Building the Open Metaverse

Standardizing the Metaverse

Marc Petit (Epic Games) is joined by Yu Yuan, President of the IEEE Standards Association, to talk about the wide-ranging history of the organization, its standards, and how the IEEE is helping to standardize the metaverse.


Yu Yuan
President, IEEE Standards Association
Yu Yuan
President, IEEE Standards Association






Today on Building the Open Metaverse.

Yu Yuan:

It's probably that we are already living in a virtual universe, right? But in order to prove that it is a possibility, we need to create a virtual world that is indistinguishable from our real world.


Welcome to Building the Open Metaverse where technology experts discuss how the community is building the open metaverse together. Hosted by Patrick Cozzi from Cesium and Marc Petit from Epic Games.

Marc Petit:

Hello, my name is Marc Petit. I'm from Epic Games, and my co-host Patrick Cozzi is not with us today. He's very busy with his day job running Cesium and some amazing announcements with Google. So it's going to be my pleasure today to welcome Yu Yuan, the president of IEEE, one of the biggest standards organizations in the world. Yu Welcome to the podcast.

Yu Yuan:

Thank you, Marc. It's my great pleasure and honor. Just to, well, correct something. I'm the President of the IEEE Standards Association, but I'm not the president of the entire IEEE.

The standards association is one of the six major units under the IEEE Board of Directors. But I'm also a member of the IEEE Board of Directors, so some people call me VP of IEEE in Charge of Standards, although my official title is President of the IEEE Standards Association.

Marc Petit:

Our tradition on the podcast is to ask our guests to talk about their journey to the metaverse. Can you tell us what is yours and what is your background?

Yu Yuan:

I started working in the field of virtual reality and the metaverse, I think that was more than 20 years ago. Although, apparently, we didn't call that the metaverse.

My background is in computer science and, particularly, focusing on video, multimedia, and things like that. After I graduated from Singapore University in China, I started working at IBM research lab in Beijing working on digital media, and things like that.

But virtual reality has been, I would say, my personal vision, I have been believing that it is the next big thing and will fundamentally change everything; I was also inspired by the 1999 movie, The Matrix, of course, saying that, well, eventually, we may be able to live in a virtual reality experience but of course, positively, in a positive way compared to what was described in the movie, in The Matrix.

Back in 2015, IEEE started, we called that the Future Directions, a new initiative under the Future Directions called the Digital Services which was about putting together technologies regarding how to capture, synthesize, and reproduce human senses, including sight, hearing, and other senses. I chaired that initiative, and in 2018, it was renamed as Digital Reality Initiative. So Digital Reality is still a topic with IEEE talking about XR and many others... Well, VR, AR, MR, and other Rs.

That was my volunteer job, but as you may know, so I consider my IEEE role as my secondary career, so I started working on not only leading the digital senses and the Digital Reality Initiative but also started several standardization efforts related to XR and the metaverse.

My most recent role is the president of the IEEE Standards Association, but I consider the metaverse is one of the top two topics that we need to... I mean, IEEE Standards Association and IEEE need to drive innovations, drive collaborations to solve global challenges with these two topics; one is the metaverse, and the other one is sustainability.

In China, people may say, "Well, digital economy versus carbon neutral." And some other countries like Europe, people love to say, "Go digital and go green," and maybe in the US you will be more frequently hearing people saying that, digital transformation and climate change. But to me, I think the core of the next phase of digital transformation is the metaverse. Maybe we can say the current phase is AI, but the next one is the metaverse, and also sustainability is just a wider topic around climate change.

Marc Petit:

I think you're right to say that AI is going to be one of the tools in the toolbox we need to build the metaverse. It's in the limelight right now, but it's an important evolution.

What attracted you to become a volunteer at IEEE? Standards is always a complex and difficult matter.

Yu Yuan:

Well, I was with IBM, research, particularly. Our evaluation includes projects, patents, papers, and professional activities. Serving as a volunteer in organizations like IEEE foreseeing the category of professional activities. My employer, IBM, used to encourage that, so that's why. But I enjoyed this, to be honest with you.

