In this compelling interview, Neil Trevett, provides his deep insights into the new Metaverse Standards Forum which in under one month has more than 1000 organizations, standards groups, corporations and more engaged. And more signing up daily. There is interest from the UN ITU #AIForGood as well.
Standards drive interoperability which is the foundation of global acceptance through seamless usage. Think electricity, mobile phones, browsing websites, the internet itself are all founded on standards.
The metaverse is the 3D evolution of immersive digital representations of the world around us. Estimated to be in US Trillions of dollars in market activity.
In the extensive interview, we discuss:
- Neil’s life and career trajectory that led to his current roles, and his deep interest in graphics, open standards and open standard organizations;
- the 20 year, formation and work of the nonprofit premier 3D standards consortium, The Khronos Group;
- the evolution leading up to the Metaverse Standards Forum, its purpose and why its needed, and how to get engaged; the areas of emerging interest beyond interoperability such as ethics and governance;
- the importance of technology nonprofit organizations: ACM (largest and No.1 computer science organization) and their special interest group in graphics or SIGGRAPH; IEEE (largest and No.1 technology engineering organization);
- Neil’s work as Vice President Developer Ecosystems at NVIDIA;
- current and future trends;
- recommendations for the audience.
This article is based upon insights from my daily pro bono work, across more than 100 global projects and communities, with more than 400,000 CEOs, investors, scientists, and notable experts.
Profile: Neil Trevett, President of The Khronos Group; Chair of the Metaverse Standards Forum; Vice President of Developer Ecosystems at NVIDIA
Neil is Vice President of Developer Ecosystems at NVIDIA where he helps enable applications to take advantage of advanced GPU and silicon acceleration. Neil is also the elected President of The Khronos Group, where he initiated the OpenGL ES standard now used by billions worldwide every day, helped catalyze the WebGL project to bring interactive 3D graphics to the Web, fostered the creation of the glTF standard for 3D assets, chairs the OpenCL working group defining the open standard for heterogeneous parallel computation, and helped establish and launch the new-generation Vulkan API.
Before NVIDIA, Neil was at the forefront of the silicon revolution bringing interactive 3D to the PC, and he established the embedded graphics division of 3Dlabs to bring advanced visual processing to a wide range of non-PC platforms.
Interview Neil Trevett
AI is employed to generate the transcript which is then edited for brevity, clarity while staying with the cadence of the chat. AI has an approximate 80% accuracy so going to the full video interview is recommended for full precision. Time stamps are provided however with the caveat that they are approximate. The interview is recommended for all audiences from students, business and technical professionals, to global leaders in government, industry, NGOs, United Nations, scientific and technical organizations, academia, education, media; professionals and readers interested in translational research and development, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work and much more.
Stephen Ibaraki 00:00
Hey, Neil, thank you for coming in. It’s just amazing. What you’re doing is simply outstanding. There’s so much excitement around the metaverse and things around the metaverse. I did an interview recently with Pattie Maes of the MIT Media Lab, Fluid Interfaces research group (see Forbes). They’ve been working on this for three (or more) decades. It’s not a new concept.
Neil Trevett 00:27
Thank you for the invitation. That is great to talk to you. And you’re right. Lots of us in the industry have been working on standards for the metaverse, we just never knew it at the time.
Stephen Ibaraki 00:35
Neil, your background, just remarkable. We are going to mine some of that background, because you’ve been at the forefront of all of the standards work leading up to where we are today. I’m looking forward to getting into more detail about that. But before we get into what you were doing right now; if you can describe, two or three inflection points in your life that made this outstanding career that you have.
Neil Trevett 01:06
Sure. It’s an interesting question. I guess looking back, it is strange how small things that happen in your life completely affect the flow of everything that happens down downstream. I guess, if I were to look back, why I’ve ended up here now, but all the way back to college—was where I found my love for 3D graphics. And that has been a constant theme through much of what we do, both NVIDIA, which is my day job and at Kronos. And now the Metaverse Standards Forum. Just I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but never had the hand eye coordination. So I did photography, and I still do photography, but the visual aspect of 3D graphics has always been a fascination to me. That was something that soon as I found it, I just wanted to continue doing that. That was definitely something that affected the rest of my career. And kind of related and downstream. I think the other really important thing that happened was when OpenGL became an open standard. I was just working in a company and observing that happening at that point, but the power of open standards to really affect in a good way, in a positive way. How an industry organizes and builds good business for everyone involved was really an enlightening, and it was something that was making the world a better place. And so, again, I had a strong, compelling desire to get involved with the standards community. Perhaps the other kind of inflection point was back in the early days of trying to bring 3D on the web. The Web3D Consortium that was working on the … standard. They were looking for a precedent because they just had set up this consortium. I’ve never done anything like that before. For reasons that remain a mystery to me, even today, I put my name in the hat, to be elected as the president of that consortium, and got elected. That was really where I learned, how consortia work and how standards work, from the inside out. A big shout out to the Web3D community. They were very patient with me, as I learned how to do that. That consortium still goes today, and we keep in close touch.
