Matthew Bauer: The company closest to the meta universe today is in China

Author | Xu Na

You may be tired of the word "meta universe", but you must not want to miss this person's view on the meta universeHe is Matthew Bauer, known as the pioneer of the meta universe and the father of the meta universe business -- the cover story author of Time magazine in August and the cover character of Bloomberg Businessweek in September. Bauer is the managing partner of the investment company Ethellion Co., which focuses on investment in film, television and games, and the founder and CEO of Ball Metaverse Research Partners, an investment company in the field of meta universe. He also serves as the industry consultant of American PE giant KKR.

As early as three years before the meta universe became popular in the venture capital circle last year, that is, in 2018, Matthew Bauer had published many articles on the meta universe on the Internet, which profoundly affected the innovative minds of Mark Zuckerberg, the ambitious founder of Meta, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, and Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic, the game company.

Some people say that the meta universe and Web3 are the future of the Internet, while others draw the conclusion that the meta universe is a foam from Zuckerberg's terrible new avatar of the meta universe; It is reported that the first batch of Metauniverse companies have been unable to pay salaries, and recent news frequently reported that some young people in the Metauniverse industry realized wealth freedom early by virtue of their new careers - such differences are unified in the fact that "the Metauniverse is full of uncertainty". In the new book "The Metauniverse Changes Everything", Matthew Bauer believes that this uncertainty is not a defect, just as if you told people 20 years ago how to use the Internet today, they would be unbelievable, so confusion and uncertainty are not terrible, on the contrary, "confusion is an important feature of all subversion".

The concept of the meta universe has been popular for nearly a year, but the emergence of this term has been 30 years ago. According to Bloomberg statistics, last year it published more than 1000 articles containing the word "meta universe", while in the previous 10 years, the word "meta universe" only appeared less than 10 times. In his new book, Matthew Bauer, for the first time in history, gave a clear definition of the term "meta universe" derived from the 1992 science fiction Avalanche: a large-scale, interoperable network that can render a 3D virtual world in real time, with the help of a large number of continuous data, such as identity, history, rights, objects, communications and payments, It allows wireless users and individuals to experience real-time synchronization and continuous and effective presence.

This definition seems to be hard to understand, so it's better to consider this point of view from another angle. Matthew Bauer thinks that the company closest to the meta universe in the world today is Tencent of China. In Bauer's view, Tencent is a Chinese agent for many international games with a large number of businesses and extensive content. Tencent has one of the most popular and important communication methods in the world, WeChat, and has also established its own digital payment network, such as WeChat payment. Although it has not taken coercive measures, it still successfully, at least, affects, controls and operates many of the most important platforms in China today, Interoperability has been achieved in many fields... Do you understand the meta universe now?

When comparing with web3 and blockchain, which are often mentioned together, Bauer pointed out that the meta universe is not web3, and the meta universe does not need to apply blockchain technology, but there is a connection between the three, and the meta universe and web3 may appear at the same time.

After giving a precise definition, Matthew Bauer in the second part of the book "Metauniverse Changes Everything," focused on computing bandwidth, platform engine, interoperability, hardware access, payment methods and even blockchain and other aspects to elaborate how to build the meta universe. In addition, he believes that although everyone is focusing on the technology giants who are crazy about betting on the universe, we should place more hope on small and medium-sized innovative enterprises. "We should all hope that the development of the universe will be driven by these groups (SMEs) and become the main beneficiaries, not by large enterprises." Bauer believes that the future of every country, industry and person will be deeply affected by the meta universe, and the meta universe will eventually rewrite the brief history of the future of mankind.

Matthew Power

From the realization of the grand vision of the meta universe to the discussion of specific technical details, Matthew Bauer received an exclusive audio interview of 36 krypton on the occasion of the recent launch of The Metauniverse Changes Everything in China. The following is an edited transcript:

Krypton: Let's start from the definition of the meta universe you gave in your book. You have precisely defined the meta universe with eight elements, namely virtual world, 3D, real-time rendering, interactive network, large-scale expansion, persistence, synchronization, unlimited users and individual existence. In your opinion, are these elements equally important?