Being a volunteer in IEEE and other nonprofit professional organizations, it's a very amazing experience and also gave me lots of chances to get to know more people and create my network which helped me a lot.

Marc Petit:

That's great. I think, in this podcast, we like to encourage people to get involved with those organizations you have.

Because it's an important part of the contribution. We all know IEEE. A22.11, it's wifi, and we all know IEEE, A22.3 is the ethernet. I mean, these are real fundamental standards in our lives, so can you give us an overview of what IEEE does?

Yu Yuan:

IEEE literally is the world's largest professional organization. Not one of the largest, but the largest professional organization. We have over 400,000 members all over the world from about 160 countries and we will be celebrating our 140th anniversary next year, and if we talk about the standards, so IEEE Standards Association as an organizational unit of IEEE, we started 25 years ago.

If we were talking about when IEEE started developing standards, that was back in 1888. 802 is probably the most famous standards family developed by IEEE. We have ethernet A22 to A23, we have wifi A22.11, and also Bluetooth. They could be, those are also under the A22 family.

But we also have a whole bunch of other standards addressing power line communication and not only communication but also computation storage like chip design and lots of other applications and standards, of course. And also even some non-technical standards.

For example, we have a series of standards talking about ethics for AI, like ethically aligned design for AI. It has been very popular in more and more countries. We have some standards addressing how to protect children's rights. For example, IEEE 2089, which is now a very famous standard that talks about age-appropriate design for digital tours for children. That's also a very successful standard.

Overall, IEEE is expanding the scope of standards development; we are covering a huge scope for electronic and electric computer science automation, but also biomedicine and ocean engineering, things like that. It actually has 39 technical societies and eight technical councils covering a very wide spectrum of technology.

Well, of course, those technologies are more or less relevant to digital or relevant to the computer or double use. I think given that we are already in the middle of a digital era or we are at least facing the next generation or next phase of digital transformation, so IEEE is... the scope of IEEE or the scope of standards development is becoming wider and wider. Hopefully, we will be influential. That's also something I'm working on leading our Standards Association to make IEEE more influential, especially in the area of digital transformation.

Marc Petit:

It's great to see IEEE as part of the Metaverse Standard Forum and contributing there and being part of the conversation. I'm curious, how is IEEE funded?

Yu Yuan:

Like I said, almost 140 years ago, it started with another two organizations. The name, one is AIE, another one is... I need to check the history. But anyhow, our founders included Thomas Edison, those kinds of icons in history. We started 139 years ago, and then, well, it has been a very long journey, and now we have the modern and, I think, the beauty is that IEEE as a nonprofit professional organization has been driven by volunteers mainly.

I think it has been working very well in terms of giving lots of opportunities for volunteers to get involved and govern the organization. So far, so good. Looks like it's probably a best practice for nonprofit professional organizations to last so long. I hope we will have another... Well, maybe hope for it forever, but at least another couple of centuries.

Marc Petit: Not only has it been a long time standing, but it has such a huge, influential role in our daily lives. I think it's one of those things. I mean, standards development is not a fun activity, but I think it is really important because it's such an enabler of many things.

It's good to get a chance to underline that.

Yu Yuan:

The difference is that, well, similar to the Metaverse Standards Forum, IEEE standards development is a bottom-up nature. We have been completely open to the industry, to everybody who wanted to participate in standards development, and we let the market choose a winner, which means everybody, every company, every institution, can come to IEEE to propose a new project starting a new standard and they do not have to go through the approval process of their government, their national party, things like that.

Participation in IEEE standards development is completely open. I think that's one of the reasons why we have been welcomed by the industry and so many players, I would say, stakeholders, we use this keyword, stakeholders. Many stakeholders love to come to IEEE and choose IEEE as a go-to place for standards development.