Stephen Ibaraki 04:02
It’s really interesting. I can hear this drive, and this passion that started early and the creativity elements. But, you had this interest in art, and yet you’re enabling art, right? In essence, because so much of the computer graphics is around art and so on and driving (example: OpenAI, AI system that creates realistic images / art from a natural language description) DALL- E 2, I think is quite amazing, right?
Neil Trevett 04:27
Yeah, that’s right. Content is king. It’s the payoff for everyone working in standards is when you actually see the standards being used. A standard that isn’t adopted and used throughout the industry isn’t really adding value. But when it is used; when developers use programming interfaces, or when, as you say, artists use the final tools for creativity that is an amazing thing to see and that is the payoff for all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
Stephen Ibaraki 05:01
You have been part of this tremendous growth of GPUs. I’ve been in the industry for so long, I remember GPUs are there, like an outlier? NVIDIA larger in market cap than Intel? It’s just amazing.
Neil Trevett 05:17
Yes, that’s right. When I first started doing graphics, GPUs weren’t a thing. Note that a single chip that could do 3D graphics wasn’t a thing we had. I used to be an engineer, before I got into kind of more business development, and the first board I designed was a large board full of bit-slice processors, to do graphics. It has been amazing to see just how the GPU architecture has taken advantage of data parallelism. And then programmability. Now today’s GPUs, of course are so flexible, but still taking advantage of parallelism. It’s a wonderful way to deliver compute power to where it’s needed. It’s very interesting the way that GPUs have evolved. The GPUs are used in lots of different market areas now, but it was the gaming industry that gave it the initial impetus, and still is one of the major markets for GPUs. It’s kind of cool that gaming builds the volume that GPUs need. So, they can be applied in many other market areas, too. And of course, those are market areas like machine learning and artificial intelligence. Like you were saying, that’s been beginning to become such a major market too, for GPU processing. It’s interesting that gaming was the start.
Stephen Ibaraki 06:39
You must have been overjoyed when Geoffrey Hinton did ImageNet. And people couldn’t believe the leap. Right? That really instantiated this interest in machine learning and driven by GPUs, and just an explosion worldwide, and the adoption. You’ve been part of that entire journey. Your career must have touched Alain Chesnais; he used to be the president of ACM SIGGRAPH. I’m sure you’ve published at SIGGRAPH. Or you’ve been involved with SIGGRAPH, which is the special interest group in graphics, which is the world leader, but it’s under the ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery.
Neil Trevett 07:24
Yes, that’s right. The ACM is the umbrella organization, which does so much amazing work around the world, for the graphics community. SIGGRAPH is the spiritual home of everything to do with 3D and it has been for many years. I’ve been attending SIGGRAPH, I think, close to 30 years now. All of the breaking research and all of the community building that makes the 3D community is such a special place to be. It’s quite a small community. It’s getting larger, but it’s surprising how small the community is. SIGGRAPH is the place where everyone goes to catch up every year and to get the latest 3D technologies and increasingly, the augmented and virtual reality, … XR technologies to begin to be well represented at SIGGRAPH. I wouldn’t miss SIGGRAPH for anything. We had to for the last a year or two of course with COVID. But other than that, you wouldn’t keep me away for anything.
Stephen Ibaraki 08:27
So that’s been held in Vancouver the last few years?
Neil Trevett 08:32
Yeah. Everyone’s really looking forward to getting back together again in person.
Stephen Ibaraki 08:37
How about IEEE, do you interface with them?
Neil Trevett 08:40
I am a member. I would like use it to keep in touch with lots of the latest technologies. Not so much attending events. But beginning to work quite closely with IEEE for interaction, both with Khronos, and increasingly, the Metaverse Forum. IEEE have been quite active in the metaverse domain, and they have various working groups under IEEE that are very relevant to what the metaverse is going to be.
