the way in the effort.

Right now, virtual and game worlds like Second Life, The Sandbox, Roblox or Decentraland are being merged with early iterations of the metaverse, but beyond the hype, we actually don’t have nearly the technology to build a lasting 3D virtual world. And what does “a persistent 3D virtual world” actually mean?

Neal Stephenson’s book snow crash, published in 1992, was where the term “metaverse” first appeared; there it described a virtual 3D world that people could visit as avatars; they accessed this virtual world with virtual reality headsets connected to a ‘global fiber optic network’. Another well-known reference is the 2011 book or the 2018 film Ready player one.

As for how these fictional stories translate into real life, the easiest way to describe the metaverse is as a connected network of 3D virtual worlds that is always “on” and takes place alongside our real lives. Venture capitalist and writer Matthew Ball says we can see the metaverse as a “quasi-successor to the mobile Internet,” which will build upon and transform the Internet as we currently experience it.

“We will constantly be ‘within’ the Internet, rather than accessing it, and within the billions of interconnected computers around us,” Ball wrote in his Metaverse Primer. Mark Zuckerberg similarly described the metaverse, calling it “an even more immersive and embodied internet.” Picture this: you put on a headset or glasses, hit a switch and boom – you’re still in your living room, but you’re also walking through a 3D world as an avatar of yourself, and you can interact with other people who do the same from their living room.

Being on the internet all the time doesn’t sound all that appealing to me personally — in fact, it sounds pretty awful — but the good news for those with a similar feeling is that the “full vision” of the metavers, according to Ball, is still decades away, primarily because of advances in computing power, networking, and hardware needed to enable and support it.

In fact, according to Raja Koduri, VP of Intel’s Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics group, powering the metaverse requires a 1,000-fold improvement over the computational infrastructure we have today. “You must have access to petaflops [one thousand teraflops] of computing in less than a millisecond, less than ten milliseconds for real-time use,” Koduri told Quartz. “Your PCs, your phones, your edge networks, your cell stations that have some computing power, and your cloud computing have to work together like an orchestra.”

Koduri pointed out in a press release this week that even bringing two people together in a realistic virtual environment takes realistic-looking avatars with detailed and unique clothing, hair and skin. By giving these avatars real-time speech and movement capabilities, we need sensors that can pick up audio and physical data, including 3D objects in users’ real world. This data then needs to be transferred at high bandwidth, low latency, for hundreds of millions of users simultaneously.

Intel says it is developing chips designed to power the metaverse, and plans to release a new line of graphics processors early next year. Other key components of the company’s metaverse work include specialized algorithms, an architecture called Xe, and open software development tools and libraries.

It’s uncertain exactly how or when the metaverse will “arrive”; it is a process that will take place step by step over years or decades. However, Koduri is very optimistic. “We believe that the dream of delivering a petaflop of computing power and a petabyte of data within a millisecond of every human on the planet is within our grasp,” he wrote.

Image Credit: Andrush/Shutterstock.com




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