Marc Petit:

Let's talk about your journey to bringing digital reality to IEEE. In 2012 you kicked off an IoT initiative. IoT is important because it's the picture search to digital twins, and, therefore, to the metaverse. It's something, it used to be a very fashionable topic, IoT, a few years back.

How much progress have we made with creating standardization in that space?

Yu Yuan:

IoT is sort of complicated. Actually, as far as I could recall when I was with IBM, that was back in maybe 2010 or even earlier than that. IBM was probably the only company in the world promoting the concept, IoT, and also smart planet.

It was probably too early. As far as I know, IBM did not really make much money from that. But then IoT became a trend, and now it's already everywhere. We started; it’s not me personally, it's IEEE who started the IoT effort back in 2012, and I was part of that effort, of course.

But again, IoT is like digital transformation. It's one of the aspects of the digital transformation. It's everywhere. You cannot say if we have an overarching framework. Well, we do; we do have IEEE 2413, which is an overarching framework for IoT standards. Talking about IoT, we have different layers and different aspects. We have, of course, we should say some standards in the A22 family, like the A22.15.4 and something else like Zigbee, like Bluetooth; they’re also frequently used in IoT applications.

The other IEEE standards, like 1901 service, which is about power line communications, and a few other smart home standards, are, of course, also very relevant and frequently being used in IoT systems or IoT applications. We have other higher layer IoT standards like using blockchain with IoT and also some particular IoT application scenarios like a consumer IoT; like using IoT in utility and the energy industry, things like that.

If you look at IEEE standards, we have totally more than 2000 standards, and many of them are more or less related to IoT, although they may not explicitly call out IoT in the title, they're more or less related to IoT.

I think this situation continues when we're talking about other topics like the metaverse. We know, for example, for AR, you want to put a virtual panel on your physical wall, and you wanted to use that virtual panel to control your physical air conditioner, for example. Of course, you will need some protocols to make that happen. Those protocols would include power line communications standards, maybe it's based on wifi or Bluetooth, whatever, and some additional protocols, smart home protocols.

This is just an example that IoTs everywhere enable other technologies such as the metaverse. When we're talking about the metaverse, we have a similar situation. Many standards are related to the metaverse, although there may or may not be explicitly named after the metaverse.

Marc Petit:

IoT, connecting the physical and the virtual. This is such a foundational set of technologies to get the metaverse.

Before we jump into the metaverse, in 2016, you also wrote an article on how AR and VR would impact customers. What is your take on the state of XR, and can standardization help in mainstream adoption? How do you look at this?

Yu Yuan:

One aspect is virtual experience; I typically like to use this term. Virtual experience would be something with the potential to fundamentally change everything. We can move more and more activities from the real world to the virtual world. There are lots of benefits from that, and also I think that probably we are already living in a virtual universe, but in order to prove that or at least prove that it is a possibility, we need to create a virtual world that is indistinguishable from our real world.

When that is possible, then we can start doubting if we are already living in a virtual universe. Anyway, that's my personal technical belief, but I think that's my motivation to say, "Hey, I should put this as one of my lifetime missions to make it happen, the really indistinguishable virtual world experience." That's what makes me excited.

Talking about XR, my mixed opinion includes number one, of course, I think we definitely need those kinds of things allowing people to access the virtual world. There are at least two aspects. One aspect is to create a virtual world or virtual worlds. With those 3D graphics technologies and modeling and another kind of content creation technologies, we need to create a virtual world on a large scale, and also lots of details.

Then the other question is how we access that with our laptop or tablet, or those kinds of 2D technologies, 2D display, or with some immersive technologies. XR, in a narrow sense, XR is about providing immersive experience, immersive access to those virtual worlds. To me, I think, like optical-based headsets, those kinds of things are intermediate solutions.

Eventually, I believe we will need to embrace some new breakthroughs from the brain and the neurosciences. We need some new findings from bringing the neurosciences.