Stephen Ibaraki 09:21
Okay, so let’s now move on this journey. You talked about being inspired by art and you felt graphics was a way to do it. You went to Birmingham, and you had a double major, which is really difficult, with (First Class Joint) Honors, right?
Neil Trevett 09:37
Right. That was another inflection point. I was going around in the UK. You do the rounds around the universities, and you choose one. I was about to do electrical engineering, that was the thing. And then I was walking out of the lobby at Birmingham University and the receptionist said; Oh, before you go, have you heard of this new course we’re doing which is a joint computer science and electronics? Oh, that’s what I want to do. I often think if that receptionist hadn’t offered that leaflet, at that precise moment, as I am literally walking out the door; my life would have been completely different. It was one of the first courses that combined Electronics and Computer Science. One of the very first to my knowledge in the world. We were very fortunate—microprocessors are just beginning to happen. We were very fortunate to be on that kind of leading edge.
Stephen Ibaraki 10:34
You mentioned, in your inflection points, you talk about OpenGL and then WebGL. And you’re able to lead in these areas. You got used to this idea of standards, and then working together and communities, to bring stakeholders together, which is what you’re doing now with this Metaverse Standards Forum. But before we get into that, I just want to ask a few more questions about your role as Vice President, Developer Ecosystems at NVIDIA. What does that work entail? NVIDIA become a magic company out there? Right, it’s so popular today?
Neil Trevett 11:07
NVIDIA does good work. It’s a unique company. The culture really encourages everyone to be a team player and to do the best. Both for the company and the industry. I really enjoy working there. It’s a very interesting company. And being a graphics person. It’s one of the companies, that are of course, most for progressing the field of graphics. It is exciting to be there amongst other people that share the same passion. Lots of people ask me; What does VP Developer Ecosystems actually mean? That’s a good question. The bottom line, it’s encouraging and enabling developers to use GPUs. But maybe it’s kind of the bigger picture. Now, there’s Developer Relations and Technical Support, and it’s very hands on support for particular developers. But the Developer Ecosystems role is trying to take a wider view; what does the ecosystem need, in general, not necessarily for a particular developer. And of course, that very much is synergistic with my role at Khronos and Metaverse Forum. Because one of the things that developers need is open standards and open standard API’s and asset formats, to enable them to do their work and develop applications that are portable across multiple platforms in a productive way. NVIDIA is very supportive; they let me spend a good chunk of my time helping the standards ecosystem evolve. I’m very grateful for that.
Stephen Ibaraki 12:59
You’re so embedded in the graphics area. You’re the president of the The Khronos Group. But a lot of people in the audience don’t know about the work of Khronos. Give us a little bit of history and its purpose and its objectives.
Neil Trevett 13:14
It’s a question we often get; What’s Khronos (The Khronos Group)? Khronos is a nonprofit, open standards Consortium. What we call a standards developing organization. There are many standards developing organizations throughout the industry, of course. Each (SDO) standards developing organization has a particular focus. Over time, the different SDOs in industry, find their patch, and their turf, where they can add value to the industry. Khronos’s expertise and value to the industry is in the field of acceleration API’s. You’d like to say connecting software to silicon. If a library or an application needs to reach down into hardware acceleration, now that’s where Khronos likes to provide open standards so that hardware access is portable across different vendors. Our starting point was 3D graphics. As I mentioned, now, we have standards for XR hardware. And more generally, we have API’s for just parallel computation use; for things like machine vision and increasingly inferencing and machine learning. We’ve been going around 20 years and we’ve just passed our 20th birthday. Khronos was originally formed by Intel; actually to create the open ML standard, which was going to be OpenGL for graphics and open ML for video. But it was not the right standard at the right time. Despite the best efforts of everyone, it didn’t really take off. But there was the opportunity to bring graphics to mobile and embedded devices. The OpenGL ARB, the architecture review board, was very focused on workstations. And so the ARB enabled Khronos to start up a new working group to do OpenGL ES, OpenGL embedded systems. OpenGL ES / Khronos became literally the most widely adopted 3D API in the history of the known universe. Because it was on every desktop system, and every mobile phone, it was literally everywhere. And then, when Silicon Graphics withdrew from the industry, a new home was needed for OpenGL. And so the mothership OpenGL itself and came to Khronos as well. That gave us the platform to build WebGL, bringing GL capability into the web. And then we expanded out into these other closely related API areas.
