Metaverse Creator Stephenson Opens Up On It 30 Years Later

Metaverse Creator Stephenson Opens Up On It 30 Years Later
Montage, "Neal Stephenson 2008" by Bob Lee, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Neal Stephenson, who is credited for coining the term “metaverse” thinks the idea of a metaverse may be a hard sell. He invented the term in 1992 in his sci-fi novel – Snow Crash.

Now, three decades later, Stephenson is back with a company to help make his creation real. He conversed with Meta chief product officer Chris Cox in a text published Wednesday, and agreed there were several challenges in bringing the metaverse to the masses.

They also discussed an array of engineering breakthroughs that are needed to allow millions of people world-over to move seamlessly through immersive virtual worlds displayed on head-mounted devices.

Also read: Who invented the Metaverse?

“We are in the very early version, the Xerox PARC era,” said Cox at the World Economic Forum (WEF) panel in reference to the company that developed the mouse and other fundamental computer technologies 50 years ago.

Cox said one of the biggest challenges is the trade-off between speed and graphic quality. To simulate a real world like atmosphere, virtual environments need to support large numbers of user avatars.

He further explains that updating these avatars in synchronicity with the movements of their operators limits the processing power available for high quality graphics.

Blockchain powered virtual world

Meanwhile, Stephenson is trying to address the ability to move fluidly between experiences in different virtual worlds while retaining clothes and other items associated with the avatar. The 63-year-old is doing this through a company, Lamina1 he founded to develop blockchain applications. His move to launch his own blockchain powered open metaverse sets him against big tech firms with their own metaverse plans like Meta and Microsoft.

Also speaking on the same panel, HP chief executive Enrique Lores said: “A more open metaverse is better. If someone controls the full metaverse the ability for others to add value is much smaller.”

Meta has invested billions of dollars building a metaverse. Its chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg explained he expected this investment to take nearly 10 years to pay off.

Cox says by that time people will be able to walk with friends and family in virtual worlds as readily as they now make video or voice calls.

Between January and September 2022, Meta reported losses of $9.44 billion at its Reality Labs metaverse unit and the tech firm is expected to incur more losses this year.

The losses have contributed to the move to cut 10 000 jobs.

Stephenson’s metaverse lasts forever

Stephenson was the first to envision a persistent three dimensional digital world in which humans could exist and interact as real entities, to the point people could decide to live in that alternative universe continuously.

Although Zuckerberg has poured billions into bringing to live the metaverse and rebranded his company to Meta, Stephenson believes other metaverses will come and pass away but his.

“My book will outlast Zuckerberg’s metaverse, people can go read the novel anytime they want,” he told FC in a video interview in October last year.

“I don’t actually spend a lot of time worrying about Facebook,” Neal Stephenson concluded.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.