Matthew Ball: That's a good question. I won't say that they are equally important, because there are practical considerations. For example, let me put it another way. Each of these elements is important, but the difference is their importance. For example, we know that "persistence" is very important for the meta universe, but an independent question that extends from this is how much information we need to have such persistence. I give an example of a specific environment in the book. We believe that if users change the environment, the environment needs to reflect these changes indefinitely, but some minor changes may not be important. For example, footprints on snow. We know that footprints in the real world will not last forever, so in this case, the persistence in the strict sense may not be particularly important.

But a better example might be some terms, such as "effective unlimited number of users", because it is easy to imagine that there is a limit on the actual number of people in reality regarding the problem of "how many people can be in a specific virtual experience at one time". This is why I use the word "effective infinity", because it is unlikely that all 8 billion people on the earth want to participate in a specific meta universe experience at the same time.

So it is important that we can achieve as many of these elements as possible, but some of these elements are relatively more important or essential. For example, the meta universe needs synchronous experience, otherwise we can't share it together. The universe needs to be built into a virtual world network, otherwise we will just talk about a single virtual experience. It needs to be real-time, otherwise it cannot be affected. I also think that the meta universe must be 3D, not only because of the specific use, but also because only in this way can we distinguish it from today's Internet. Some people say that the meta universe does not have to be 3D, but in my opinion, if they are right, then we are talking about the Internet rather than the meta universe. We are not talking about a revolution, nor about new experiences and many other new elements that are emerging.

Krypton 36: So we can think that the biggest difference between the meta universe and the current Internet is whether it is 3D or not?

Matthew Bauer: I would say that there are actually three different things in the core level. First of all, the meta universe is 3D in terms of interface and data. Second, the meta universe is real-time. It is where we enter synchronization and real-time. While today's Internet is not real-time, it is mainly static synchronization. Third, it is a network of virtual experiences - which is very important, because although we have 3D experiences and synchronous experiences on the Internet today, there is no networking between these virtual experiences. Therefore, I would say that the three elements of 3D, real-time synchronization and virtual network are the core of my definition of meta universe.

Krypton 36: Can you explain the difference between the next universe, Web 3 and blockchain?

Matthew Ball: No problem. Metauniverse is an inherited form of today's Internet. Its core is that it is a 3D, real-time and synchronized virtual network. Web3 describes the decentralized version of the Internet, which is basically presented in the form of blockchain Internet. But of course, the principles of Web3 can be applied to different technologies, so we should think that Web3 is independent of the blockchain, although these two concepts are actually the same thing at present.

The two concepts of meta universe and web3 are often confused. This is because meta universe is often described as the next generation Internet, and web3 is also defined as the successor of today's Internet. Therefore, people will talk about the two transformations of the same thing or the same network, but there are differences between them. The final result may be that the meta universe needs blockchain technology, but it may also be that the meta universe does not need blockchain technology, but blockchain technology is widely used. We may also find that the principles of web3 are not strictly required by the meta universe, but web3 may help create the most prosperous and healthy meta universe.

Krypton: We know that the concept of the meta universe has existed for many years, but why has it become a hot topic that has been talked about everywhere since last year? Many people call you "the father of the business of the meta universe". We know that you have also been concerned about the meta universe for a long time. Can you briefly introduce your experience in this field?

Matthew Ball: As I said in my book, the term "meta universe" has been used for 30 years. But in fact, for nearly a century, this idea has always existed in science fiction and public imagination. For about 70 years, people have been trying to build an early version of the meta universe. In fact, the meta universe we are trying to build today is also based on many early innovations, and certainly has absorbed some warnings from earlier innovations.

My personal journey is as follows.

Since the 1990s, I began to gradually understand these terms of the meta universe. I have been fascinated by the stories of new consumer technologies told in the virtual world, especially the way these consumer technologies change. But specifically, it is my experience of playing the game Fortress Night and using the Robox platform in 2018 that led me to conclude that this long considered whimsical idea of the meta universe has not only become a real opportunity, but is spreading around us so that we can already see and feel it. At that time, I began to actively study this field and published my first article on the meta universe on the Internet. Before the outbreak began, I published two more articles, which attracted extensive attention to the word.