(Note: from The Khronos Group website: The Khronos Group is an open, non-profit, member-driven consortium of over 150 industry-leading companies creating advanced, royalty-free interoperability standards for 3D graphics, augmented and virtual reality, parallel programming, vision acceleration and machine learning. Khronos standards include Vulkan®, Vulkan® SC, OpenGL®, OpenGL® ES, OpenGL® SC, WebGL™, SPIR-V™, OpenCL™, SYCL™, OpenVX™, NNEF™, OpenXR™, 3D Commerce™, ANARI™, and glTF™. Khronos members are enabled to contribute to the development of Khronos specifications, are empowered to vote at various stages before public deployment and are able to accelerate the delivery of their cutting-edge accelerated platforms and applications through early access to specification drafts and conformance tests.)
Stephen Ibaraki 16:13
I’m just thinking of the advent of smartphones, and that really would accelerate all of this too. And then adoption. There’s this confluence of machine learning and what’s happened there; and then the mobile universe, and then, of course, this whole attention to 3D, and it’s just accelerating. So now let’s move on and shift the conversation to the Metaverse Standards Forum. How did that come about? You’re the chairman of this forum. I remember when your announcement came out; I saw a few companies like Microsoft, and few others that were supporting the Metaverse Standards Forum. I just looked at it the other day, and it’s like, over 1000 companies or something like that are in the queue. So, continue to describe the genesis of the Metaverse Standards Forum.
Neil Trevett 17:06
Yes, it’s getting close. I mean, we started; we made the launch with 35 companies. Which did include some leading companies such as Microsoft, Meta, and NVIDIA and Qualcomm from the hardware side; Autodesk and Adobe, from the tooling side; Sony from the platform side. We have a good launch quorum of founding members, but you’re right; the Forum is only two and a half weeks old, since we did the launch. I think the latest count this morning was 850 companies have joined, which I think speaks to the level of interest in the metaverse. Although not many people know what the metaverse is. In fact, we don’t know what the metaverse is going to be, either, but that’s okay. We don’t need to; we can talk about that. There’s a lot of interest in the metaverse in general. I think the level of interest also shows that there’s been a thirst and desire in the industry for companies to come together to discuss and cooperate. How they can best work now in the field of the metaverse. We are excited and thrilled that there’s been so much industry interest. So now, we’re working hard to make sure that even with so many diverse companies in the forum, joining so quickly; we can organize efficiently now to have productive cooperative discussions and actions being produced; work products being produced by the Forum.
Stephen Ibaraki 18:46
Neil, you’re unique in that you’ve been involved with graphics for decades. This term, metaverse, has gotten really popular. As I mentioned earlier, I was talking to Pattie Maes of the Fluid Interfaces group at MIT Media Lab. They were saying, we’ve been working on this thing for decades. I’d like to get—because you’ve been involved at the foundation of so many of these standards and standards work—I’d like to hear your definition of the metaverse.
Neil Trevett 19:18
Well, that’s a good question. I think, one thing I do know. It’s not going to be like Ready Player One. If anyone who knows that story; the basic story is the metaverse suddenly bursts upon the world created by one company. In fact, one programmer really in that story. It’s not going to happen that way. So many pieces of technology need to come together. It’s going to be a very Darwinian process of experimentation, successes, and failures. As we gradually build the metaverse, whatever it ends up being. I think most people would agree that it’s going to be some mix of the connectivity of today’s web with the immersiveness of spatial computing, in all, its richness. 3D graphics, augmented virtual reality, ray tracing, machine learning or all of that stuff. It is going to be some combination of bringing those two domains together. But it’s going to take a lot of technologies coming together in novel ways that we haven’t done before. And the level of interest in the industry; I think everyone recognizes this is a real opportunity. It’s driving the need, and the commercial desire to make these technologies work together. I think that’s why there’s been so much interest in the Metaverse Standards Forum. I think a lot of companies do honestly believe that, if the metaverse is to reach its full potential, we’re going to need the right standards, at the right time. Not just from a pure engineering point of view of making things work. But making sure that the metaverse is open, and equitable for all. A good open standard can do a lot to make that so. We have found a lot of interest in interoperability standards. In many cases, and Khronos included and W3C … and all these other standards organizations. We’ve been working on these things for years. But now, they have become relevant to more people because of the context of an interest in the larger concept of the metaverse. It’s really raising the level of participation and interest in open standards. Which as an open standards kind of person, is really cool to see. That’s why we needed the forum. Because no one standards organization can possibly create all of these different standards. It’s going to take a constellation of standards being created by dozens of standards organizations. Although the standards organizations many times have one-on-one liaisons; to our knowledge, there has never been this attempt to provide this kind of coordination overlay over all of the different standards organizations. The metaverse has provided both the need and the opportunity to provide a Forum where all of the standards orgs can come together and the industry too; because we need the industry now to tell us what they need. The worst thing is a standard that is designed in an ivory tower disconnected from industry reality. We need industry and its community around one table. That’s the basics; it is a simple idea. But the basic simple idea behind the Forum.