Nowadays brain-machine interface is basically read-only. You try to read signals from people's brains. Eventually, we will have to read and write, so like the movie The Matrix. But, of course, I hope that would be some… we do not really need surgery to do that. Anyway, I think, pretty much, an automated interface is the way to provide people with immersive access to a virtual world. One of my favorite examples is that even we can synthesize or mimic the experience of the smell, the look, and the taste of drinking beer, but with our current headset and the other preference.

We can mimic the look of beer, and maybe in the near future, we can mimic the taste and the smell as well. We're still far from it; we still don't know how to mimic the reaction of your body when you drink some alcohol. Those kinds of things, definitely, need a brain-machine interface, that's the ultimate solution.

I would say maybe in another 10 years, we will not need those optical-based headsets at all. We will just have some nanotechnology-based brain-machine interface, then we can access all kinds of human senses, we can mimic all kinds of human sensors, and then truly access a comprehensively immersive virtual world. That's my opinion.

I love the advancement in the current XR community and XR industry, but I will still say those are just intermediate solutions; those are not ultimate solutions.

Marc Petit:

I mean, you're right. It's a very interesting point of view. I think you're right that solving the optical problem… Michael Abrash came on the podcast, and he was really from Oculus research, Facebook Reality Lab. Clearly, solving these problems around optics is going to be a very, very complex problem. If you could bypass it as you suggest, that's probably going to be very, very interesting.

So let's jump into the metaverse. IEEE launched the Metaverse Congress a year ago, I think under your leadership. So what was the goal there? I think you did 14 online seminars so far, right?

Yu Yuan:

That series has been completely free to audiences. The goal is to provide an unbiased global and comprehensive view of the metaverse. When we started that series, which is called the Metaverse Congress, IEEE Metaverse Congress, it is actually a series of webinars and hybrid events.

When we started this series, the biggest debate in the global metaverse community was about what is metaverse. Well, still, I think even as of now, there is still no common consensus on what the definition of the metaverse is, but I think we are a little bit closer to that.

We started the IEEE Standard 2048 to develop definitions standards and taxonomy for the metaverse.

Anyway, so, at that time, we started the IEEE Metaverse Congress series. If you search on the internet, just search Metaverse Conference or Metaverse Congress, whatever, there are a whole bunch of those various events.

The IEEE wanted to have the peak speakers and put together the most meaningful agenda to provide for the community, the global community, different angles, different aspects, and different opinions in a balanced way. It could collectively provide an unbiased and global view of the metaverse. Not only the concept but also the implications and also how to implement metaverse, and what kind of technologies are needed.

Another aspect I would like to mention is that when we started the Metaverse Congress areas, the concept, of the metaverse was hijacked by some crypto community. Some people were citing just a picture, and they claimed that "Well, this is metaverse."

That confused lots of people, confused the public, and also some government policymakers. We wanted to provide a balanced voice to drag the impression back from that direction. Not only us, but other guys have been working on the same thing. But I think for now the situation is a little bit better.

We're not saying that the metaverse is mainly hijacked by the concept of crypto, NFT. This is that collectively, I think the global community is closer to a more balanced view, say, okay, so crypto or NFT or production, they're part of the metaverse, they're part of enabling technologies of the metaverse, but they're not the mainstream of the metaverse. I think I'm happy with that.

Marc Petit:

The recordings of those webinars, are they accessible to everybody or just to IEEE members?

Yu Yuan:

No, it's all available to everybody. So sometimes you need to have a free registration because we wanted to keep a community or grow a community. People do a free registration, and then you will receive an email notification letting you access all the recordings. Basically, it's free.

Marc Petit:

I had the privilege to participate in one, and I've attended a few and I think this is very, very good and high-quality content.

Yu Yuan:

Yes, thank you so much for being a speaker of that series.

Marc Petit:

It was great. Sébastien Borget was there the day I was there. There were a lot of, as you said, a lot of interesting points, and I encourage everybody if you want to dig deeper; there are a lot of very high-quality speakers and some pretty unexpected point views as well.

