A Real Metaverse Needs More Than Just Today’s Internet, Says Intel

The metaverse is going to onboard billions, and streamlining the immersive computing experience in real-time is going to be a huge challenge.

The metaverse is currently the talk of the tech town, but as one senior Intel executive put it, the existing computation internet infrastructure needs a one-thousand-fold boost to deliver the kind of experience that metaverse dreams promise. Of course, the metaverse is not really a 2021 creation, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One was not the first pop-culture element to touch on a metaverse, and Mark Zuckerberg is not the first tech stakeholder to introduce the world to one. While 2021, Spielberg and Zuckerberg have popularized the idea, the lofty visions and dreams of such a realistic and immersive metaverse will require some serious computing power and an internet connectivity upgrade.

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At the recent Facebook Connect conference, Meta CEO Zuckerberg revealed some ambitious concepts showing people walking into a photorealistic metaverse to buy virtual goods, having a sword fight with an AR duplicate, and engaging in VR meetings. Some of those elements are already a reality to some extent in products like Facebook’s own Horizon Workrooms, Roblox, and even Fortnite. However, they are far from the promises of “an immersive internet 2.0” that the metaverse is touted to herald. A big part of the reason is computing infrastructure that’s simply not available at this point in time.


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Intel’s Senior Vice President Raja Koduri pointed out the gulf between the metaverse-ready infrastructure of now and where it needs to be, in a blog post and a Quartz interview. Koduri starts by highlighting certain key elements that come to mind when people imagine the futuristic metaverse — rendering realistic and accurate digital avatars in real-time, crunching massive amount of surrounding data collected by sensors, processing it all, and accordingly creating responsive and dynamic virtual surroundings. Then scaling it all up for millions of users ready to explore the metaverse for communicating, playing games, running a marketplace, and so on. All of which requires a massive amount of computing power on a personal as well as connected infrastructure scale. Visualizing the demand and the massive challenge based on the available resources, Koduri says “our computing, storage and networking infrastructure today is simply not enough to enable this vision.” Even Meta, the self-proclaimed metaverse-first company of the future, is not ready for it. Instead, it is taking baby steps like launching smart glasses with a speaker and camera to familiarize people with the concept before it releases something like the upcoming Project Cambria headset.


Far From The Cinematic Metaverse Dreams

Mark Zuckerberg Metaverse

“We need several orders of magnitude more powerful computing capability, accessible at much lower latencies across a multitude of device form factors,” Koduri said. While 5G is being seen as a great enabler towards metaverse ambitions, and massive gains in silicon performance is a positive sign, accessibility remains a huge problem. Augmented reality pioneer Louis Rosenberg recently warned that the metaverse will create a very different kind of discrimination that will deprive people of critical information and experiences in the future if they don’t have the hardware to enter in the first place. Put simply, the industry not only needs to make hardware that is faster, but also accessible to more people at varied price points, and in different form factors.


The idea of immersive computing where billions can connect simultaneously demands “1,000-times increase in computational efficiency” than what the world’s best systems can deliver now, the Intel executive explains. Koduri also told Quartz that the computing infrastructure not only needs fast chips, but also ones that can deliver a huge jump in processing power while drastically reducing power consumption. Miniaturizing so much power and delivering the bandwidth to something as small and mobile as a headset is definitely going to be challenging, and will take a few more years to reach the levels that the Metaverse’s potential suggests. Intel’s Koduri also noted that algorithms will need to step up, alongside the computing power and energy efficiency, if the metaverse dream is going to turn into reality.


Next: What Does Metaverse Real-Estate Deals Mean for the Future?

Sources: Intel, Quartz

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