Stephen Ibaraki 23:07
Well, as you indicated, you launched with 30 plus companies two and a half weeks ago, now you get over 800, who are involved. And in fact, I got an email and it said there’s over 1000 including in the queue or something like that.
Neil Trevett 23:25
More coming. Yeah, it has been great. It’s a little bit scary actually. We’ve been handed this responsibility now by the industry. We’re the Metaverse Forum. This is where Khronos and Metaverse Forum kind of intertwine. The Forum has been bootstrapped by Khronos. The Khronos Board has kindly offered to pay for getting the Forum up and running. In terms of the admin support and the online hosting of resources. The Khronos team, has been working super hard over the last two and a half weeks to get everyone onboarded. We didn’t expect this much interest, to be to be honest. It has been great to see everyone’s been doing a fantastic job. But once Khronos is participating in the forum; Khronos doesn’t get any special rights; we are just one of the many standards organizations that we have. It’s within our nonprofit mission to encourage the use of these kinds of technologies throughout the industry. So, we’re happy and thrilled to be able to be in the right place at the right time to be able to play a role in helping this thing get off the ground.
Stephen Ibaraki 24:47
I’m going to give you, looking at your website and my view; but, it says something like this. I hope the audience doesn’t quote me—The forum will focus on pragmatic action-based projects. That’s really interesting, especially because I’m a person from the industry; I also sit across vendors work as well. So it’s not just a talk shop. You’re going to do stuff. Such as implementing prototyping; hackathons, plugfests, and open-source tooling to accelerate the testing and adoption of standards, while also developing consistent terminology and deployment guidelines. That’s really attractive.
Neil Trevett 25:31
Yes, absolutely. You put your finger on the key thing, because many times, discussions around the metaverse do devolve into long term philosophical discussions about what things might be in 20 years time. We don’t need to do that, again. We have Twitter for that. We want this, the Metaverse Standards Forum, to focus on standards. And exactly as you say, to be action based, to actually move the needle. Although we don’t know what the metaverse is going to be in 20 years time. We have this Darwinian soup going on right now. With people trying different things and different market opportunities being explored. What one thing is clear. If we’re careful, we can identify interoperability problems that are real problems right now today, and (standards) are definitely going to be needed down the line; regardless of where the final metaverse ends up ends up being. That’s what we want to do. To be very thoughtful about finding the problems that we can move the needle on today and make a difference. Doing a hackathon; testing in PlugFests (PlugFests type testing), and guidelines. One of the first projects come up and it’s like super obvious once you think about it. But 10 minutes into the first meeting, someone said, where’s the list of all the standards then; that are relevant to the metaverse. We will go, Oh, we don’t have one. That’s probably going to be the first project that we kick off is, getting the standards community, in the wider industry, to crowdsource a useful resource of signposting to all of the various resources. That’s going to be useful for the standards organizations. Let alone in anyone in industry trying to use the standards. Where are the gaps between the different standards organizations? What are we all working on, that are potentially related? There hasn’t been a central resource that’s been built by the community itself. Just the act of doing that; it’s going to be a voyage of discovery. I think it will be really valuable. But yes, … going down the line. Now having plugfest type projects; actually not just talking about interoperability in theory, but trying it out, particularly if it goes across boundaries, between standards organizations. Now, this organization is normatively referencing this and using it; if you do it that way, does it work? What are the bugs? Or what are the gaps? Gives me goosebumps thinking of all the good things (data) we’re going to get for the standards organizations involved. By doing that kind of hands-on project.
