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The Metaverse Will Be a Multi-Platform Mess

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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg promises a unified metaverse, a seamless expanse of online 3D realms that work together regardless of what company built them. But if current tech industry trends are any indication, the future will instead be a multitude of fragmented digital domains, each its own separate shard of the metaverse experience.

Different companies have different ideas for what the metaverse should be. And they’re all aware of the power of platforms. Apple’s iPhone, Tencent’s WeChat and Meta’s own Facebook all demonstrate that controlling a technology platform means you can charge rent. Want to sell an iPhone app? You’ll need to pay a tithe to Apple.

It’ll be no different in the metaverse, says Singulos Research CEO Brad Quinton, whose Perceptus AI technology is designed to identify real-world objects in augmented reality, one of the metaverse’s 3D interfaces.

“WhatsApp and iMessage don’t work together,” Quinton said, referring to Meta’s and Apple’s chat apps. “It doesn’t seem like that’s going to go away anytime soon.” 

The metaverse has captured public attention since Zuckerberg, the concept’s most vocal backer, staked his giant social network’s future on it last year. He’s pitched it as a realm built by multiple companies using open standards. In it you’re promised an experience like Neal Stephenson described in Snow Crash, the 1992 novel that introduced the term to the public with a single digital universe where people chat, fight, gawk at the sights and judge the fidelity of each others’ avatars.

In reality, the metaverse is a hype bubble that could quickly descend into a choppy mess. If you find it painful to navigate the current internet, with its collection of different services with separate logins, currencies, contact lists, avatars and item inventories, wait until you have to login while wearing a bulky uncomfortable helmet.

Welcome to the messy metaverse

The metaverse, broadly speaking, refers to 3D environments we’ll occupy, says Forrester analyst Martha Bennett. That’ll include entirely digital zones we’ll visit via virtual reality, or VR, and the blend of digital and real called augmented reality, or AR. With the right headset, you could play immersive video games, don an outrageous avatar at a virtual party, go clothes shopping, bring new stats and scenery to your workout, or see ads and map directions overlaid on your view of the real world.

Arguably, the metaverse already exists, in video games, online chat rooms and fly-through real estate websites. Metaverse proponents say it can be a more immersive, convincing experience.

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This story is part of CNET’s exploration of the internet’s next iteration.

Naomi Antonino

The concept has been on the agenda at trendsetting conferences, like the recently held SXSW festival and the Game Developers Conference, which is happening this week.

In Meta’s view, the metaverse will have an abundance of activities, including work conferences, virtual table tennis and online education. Powering it will be a common foundation, Zuckerberg said in the October speech where he announced that Facebook was changing its name to Meta, essentially betting the house on the new digital world.

“Teleporting around the metaverse is going to be like clicking a link on the internet. It’s an open standard. In order to unlock the potential of the metaverse, there needs to be interoperability,” and digital goods must be portable, Zuckerberg said in his metaverse manifesto. “When you buy something or create something, your items will be useful in a lot of contexts, and you’re not going to be locked into one world or platform.”

That would also let you avoid duplicate purchases like buying Angry Birds twice to play it on your Android phone and Apple iPad. For those unique digital assets, like Nike sneakers, metaverse proponents want to use technology called nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, that record ownership on the same blockchain technology as cryptocurrency.

Not so fast, Meta

Meta’s vision of a unified metaverse foundation is far from unprecedented. Cooperatively developed standards route data across the internet, shuttle email from Gmail to Outlook and deliver websites to your browser. Tech’s biggest companies benefit from many collaboratively developed open-source software projects like the Linux operating system, LLVM for creating software and Chromium for building web browsers.

But most newer tech platforms we experience are characterized by a proprietary design governed by a single company. It’s a world of walled gardens more than open standards.

Facebook remains sticky because it’s hard to convince all your contacts, and for them to convince all their contacts, to switch to something else. Apple technology works best for customers who buy Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and AirPods and who subscribe to Apple Music, Apple TV Plus and Apple Fitness Plus. For Microsoft, Office productivity, LinkedIn identity and Activision Blizzard gaming will likely be central to its own metaverse, not peripheral.