I mean, because IEEE comes with... We tend to approach this a lot from gaming or from CG. I think what's interesting in the work that you're doing is you bring a lot of other layers for the metaverse; you mentioned, the safety and identity or taxonomy. It's very interesting.

I'm assuming you've been at all 14 of them. After 14 webinars, can you see a theme or some recurring issues that are coming back?

Yu Yuan:

That's a very good question. I think by organizing the series, my personal observation is that it's interesting; so to say that the trend, the focus in the global metaverse community, so if I can put it this way. At the very beginning, I think we were focusing on... Well, I would say that not we were focused on, I mean that... Because my way is I hand pick speakers, I invite speakers, and I do not ask them to talk about anything specific. I just say, "Okay, more or less, I know you are in the field of the metaverse, your work is related to the metaverse, so whatever you want to talk about is up to you." That's my way of inviting speakers. I do not limit them to talking about any particular topic.

Collectively, based on those topics chosen by our speakers, you can say the focus was at the beginning it was about the concept of the metaverse overall, like how the metaverse will be fundamentally changing everything, having a profound impact on everything, things like that.

Starting from last winter, so the crypto community, well, I like the crypto community, by the way. I'm also working in the production area to some extent. Starting from last winter, you say the crypto committee or the global crypto or blockchain-based industry was not in very good shape. Many people in the blockchain community or crypto community felt that, well, the problem of the blockchain industry or the crypto industry was that they need real use cases rather than just relying on a Ponzi scheme saving people’s profile pictures or telling people, "Hey, you can access so-called blockchain games, so people you can pay to earn." Those kinds of things are not sustainable. Those kinds of things are like Ponzi schemes. They need some real use cases, and many of them agree, or I would say are figuring out that the metaverse is probably the therapy.

In the metaverse, those kinds of blockchain technologies would find real scenarios and real use cases. That's the trend in last winter, this January or February timeframe.

Then most recently, lots of things happened in March, particularly the rise of generative AI. Now the new focus is that, well, generative AI, is that something replacing or is that something that will eventually boost the development of the metaverse? Those are the new focus or new hot topics in our conversations, in our webinars.

People, including myself, believe that well, but AI, generative AI, they are actually part of the enabling technologies we'll need for the metaverse. From the supply side, we definitely need to create lots of virtual worlds with enough details, large scales. It cannot be just user-generated; we’ll definitely need AI-generated content. From the demand side, there are other such analyses I can provide. But anyway, so that's the opinion of me and the many other metaverse hardcore veterans.

Marc Petit:

3D content used to be so hard to create, so the arrival of generative AI… text input.

When you look at Web3, there's a lot of open source; Ethereum is open source, Bitcoin is open source, and there is some interesting technology like smart contracts, which provide real value because you could create secondary value and transactions for IP management.

Is that something that IEEE is interested in looking at from a standard creation perspective, looking at what's happening in Web3 and making proposals there?

Yu Yuan:

Yes. IEEE has been a pioneer in developing blockchain standards. I, myself, I initiated the IEEE's first blockchain standards committee. Now we have a couple of standards committees working on blockchain, but I started the first one, I think that's back in 2018. Collectively IEEE has developed many standards for blockchain, blockchain reference architecture, blockchain use cases, and even some non-technical regulations, success like that. Particularly, I also think, well, of course, blockchain has an important role in the metaverse, especially in terms of we will be having those kinds of digital natives, those kinds of digital assets in the metaverse.

To enable or support the management or transactions of those assets, blockchain is, of course, a very useful technology. I would not say everything has to be built on decentralization or blockchain.

I would say those kind of examples like Second Life–Philip Rosedale, our very good friend. Second Life is just a centralized infrastructure, but it has been widely recognized as the first embodiment of the metaverse. And also Roblox. Roblox is also a centralized infrastructure. Maybe they will have some decentralized additions in the near future. But so far, I think it's mainly centralized. I would say that centralized metaverse is valuable as well as decentralized.