Stephen Ibaraki 28:31
The credibility is really your background (and the community with Open Standards, non-profit Khronos Group,…), because you’ve done so much work in this area. The fact that you’re chairing; this will attract a lot of people. And then they drill into your background or think; oh, wow; this gentleman really knows what this is all about, because you’ve worked in every facet of this. I just want to add another contextual layer. Are you going to look at governance in any way or ethical frameworks work? We use a lot of it in the AI space. And some of that will be important in this space as well. And as some of these questions come up; are you going to leave that to be a separate discussion with other groups?
Neil Trevett 29:12
That’s a very prospective question. And you mentioned the credibility. It’s not me. It’s Khronos and the other standards organizations that have been doing work; just fortunate to be a part of it. But, the higher order, answer to your question is, what are we going to focus on? Are we going to focus on things like governance and ethics and Web3 type stuff introduced; the blockchain, crypto, side of things. The answer is — it is going to be driven by the members. It goes back to what we’re saying earlier. Khronos is happy to bootstrap logistically the Forum. But, we are not dictating and not should any one member dictate where the focus areas end up being. We want to be Darwinian…it’s where the members demonstrate a passion and an interest. Now, that’s where the forum should focus because that people care about the things that make a difference, right. It’s a good dynamic; good, healthy, dynamic. As long as we stay in a broad scope, that’s the way to let things happen. That is the way we’re self-organizing, right now. Of course, it’s early days. Literally a week or two in. But, with all these members, we are letting people online, collate this. The list of topics that they would be interested in; the domains, and particular pain points from interoperability that they are interested in. And already, now just a few days in, we are seeing clumping. There are definite domains emerging a lot around 3D. Also a lot around ethics and, kind of, governance. And other domains, geospatial … in a few weeks, we’re going to have the first list of domains, and we’ll make that public. We want to be as open, of course, as we can. And then we’ll begin to organize working groups. To address those domains in smaller groups that really care about that topic. It’s going to be interesting to see how big those main working groups are, and whether we have to subdivide it further. It’s going to be very incremental. How we build this organization around the interest of the members.
Stephen Ibaraki 31:51
You’ve been involved with some really seminal and pioneering standards work and also getting the stakeholders together. You mentioned, it’s really a crowd sourced effort. Getting people involved and participating / volunteering and so on as well. Do you have some sense of the timeframe? Or is it just too early?
Neil Trevett 32:16
Good question. If the question is, when do you think the metaverse will appear? I don’t think; we’ll never have that one seminal moment. Where we say, Okay. Oh, the metaverse has been announced today. It’s going to be this gradual process. And then suddenly, they will wake up and say, actually, what we have today is pretty much what we called the metaverse back in 2022. It’s going to be incremental. That means that there’s going to be, the journey is the opportunity, not the final destination. There’s going to be commercial opportunity every step of the way. As we all work together to this longer-term goal. There’s going to be opportunities for everyone involved. And just inside the Forum, we want to leverage that; as I mentioned, the projects that can make a difference today. We want to have some early successes make a difference in a real practical way early. We hope that we’ll build the credibility of the Forum and build the momentum to do more work down the line. I don’t know how long the Forum is going to last; we’ll see. But the journey to the metaverse is multiple decades. But we don’t have to wait. There’s going to be good stuff along the way as we go.
Stephen Ibaraki 33:45
I work a lot with the UN. There’s always this question of different parts of the world and they don’t have access to the same resources. How do you see this building out? Is there is accessibility, equity, diversity, and inclusion?
Neil Trevett 34:04
Definitely at the open standards, and almost all of these standards organizations that are involved in the forum are committed as part of their governance model to royalty free standards. The right standard at the right time can definitely help technology rollout across the whole world and make things more accessible to everyone then maybe you have otherwise been the case. That standards are, at the bottom line; that the standards are the tool by which we can make technology accessible to everyone out there. The example I like to use is just plugging a plug into your electrical wall socket. And … IEEE … that didn’t happen by accident. That was the work of standardization heroes back in the day. That whole standards ecosystem has just become so ubiquitous that we don’t even think of it as a standard anymore. What most of us don’t anyway, think of it. There are billions of people that that use it. That’s just use it all day, every day. And mobile phones too. OpenGL ES is used in every user interface on every mobile phone pretty much. But people don’t think about it. That’s good. That’s the sign of a really successful standard that just seeps into everyday life to the degree that people don’t need to think about it anymore. And the metaverse is going to need standards that become that ubiquitous. It may be a long journey. But the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get there.
Stephen Ibaraki 35:56
People are going to get more excited—more corporations; different groups; NGOs, and so on are going to get more excited as this builds out—including seeing you talk right now (in this interview). How do they (the community) get engaged? How do they say, I want to be part of this?
