Metaverse: the first report in the government

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In February 2022, the French government commissioned a group of experts to draft a report on the metaverse. The desire was to understand before perhaps fixing. The report is available and makes a dozen proposals. If you have not understood anything about metaverses until now, this report can be a good starting point to catch up.

What is the metaverse?

All specialists hear this question all day long: what is the metaverse? What’s the point?

If we are to believe the simplistic (even mind-numbing) videos and advertisements circulating on the Internet, the metaverse is a parallel virtual world to our own, invented by a famous social network.

The report distinguishes the essential characteristics of metaverses, modes.

  • The essential characteristics of metaverses are: the existence of virtual, 3D, real-time, immersive, persistent and shared worlds.
  • The terms so far focus on other things, including the ability to be accessed with or without head-mounted displays, whether or not avatars are used, to interact with or without distributed ledger technologies. These methods will continue to evolve with uses and technology. For example, “Metaverses are accessible through various devices ranging from a simple phone or computer screen, to virtual and augmented reality headsets or specific complex devices (CAVE, VR rooms, experimental immersion devices). Another illustration of what constitutes a mode rather than a characteristic is the avatar. Avatars can also be considered a mode of the metaverse, not a core feature. Thus, some metaverses, especially in augmented reality or through immersive theatrical experiences in virtual reality, do without avatars (there are, as we will see in part II, a series of sociotechnical questions related to avatars in metaverses, for example on diversity and representations and sexual harassment through avatar interactions)”.

Therefore there is not “one” metaverse, but “many” metaverses. Any immersive experience that meets the basic characteristics listed above can claim metaverse.

In other words:

  • Metaverse is not owned by Facebook.
  • There is no label or certification given by an authority: it is not because a system qualifies itself as a metaverse that it really is.
  • The definition proposed by the mission is only one definition among others.

The mission proposes the following definition: “A metaverse is an online service that provides access to real-time, shared and continuous 3D space simulations in which we can live immersive experiences together. »

The mission further states:

  • The 3D in question in the virtual worlds of the metaverse is about the three dimensions of space (height, width and depth): “Therefore it is not only a matter of facilitation as in stereoscopic 3D cinema, but also of simulating space in its three dimensions”.
  • Several immersion modes are possible (e.g. with or without a helmet, in augmented reality or virtual reality, etc.), which have in common to place us within the space of real-time 3D simulation”.
  • Separation and persistence. The simulation is “is shared by all connected users and persists in their absence. Everyone is free to join and leave it, within the capacity of the infrastructure that supports it..

Metaverses are already present

However, according to the hype going around, the metaverse hasn’t arrived yet: it “will be” this or that.

One of the merits of the mission report is to highlight that metaverse experiences (it seems the word has been accepted) already exist in art, health, education, tourism and heritage discovery, architecture, etc.

In the world of work and industry, metaverses also already exist and are constantly evolving.

We refer you to read the report to learn more about these actual experiences.

Summary of proposals

The report makes 10 proposals which are summarized as follows.

Proposition 1

Take the opportunity of the Olympic Games to bring together French metaverse players around concrete projects, within a public/private consortium under the leadership of Inria, and to offer high-visibility actions around immersive experiences that can be shared before, during and after the Olympics and Paralympics (training/competition, transport/tourism, behind the scenes/exchanges with athletes) (p. 51)

Proposition 2

Reinvest the technical standards negotiating bodies, to ensure that France and the main French players (in the digital immersion sector, but also in research on these topics) take an active part in the discussions on immersion interoperability. (pg. 79)

Proposition 3

Encourage public authorities to highlight common and essential services that allow the arrival of a multitude of interoperable metaverses. (pg. 95)

Proposition 4

Develop a rigorous analysis of the various value chains of the metaverse, in order to best guide areas of strategic investment on the one hand, and risks of loss of sovereignty or value leakage on the other. (pg. 57)

Proposition 5

The establishment of public commissions that fulfill the objectives of cultural sovereignty and technological sovereignty in order to support the hybrid connections between French technological structures and cultural institutions. (pg. 60)

Proposition 6

Start now the work of adapting, in particular GDPR, DSA and DMA, to the challenges of the metaverse. (pg. 91)

Proposition 7

Invest in tools and techniques to analyze the metaverse and the transactions that occur there, in order to allow the detection of violations to be returned to the perpetrators and the collection of taxes. (pg. 99)

Proposition 8

Make investments in large-scale and long-term interdisciplinary research initiatives (computing, neuroscience and social science), using existing systems (France 2030, PIA 4, PEPR, ANR) to simultaneously develop needs-driven experimental metaverses (culture, health , education) and socio-technical risk assessment tools through empirical studies. (pg. 53)

Proposition 9

Create a research and coordination institute, modeled after Ircam, which would be both a computer research laboratory dedicated to immersive arts, a place of coordination between researchers and artists for the creation of innovative immersive works in the metaverse, and a one-stop shop of expertise for all . cultural institutions in question. (pg. 53)

Proposition 10

Explore eco-responsible solutions and develop a system for measuring the environmental impact of metaverse infrastructures. (pg. 83)

More information

By reading the full report, available in the attachment.

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