In many cases, from many aspects, centralized metaverses could do a better job than decentralized ones in terms of performance, particularly. Decentralized metaverses have their own unique value; we wanted to help make that happen in the correct way. You see lots of chaos in the global crypto community. We wanted to help with that. We wanted to create that truly decentralized metaverse.

It's not like you're saying that you claim that is a decentralized metaverse just because you built your virtual world upon Ethereum. That's not enough. When we are talking about decentralization, decentralization could happen in different layers, the infrastructure and also the operations and the governance. In some cases, we see many scandals from the global crypto community. Many of them are because, well, they'll probably choose Ethereum or a Bitcoin or whatever public chain as an infrastructure. But that does not necessarily mean the application itself is decentralized.

In some cases, or in many cases, they're even more centralized than the traditional ones. They were governed by even less people. A couple of people govern everything, and there's no transparency, and there's no audit.

We wanted to say, "Okay, we need to discuss, we need to figure out what would be the recommended practice or the recommended architecture for a truly decentralized metaverse." That's why we started the initiative called the Decentralized Metaverse Initiative. That does not mean that we believe a decentralized metaverse will be dominating in the future. We believe the centralized metaverse and the decentralized metaverse will be co-existing for a long time, probably forever.

Marc Petit:

A lot of the Web3 technologies are open source and community driven, and even they have a decentralized governance model with DAOs. Is that a thing that facilitates the development standards or impairs it?

Yu Yuan:
When we are talking about open, even the IEEE Standards Association, we have a program called IEEE SA Open; that is about open source... we are actually building an open-source community. We encourage people to develop open-source reference implementations along with their standards. I think that that's a very good thing, that's very helpful to the industry. You are not only developing standards like a book, like a PDF file people can read, but you also provide some reference implementations.

It's even better if those reference implementations are open-source; people can feel free to access and use and add their own innovations on top of that.

I think that's a fantastic thing, especially even the most recent advancements... If we use AI as an example, you probably read an article recently talking about, hey, the open source community can develop a large language model even faster than Google and OpenAI. Those kinds of things are evidence of the great potential of the open source community. We do want to contribute to unlocking that great potential of the open source community by including and encouraging open source in our standards development process.

Marc Petit:

As you know, in the world that we live in today, the world of Web2 and mobile, a FaceTime user cannot call a WhatsApp user. Identity is very fragmented; on the topic of digital identity, an open social graph is a very important topic in the metaverse.

It would be the opportunity to recreate this ability to go everywhere with our own identity, eventually our own assets. Is that something that you feel is in the scope of IEEE? What's your point of view on contributing to the creation of an open social graph?

Yu Yuan:
IEEE does have some identity-related standards. Some of them are not explicitly about the metaverse, but it's like, well, I think since the concept of digital economy or digital transformation has been drawing more and more attention, the industry recognized that it's important to have some standards for identity. We have some standards about that. Recently, we started a new standard, IEEE 38 12.1, which is especially about identity in the metaverse.

I believe when we talk about identity in the metaverse, we're talking about lots of things. That may not be the only one. We need the infrastructure to support a unified identity. But, well, in some cases, I want it to be as open and inclusive as possible. In some cases, people do not really need a unified identity. So that's okay. But for people who need a unified identity, we should have some standards to support that.

When we're talking about digital assets associated with your identity, that's another story, like your virtual screens, your virtual objects, and things like that. It may also be related to the necessity of do you really need to transfer a virtual object from one virtual world to another? If you do, then what you will need to provide on top of just the concept that, well, you suggest a 3D object, you can transfer the ship, transfer the appearance from one world to another; it's more complex than that.

You need to keep in mind, for example, if you transfer a battleship from the game World of Warships. There's a game like that. If you transfer a battleship from that game to Need for Speed, then what's the point? Even in some shooting games, that's Call of Duty.

Call of Duty, every sniper gun has a scope from the very beginning. If you allow a user to bring a sniper gun from Call of Duty to PUBG, PUBG for a scope, you need to run for an airdrop to get a scope. If a user can feel free to bring a sniper gun from Call of Duty, then the gaming experience in PUBG will be destroyed; it will be ruined. Those kinds of things like violence, like the native economy and the native societal systems in every virtual world, need to be taken into consideration.