Neil Trevett 36:13
Well, hopefully, we’ve made that very straightforward. And to explain why it’s so straightforward, it’s not an accident. It’s by design. The Forum itself is not another standards organization. I know we’re called the Metaverse Standards Forum. We have 24 different standards organizations, you have to go talk to today, before the Forum, to understand what’s going on. If the forum was another standards organization, you’ve just made the problem worse, because that was 25 people, you have to go talk to. So, the forum is this coordination layer, as we were saying, over the existing standards organizations. The Forum won’t create standards. It will feed requirements and PlugFest results and the needs of the industry, we hope in a well-coordinated effective way, into the standards organizations, to help the standards organizations do their good work. This means that we don’t need an IP framework, because the standards developing organizations, of course, need to be very careful about no patent licensing and IP frameworks, to make sure that their standards that they create now can be widely used without problems in the industry. Because the Forum is not creating standards; we don’t need that heavy lift machinery, we can afford to be much lighter weight. And that’s why any organization is welcome to join the forum. All of the information is on the website. But there’s no money. There’s no IP framework to sign. There’s not even an NDA, because it’s an open forum. Everything is public. If any organization is willing to sign up for a simple agreement, saying: if I help you write a blog, I’m going to let you publish it on the web on the website; and a one-page Charter, which is the rules of the road, how the Forum is going to make decisions. Anyone is welcome to click through that agreement and get engaged. There is no minimum commitment for people joining. And again, Darwinian mechanics rule. There’s always a bell curve, and some people will be really engaged. And will take a leadership role in all the different working groups that we will have and will, I hope get repaid many fold for their investment in time and effort, which is great, and that there will be people, just on the edges, just lurk. And that’s fine, too. Because even people that are just observing what’s going on in the forum, are hopefully getting good, useful, actionable information and getting insights into how the industry is evolving. So everyone is welcome, regardless of their level of engagement in the activities that we’re doing.
Stephen Ibaraki 39:25
I’m going to propose something. This idea that everything that’s out there is going to be part of this in some way. Including across the spectrum of technologies, whether it’s 5 and 6G, supercomputing, quantum computing as it matures, analog computing, sensors, internet of things. I mean, it is just the whole gamut, biomedical innovation, all of it somehow. And engineering is going to be part of this metaverse, in this sort of digital twin representation as we get more and more immersive from smartphones to more sophisticated devices to pods where you’re totally encased like let’s say in an autonomous vehicle. The (inside car) panels could be part of this metaverse journey because you’re going to have so much time. So now I want to mine your prediction of treads, because you are at all parts of this; decades of the metaverse journey. Do you have some predictions of things that look really interesting to you? I mentioned some of that. Like, we have exascale supercomputers that are released already. And some people are talking about zeta scale possibilities. NVIDIA is doing amazing work with their Omniverse. All of the new processes are coming out. Do you want to predict some trends? Sort of the narratives here?
Neil Trevett 40:56
Well, that’s a really good question. Very broad question. I am sitting inside NVIDIA. So, I see the good work in NVIDIA… I think there is going to be, as it goes back to what we’re saying right at the beginning, content, content creation, and the creators; content is king. In the end, nothing else matters. If content doesn’t get created; content and very diverse types, of course, I think there is going to be a revolution in content creation. At both ends of the spectrum. The kinds of stuff that Omniverse is doing at NVIDIA. Enabling close cooperation, in a much deeper sense, between multiple creators or designers, in a far more productive way than has ever been possible before. I think that is going to be a revolution. Designing in the metaverse is going to be a thing. And at the other end of the spectrum, just as importantly, enabling end users to be their own content creators too. And I think this is kind of the story behind glTF™ (royalty-free specification for the efficient transmission and loading of 3D scenes and models by engines and applications). But the photos and videos that have been enabled to be user created for many years, and it creates huge opportunities, YouTube and Facebook; come because people can create their own videos and photos. There hasn’t happened quite yet. It’s coming. And you can see the beginnings, but not for 3D. It hasn’t happened. And if the metaverse is going to be spatial based—it is going to be 3D based, it’s going to be immersive. So, enabling end users to create high quality 3D content is going to be a key thing. Content creation along that spectrum, I think is going to be a really important. I think machine learning. We’ve mentioned that too. It is a transformational technology, being able to teach machines to do stuff rather than them prescribing how machines should do something is such a transformational change. It’s going to affect everything, including content creation, and that you can see, you mentioned DALL-E (DALL-E-2). We’re going to learn to apply machine learning in all kinds of domains. It is inevitably going to be an important part of the metaverse as well. I think and the other thing, like a lot of people ask, why are you working on the metaverse? It’s going to be dystopian nightmare. We’re going to blame you. I really hope that the world is better informed than it was 15 years ago, 20 years ago, on the potential dangers of this kind of connectivity. For all the good of social media, there are downsides that we’re all painfully aware of. I hope that everyone is learning how we can make this next generation more positive overall, for the communities as a whole. I believe we can do so; there’s a real opportunity there. I think many end users are more attuned than they used to be about the potential downsides. But it’s going to take the engineering and metaverse community building the metaverse to really bear that in mind. And so now the ethical and the governance side of it, I think is going to be really important.
