Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Will Require Computing Technology No One Knows How to Build | Technology

Mark Zuckerberg's Metaverse Will Require Computing Technology No One Knows How to Build | Technology
Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Will Require Computing Technology No One Knows How to Build 

Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse will necessitate computing technology that no one knows how to create

To achieve anything close to the promise of the Metaverse booster, experts agree that nearly every kind of chip needs to be an order of magnitude more powerful than it is today.

The technology needed to power the Metaverse doesn’t exist.

It won’t exist next year.  It will not exist in 2026.  This technology may not exist in 2032, although it’s likely that we’ll have some ideas for how we can eventually design and build chips that by then could turn Mark Zuckerberg’s fever dreams into reality.

Over the past six months, there has been a disconnect between the way corporate America talks about the emerging concept of the metaverse and its plausibility, based on the nature of the computing power it will need to achieve.  Getting there will require immense innovation, such as a multi-decade effort to shrink personal computers down to the size of an iPhone.

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Microsoft last month promoted its $68.7 billion bid for Activision Blizzard as a metaverse play.  In October, Facebook changed its entire corporate identity to revolve around the metaverse.  Last year, Disney also promised to create its own version of the Metaverse to “allow storytelling without limitations.”

These ideas hinge on our ability to build the necessary chips, data center and networking equipment to deliver the required computing horsepower.  And at the moment, we can’t.  No one knows how, or where to begin, or even whether the devices will still be semiconductors.  There just aren’t enough chips to make what people want today, let alone what has been promised by Metaverse campaigners.

Jerry Heinz, former head of Nvidia’s Enterprise Cloud Unit, told Protocol: “The biggest things we’re seeing in supercomputers today still need to be improved to be able to deliver [a metaverse] type of experience.”

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Zuckerversade

What we now describe as the metaverse is at least as old as early 20th century fiction.

For example, EM Forster’s 1909 story “The Machine Stops” features a pre-chip, pre-digital version of the Metaverse.  Fast forward 70 years, and science-fiction author William Gibson called the concept “cyberspace” in his 1984 book “Neuromancer”;  Neil Stephenson popularized the term “metaverse” in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”;  Ernest Kline called it OASIS (an acronym for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) in “Ready Player One”.  Some of those stories describe a utopian community.

It’s possible that what we now call the metaverse will forever remain the realm of science fiction.  But like it or not, Mark Zuckerberg has brought the idea into the mainstream.

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Zuckerberg’s explanation of what the Metaverse will eventually look like is unclear, but it includes some tropes on which its boosters broadly agree: he calls it “[a] embodied Internet that you’re in rather than just watching”, which is all  will provide something you can already do online and “some things that don’t make sense on the internet today, like dancing.”

If the metaverse sounds vague, that’s because it is.  This description can change over time to apply to a lot of things that may eventually happen in technology.  And arguably, something like the Metaverse may already exist in an early form produced by video game companies.

Roblox and Epic Games’ Fortnite host millions of people – albeit in virtually separate groups of a few hundred people – watching live concerts online.  Microsoft Flight Simulator has created a 2.5 petabyte virtual replica of the world that is updated with flight and weather data in real time.

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But today’s most complex metaverse-like video games require only a tiny fraction of the processing and networking performance that we require by billions of people simultaneously, across multiple devices, screen formats, and virtual or augmented reality.

Ben Bajarin, CEO of Creative Strategies, told Protocol: “For something that’s a true mass market, spend several hours a day [the kind of activity, we’re seeing] to make that leap forward.”  On generations of calculations.” What you’re going to see in the next few years is an evolution of what you see today, perhaps with a little more emphasis on AR than VR.  But it’s not going to be such a rich, simulated 3D environment.”

A Generational Leap

In the beginning, chips powered mainframes.  Mainframes gave rise to servers, home computers, and smartphones: smaller, faster and cheaper versions of more or less the same technology that came before.

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If the metaverse is next, one cannot specifically describe the system requirements as it would be a marked departure from the earlier changes in computing.  But it has become clear that in order to achieve anything close to the optimistic version, nearly every kind of chips will have to be an order of magnitude more powerful than they are today.

Intel’s Raja Koduri took a dig at the question in a recent editorial, writing: “Truly persistent and immersive computing, accessible by billions of humans on a large scale and in real time, will require even more: than today.  Sophisticated 1,000-fold increase in computational efficiency.”

It is difficult to understand how challenging it will be to reach the goal of a thousand-fold increase in computing efficiency.  Koduri’s estimate may be conservative, and demand could easily exceed 10 times that amount.

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Even assuming that those tough hardware requirements can be met, better communication between all layers of the software stack – from the chips at the bottom to the end-user applications on top – will also be needed,  Pedro Domingos, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, told the protocol.

“We may get away with [disability] now, but we’re not going to overcome it in the metaverse,” he said.  “The whole [software] stack is being integrated more tightly, and that’s already happening in areas like AI and of course graphics.”

This is not quantum computing

The generational leap toward the metaverse probably won’t be quantum computing, or at least how we think about it today: a theoretical platform decades out of practical use that requires computing at outer-space vacuum temperatures in room-sized computers.  it occurs.  But the performance breakthrough promised by something like quantum computing will be essential.

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Google is using algorithms to design more powerful chips, which could help move the needle.  Domingos said special-purpose processors for AI models exist today, but by making even more specialized chips, it’s possible to get more performance.  Those designs could remove barriers to increasing the raw performance of existing silicon, such as creating an application-specific integrated circuit that performs physics calculations.

“These companies — chip-makers, or providers of the metaverse, or those in the know — will make more and more advanced chips for this purpose,” Domingos said.  “For every level of the stack, from physics to software, there are things you can do.

Domingos noted that, in the 1990s, ray tracing in real time was considered impossible, yet decades later it is now done in real time with the chips that power the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.  .  Google’s AI chips, known as tensor processing units, are another example of a specialized type of chip that will become more abundant in the future, and is essential to the metaverse.

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A Wonderful Future

But a generational shift in computing also requires a corresponding change in manufacturing technology.  Companies like TSMC and Intel are already pushing the boundaries of physics with extreme ultraviolet lithography machines to print the most advanced chips.

The latest EUV machines are dedicated to squeezing a large number of tiny transistors and features onto each chip, continuing the path established for decades.  But at some point in the future, the machines that make the chip will become too expensive, or it will be impossible to further reduce the features.

“If you look at where the architecture stands, if you look at where the performance per watt is, I don’t want to say that we need a breakthrough, but we are very close to needing a breakthrough,” Bajrin said.  said.  “Sub-one nanometer is about four or five years away, and it’s not going to solve this problem.”

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Without a generational leap in computing, a low-fidelity version of Zuckerverse is achievable.  Assuming that users will settle for somewhat better graphics than Second Life a decade ago, it should be possible in the long run that achieves certain goals, such as persistent, Internet-connected virtual worlds.  Building that version of the metaverse would require better networking technology, the specialized chips Domingos described and possibly something like artificial intelligence computing to handle the more complex but mundane workloads.

“There’s a lot of scaling to do, which means today’s data centers are going to be less visible than they were tomorrow,” Domingos said.

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But it will take a long time to get there.  Zuckerberg’s vision of the Metaverse may be decades away, and after losing $20 billion in the effort so far, it’s unclear if Meta will have the cash to turn that vision into a reality.

Source: Max A. Cherny, Protocol, Direct News 99

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