Marc Petit:

You mentioned Philip Rosedale, and I noticed that you are sharing the persistent computing work group with Neil Trivet, whom we know very well. Neil from Nvidia and Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life.

What is persistent computing about?

Yu Yuan:

I coined that term, but in order to highlight... this is my observation. When people started talking about the metaverse, I asked myself, because I have been in virtual reality, as I mentioned, in the area for more than 20 years. I asked myself, "What's the difference between virtual editing and the metaverse?"

In many articles, if you just replace the keyword metaverse with virtual reality, in most cases it doesn't really matter. But I wanted to figure out the fundamental difference, even a subtle difference, between virtual reality and the metaverse. All of a sudden, we are talking about the metaverse, but previously we were talking about virtual reality.

What's the difference that makes the metaverse so special? It can trigger so much attention and so much interest from various people. What's the bigger difference?

My answer is that the difference is persistence. When we talk about virtual reality, many virtual reality applications are providing one-time experiences. You put on the headset, and everything will be reset, rebooted, so it will be brand new. You get into that virtual world, and you play there, or you walk around there, and after that, you exit from that experience, and the next time you put the headset on, you get into that application again, and everything is new, it's started over again.

The metaverse is something long-lasting. You can live some... You can destroy something, you can create something in that world. That's why I say Second Life is the first embodiment of the metaverse. You can create something, you can leave traces in that virtual world; those traces, those new creations, will be long-lasting.

Next time you log on, you get into that virtual world, those kinds of things you left there or you created there are still there. I think that's a major difference.

Because we talk about the metaverse, which is named after the universe. You're supposed to be having something long-lasting, so like a universe also it's a digital universe. When people are talking about being excited about the digital economy based on the metaverse, only when those assets, virtual assets, or virtual objects are persistent, the transactions of them will be meaningful.

I think, okay, so from those technical and business perspectives, persistence is probably the most important feature that distinguishes metaverse from virtual reality in general. Of course, when we're talking about persistence, we need some technologies to support that. Second Life is, of course, a very good example, but when we're looking to the future, we can imagine that we will build a larger and larger scale virtual world with finer and finer-grade details.

Those kinds of things in order to maintain the persistence, generally the persistence of the virtual world, but being able to upgrade the virtual world to the next level of scale or details, so we need to have some technologies to make those upgrades invisible to the users on the fly. Also, it would include technologies in computation, communications, and storage, and also, of course, modeling technologies. That's why I started to say, "Okay, so persistence is probably one of the most important features of the metaverse, which has been upgraded by many people."

In order to make persistence happen, we're not only talking about persistence for one year, we're talking about maybe 10 years or even 100 years if we're saying that we're virtually creating a new universe, it has to be almost forever. What kind of technologies do we need to invent to make that happen? That's why I started this initiative with some great minds.

Marc Petit:

The requirements for persistence and live upgrades really would lead Tim Sweeney to think that we needed a new programming or gameplay programming/scripting language called to support those features, and that was why he started developing Verse a few years back. It changes fundamentally a lot of things that when you publish an object in the metaverse, it will be there forever, and you all have to upgrade it while millions of people are using it.

It's a whole new way of thinking. By the way, I was super happy to know that power management and energy efficiencies are within the scope of that effort because we don't quite know if the metaverse is going to contribute positively or negatively to our climate issues. But we are hopeful that it has a positive impact ultimately because we are learning how to manage and compute more efficiently.

Yu Yuan:

What's the implication of metaverse on sustainability? Because sustainability is another major topic, especially climate change is something urgent we need to face, we need to solve. Some people may argue that, well, if we are creating a metaverse or metaverses, it's going to be consuming lots of energy, and it's not sustainable. I would say there are different aspects, different perspectives. We, of course, need to put together technologies to make sure that the infrastructure of the metaverse will be well consuming, let's say, minimize the energy consumption of the metaverse infrastructure. That's one thing.