Soundscape VR's musical metaverse

Soundscape VR is building a “musical metaverse” that’s designed to synchronize immersive graphics and music and that people experience through a virtual reality headset.

Soundscape VR; screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

What Meta really wants is to effectively own the metaverse, says Jack McCauley, an engineer who co-founded the Oculus VR headset effort but left after Facebook acquired it in 2014. “What they’re trying to do is to create their own platform,” complete with apps and services, he said.

Meta is indeed trying to create a metaverse platform, investing billions of dollars over coming years to build it and trying to attract developers and creators. But its vision doesn’t call for a Facebook-only metaverse. Interoperability and open standards “need to be built into the metaverse from day one,” Zuckerberg said, an approach that could lower barriers between multiple metaverses. He decried the “lack of choice and high fees” on today’s big tech platforms as “stifling innovation and … holding back the entire internet economy.”

McCauley isn’t alone in expecting big disconnections between metaverses, though.

People will go to one metaverse where their friends hang out and another metaverse that their employer sets up, predicts Eric Alexander, founder of Soundscape VR. Different realms will require different governance models, content moderation policies and foundational technologies with proprietary elements. His own service, which generates a visually vivid 3D world to match people’s music or concerts, requires very low latency to avoid lag between real-world musicians’ actions and the resulting audio. Soundscape VR isn’t eager to share that with others or lower its standards for common foundation.

And those separate patches of turf will define the metaverse, at least until consolidation wipes out or absorbs smaller players.

“Everyone will want to own and control their own metaverse,” says Bradley Tusk, an investor at Tusk Ventures. “We’ll see who wins once they compete with each other.”

Some openness to metaverse foundations?

The metaverse’s underpinnings might benefit from common infrastructure. There are several projects that could help. Open AR Cloud, from nonprofit the Open AR Cloud Association, could build a digital mirror of the real world that AR headsets could use. OpenXR is an interface that programmers can use to write software for spanning multiple AR and VR headsets. And WebXR brings brings web publishing techniques to headsets’ browser interfaces. Graphics chip powerhouse Nvidia likes another possible foundation, Pixar’s Universal Scene Description technology.

Alliances could give smaller efforts more clout. That’s the hope of David Lucatch, CEO of Liquid Avatar Technologies, which offers identity technology to let people traverse metaverses more easily. He helped launch an alliance called the Multiverse Collective to help companies band together with common technology that should be better able to compete with metaverse efforts from giants like Meta.

Ultimately, though, closed technology will carry the day, says GlobalData analyst Laura Petrone. “The metaverse is the prerogative of big tech companies with the wealth of data, computing power and sophisticated technologies to enable it,” she said. 

Expect them to set their own standards.



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Overwatch 2 Beta Begins Tomorrow: Start Time and What to Expect

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Overwatch 2 starts its second beta on Tuesday, June 28, for PC and console players. The beta begins at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT and runs through Monday, July 18. Sign-ups are still open for a chance to participate, and you can still get guaranteed access if you’re willing to spend some cash.  

The next beta will be our first look at Junker Queen, a new tank hero who first appeared in posters on the Junkertown map that was released in 2017. Fans have been hoping to play her ever since, and five years later, we’re finally getting the chance. The new beta also adds a new hybrid map, Paraiso. The developers have laid out their goals for the beta, which include testing server capacity and hero balance. 

Overwatch 2 is the sequel to Blizzard’s class-based shooter, featuring two teams of five players fighting over objectives. Overwatch devs announced in June that the game will be free to play and will launch in early access on Oct. 4. The first beta injected a frantic pace into the game, which was a welcome change from the slower, more grinding pacing that’s plagued Overwatch in recent years. The free-to-play PvP element will bring the game more in line with other competitive shooters, like Valorant and Apex Legends.

How to sign up for the Overwatch 2 beta

Anyone can sign up for Overwatch 2’s second beta, but it’s not technically an open beta. The game will add people gradually as it ramps up server capacity, and the first big wave of beta access will happen on July 5, according to the beta FAQ page. Even if you were in the previous beta, you’ll need to sign up again. 