Stephen Ibaraki 44:46
I guess really the catch phase of what you’re trying to lead is: the metaverse is for the benefit of the Earth, its ecosystems; of humanity as well. And then all of the domains that exist out there. It’s really for good purposes. Right?
Neil Trevett 45:06
I hope so. I think everyone in the metaverse community trying to build the metaverse, I think would share that same sentiment. And I think we are better informed and more cognizant than we were perhaps even just a few years ago. So yeah, I am a believer that the metaverse can be a force for good in the world. I certainly hope so.
Stephen Ibaraki 45:32
I have a couple of more questions. One is open ended. Any other trends that you want to surface and then we’ll get your recommendations to the audience. So first, any other trends that you think are really interesting and you want to put out there, almost like a thought trigger for the audience or catalysts for deeper insights?
Neil Trevett 45:52
No, I think we covered it — the ethical one is important. The content creation. Well, we just come back full circle. It’s going to take a lot of stuff working together. This is why I think it’s the time the Metaverse Standards Forum has appeared. We haven’t tried before, quite in this way, to integrate quite so many diverse technologies together. So, the time for cooperation; the need for cooperation is building. So, I hope we can find ways to work together. And maybe the Metaverse Standards Forum is a way. We’ll soon find out. Yeah, cooperation and wider integration. Now, technology is no longer existing in isolation. They have to exist in a larger ecosystem is probably the mega trend.
Stephen Ibaraki 46:51
Well, definitely a mega trend. And I’m just thinking, Neil, you’re part of a team, as you mentioned, is very collaborative. It’s grassroots. But you’ve taken on a lot as well, because you are chair.
Neil Trevett 47:05
Ended up with three jobs now… getting paid for one too.
Stephen Ibaraki 47:15
This work is an inflection point as well. Right? I mean, it just coming together. It’s just so much community, excitement over it, and passion and commitment. I think that’s really attractive to people. So, one final question, and that is, do you have any general recommendations to the audience?
Neil Trevett 47:36
Wow. Well, I would say, Thinking back on my journey that you’ve helped me relive in this last 20 minutes. I mean, the first one is a cliche, but it is true. If you’re fortunate, and you can find something you’re passionate about, that you can make into your job. I know, it’s a cliche, but it is true. And you are even luckier if the thing you’re passionate about, can also be commercially interesting at the time; if you can ride the wave of a new technology as it arises. I was personally lucky 3D graphics has been one of those waves. And things like machine learning and lots of other domains in the metaverse are going to be similar waves. The people that are passionate about those technologies, and I know already throughout the industry, and particularly in the Forum; you meet so many awesome folks that are passionate about what they’re doing. It really is an exciting and fulfilling thing to be involved with. It’s, as you say, we hope it’s going to change the world in a good way. And recounting the last three weeks. Lesson I would take from the last three weeks of launching the forum and is don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. Because Khronos Forum two and a half weeks old, and Khronos is 20 years old. And Khronos has kind of become awesome. Personally, that comfort zone; we’re always trying to improve but we’ve been doing it for a while. The Metaverse Forum is definitely outside the comfort zone, but it has been a very educational and interesting and rewarding experience. So, encourage people to don’t be afraid to try new things.
Stephen Ibaraki 49:50
Thank you, Neil, for coming in and sharing your insights and your history of success but also leading these inflection point kind of programs that really make a difference to the world. This collaborative effort to do something that’s very positive as well. So, thank you for sharing so much with our audience.
Neil Trevett 50:12
Thank you and it has been a pleasure