Another thing is that the metaverse itself enables people to transfer more and more activities from the real world to virtual worlds, like the example I kept before. It's already a practice, a common practice in the autonomous vehicle industry, motor automotive industries, that people test their algorithms, autonomous driving algorithms, on virtual roads rather than on real-world roads after millions, or even tens of millions of virtual miles.

Then they started putting their cars on the robot, which saves lots of energy and lots of risks. That's an example of unlocking the potential of the metaverse, using the metaverse to do things that we are currently doing in the real world; we can actually significantly save energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions.

I think collectively, of course, the metaverse will, of course, consume some energy, but collectively, the metaverse, we hope it will positively contribute to global sustainability. That's also something we wanted to help with. That's why we're launching a new program called Metaverse Acceleration and Sustainability Association under IEEE.

The core concept is that it's time for us to accelerate the development of metaverse technology, metaverse market, and metaverse ecosystems. But we also wanted to make sure that those developments, the acceleration will be in a sustainable way and also, more importantly, collectively, the development of the metaverse will contribute positively to global sustainability. That's something we are working on and will be launching very soon.

Marc Petit:

Finally, you are the president of IEEE Standards Association, but you also have your own company VerseMaker. What can you tell us about it?

Yu Yuan:

I started VerseMaker last year with venture capital, found in China. It is now basically a venture capital investor and incubator. We are particularly looking into industrial metaverse projects. We wanted to invest in them and also bring other resources, not just money, but other resources. We help them connect with other big enterprises to help them find their users or partners to help them grow. Because, well, that's from the investors’ perspective, we think the industrial metaverse or enterprise metaverse probably will be in this phase, financially stronger than consumer metaverses.

That’s because of several factors. Consumers are more picky in terms of experience, price, and form factor. But in industrial metaverses, industrial use cases, as long as you can create value for the companies so they don't really care about prices or experience or form factor as long as collectively you provide some positive value for them. That's why we are currently focusing on industrial metaverses. My personal passion is that eventually, the metaverse will be for everybody. So...

Marc Petit:

I have one last question because you mentioned China a couple of times.

How important are international standards for China? Sometimes we feel they want to create their own version of everything. What's your personal point of view on that?

Yu Yuan:

I think the industry in China, including government agencies, they truly believe that the international standards are very important. But these are two directions. Why is that? For the widely adopted international standards, of course, the industry in China would adopt them to join the global ecosystem. On the other hand, China, along with its growth in some sectors, and some areas, also wanted to be like I would say leading forces in developing some international standards. That's also very reasonable.

I think it's similar to other major countries, China wanted to be a part of the international standards development in the community in both directions.

Marc Petit:

We usually close the podcast by asking one last question, which is whether you have a shoutout to give to a person, an institution, or an organization whom you think is particularly important to you.

Yu Yuan:

I think that would be the global metaverse community or the metaverse industry.

Some people are losing their confidence that the metaverse is really the next big thing, but I still believe the metaverse is the next big thing, or I should say the next biggest thing. All those kinds of things we have been seeing, like AI and other things, they're actually positive things that will contribute to the real taking off of the metaverse.

Marc Petit:

At the time I'm recording this podcast, a famous technology newspaper said the metaverse is dead. To paraphrase, Mark Twain, the rumors of the deaths of the metaverse are greatly exaggerated. I think it's great to see that companies like IEEE under your leadership are investing in the groundwork to move the topic forward potentially to create standards and help the development of the metaverse.

Yu Yuan, you're the president of the IEEE Standards Association. Thank you very much for being here today. Thank you for all the work you're doing for the metaverse.

Yu Yuan:

My great honor.

Marc Petit:

And thank you, everybody, for listening. You can find us, as you know, on Twitter, on LinkedIn now, and if you want to reach us, please contact us at, and we will be back for another episode soon. Thank you very much.