Here’s how to sign up:

1. Go to the Overwatch 2 beta site.
2. In the top right corner, log in to your Blizzard Account.
3. At the bottom of the Overwatch 2 beta page, choose your platform (and region for PlayStation players).
4. Then hit Request Beta Access.

If you want guaranteed beta access on June 28, you can purchase the Watchpoint Pack ($40). In addition to beta access on day one, you’ll also get two legendary character skins, a unique player icon and enough digital currency to buy the first two battle passes.

How do I download the Overwatch 2 beta?

Blizzard hasn’t released details on downloading the second beta, but it should follow the same process as the first beta. Here’s how that worked:

1. Log in to your Battle.net account and navigate to Overwatch on the game launcher.

2. In the bottom left, click the Game Version drop-down.

3. Select Overwatch 2 Tech Beta to install.

4. When the download is complete, hit the blue Play button to start.

Junker Queen spinning her axe

Junker Queen’s ultimate ability helps her close distance and end fights quickly.


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Junker Queen abilities

The new beta finally gives fans a chance to play as Junker Queen, a hero we’ve all been excited about and/or thirsting over since she was first teased on the Junkertown map. Here’s what we know about Junker Queen’s abilities, from the Overwatch Twitter account:

New Hybrid Map: Paraiso

The beta also adds Paraiso, a new hybrid map that explores Lucio’s home, including the DJ’s Clube Sinestesia. As with all hybrid maps, players will start by attacking or defending a control point, and if the attackers succeed, players will spend the rest of the map attacking or defending a payload. 

An underground club with light-up floor

Clube Sinestesia is where support hero Lucio found fame as a DJ.


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For more Overwatch 2 news, check out everything we learned from the Overwatch 2 reveal event.



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Icebergify: How To Create an Iceberg of Your Most Listened to Spotify Artists

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Been on social media today? Seen those bizarre musical Icebergs floating around in your feed? You’re not alone. Screenshots like this have been doing the rounds today, particularly on Twitter. 

It’s all created via the magic of a website called Icebergify.

Using the data from your Spotify listening habits, Icebergify creates an Iceberg of your most listened to artists ranked by popularity. At the tip of the iceberg? Your favourite “mainstream” artists. Your Taylor Swifts, your Beyonces, your Drakes, etc. The further down you go, the more obscure it becomes. It looks a little like this…

If you want to see your own iceberg, you can head to the website directly. Be warned: it does require your Spotify log-in. 

The Icebergify website was developed by Akshay Raj, a freshman studying Computer & Data Science at Rice University. He says he has no plans to monetize the site or use the data collected — which is limited to your username, Spotify account ID and the top 50 tracks and artists listened to over the past few years. 

How does it work? It’s fairly simple. Icebergify takes your most listened to artists and sorts them according to popularity rankings. Streams, shares, saves, likes, and followers are all taken into account. This is why Beyonce might be at the top of your iceberg, but lesser known artists are at the bottom, beneath the ocean. Also worth noting: It seems like Icebergify is being flooded due to its surprising popularity. Head back later if it doesn’t immediately work.





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Apple’s First Mixed-Reality Headset May Sport New M2 Processor

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Apple’s first mixed-reality headset could come with the company’s flagship M2 processor, just one of the “deluge” of new products the company is expected to unveil in the next year, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported Sunday.

The M2, unveiled in June, features redesigned central processing units and a significant memory increase, which would provide a significant boost to the much-rumored headset over the previous M1 chip.

The much-rumored headset incorporating both virtual and augmented reality environments is expected to provide a boon to the gaming industry. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier week that the headset — expected to be announced in January 2023 — would be the most complicated product Apple has designed yet.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about his excitement about AR. Earlier this week, he explained that the tech industry is still in the “very early innings” of this technology’s possibilities.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we’ve seen in this space, and sort of stay tuned and you’ll see what we have to offer,” Cook told China Daily.

Other products Gurman expects to debut in the next 12 months include four iPhone 14 models, three Apple Watch variations, several Macs with M2 and M3 chips, iPads, updated AirPods Pro earbuds, a fresh HomePod, and an upgraded Apple TV. 

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read moreApple AR, VR Headset Rumors: WWDC, Release Rumors, M1 Chip and More



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