As for the popularity of the concept of meta universe today, it actually reflects the maturity of many different technologies at the same time. For example, we have seen in the past five to six years that the widespread deployment of high-performance GPUs and CPUs enables large groups of people to collaborate in virtual spaces. It is no coincidence that with the display of these functions, we see that the game world is also turning to new types of social video games, as well as sandbox games such as Roblox. At the same time, smart phones have grown from devices owned by less than one third of the world's people to devices owned by more than two thirds of the world's people, and have expanded the network worldwide. We have also seen the rise of blockchain, NFT and cryptocurrency. Although people may not believe in these technologies, they have clearly demonstrated the potential of commodities that exist only in digital form and have no physical components, as well as the utility of interoperable systems between these commodities.

Finally, we saw the emergence of cultural change, which proved that electronic games are not just electronic games. This cultural concept began to flow into Hollywood rapidly, and a large number of TV and movies related to it began to appear. These cultural narratives have gradually become part of the story of the meta universe. We saw that the latest Star Wars movie opened with an event that only happened in Fortress Night. Travis Scott can be called one of the biggest cultural events in the 20th century at the concert of Fortress Night. All these changes have taken place at the same time as the maturity of other technologies such as virtual reality, so many people believe that the opportunity of the meta universe is at hand.

Krypton: You mentioned in your book that "anyone who wants the existence of the meta universe, or even those who do not want it to exist, should hope that the development of the meta universe will be promoted by these groups (small and medium-sized enterprises) and become the main beneficiaries, rather than by large enterprises." Why do you say that?

Matthew Ball: That's a good question. I think there are several different ways to answer. First of all, we recognize that the most prosperous economies (prosperity means prosperity in terms of wealth distribution, personal satisfaction and product quality) often originate from the fact that these economies have more wealth contributors. For example, there are 32 million small and medium-sized enterprises in the United States. Most Americans work for small and medium-sized enterprises. Most of the GDP of the United States also comes from these 32 million small and medium-sized enterprises. Therefore, according to the facts we have observed, the development of these small and medium-sized enterprises is indispensable to promoting healthy economic prosperity.

The second is to realize that when we talk about the meta universe, we often talk about a virtual single existence. We are talking about several private companies that may control or cooperate to control the "laws of physics" of the virtual world. I think we have reason to worry about what will happen when only one, two or three companies control the "law" in the second version of our lives. By "law", I mean what you do, what you sell, who you talk to, what your rights are, how much you charge, and how much the enterprise charges. If only a few companies have a say in these issues, it is conceivable that it is unlikely to be the best result. The Internet is a good example: no one owns the Internet, so Internet companies do not charge anyone access fees, and no one can be excluded from the Internet. This is why the Internet has such a positive effect on society and mankind, and why it can help many people to receive education. This is why many of the largest companies on the earth were born in the Internet era or achieved rebirth through the Internet era. So when we look forward to the future of the meta universe, most of the content in my book, and even the purpose of my writing this book, is to help individuals, developers, governments, regulators and voters understand when and how the meta universe will come, what the theme of the meta universe is What issues will we disagree on? But most importantly, I want you to understand what decisions we need to make to ensure that the meta universe is not only an objective place, but also a place we want.

Krypton 36: While we still have many unsolved questions about the meta universe, you described a particularly detailed blueprint for the hardware related to the meta universe in your book. I was shocked by the level of detail of some hardware technologies, such as the head display. How did you learn so much about hardware devices?

Matthew Ball: As I said earlier, one of the purposes of my book is to help us all build the meta universe. Here I want to mention that although the concept of "meta universe" comes from a writer, Neil Stephenson, I hope that the real existence of the meta universe will be built by billions of people. To this end, each of us needs to know more about the meta universe. When I gradually became an expert in this field, I found that most of the knowledge about the meta universe was beyond the comprehension of ordinary people, and it was difficult for ordinary people to access such knowledge and information. It exists either at the top of the largest and most powerful company in the world, or at the founder who has worked in the R&D department for decades. So my goal is to provide and convey the knowledge I know to ordinary people. Although sometimes you may find that the information is too detailed or too professional, my job is to at least make it easy for everyone to obtain relevant knowledge.

As for how I got this information and knowledge, I am very lucky. The success of my earlier article on the meta universe has enabled me to establish many new interpersonal relationships and contact some private exhibitions that ordinary people cannot access. In addition, as an investment consultant and an entrepreneur today, I also have a huge personal founder network, These founders have been studying these problems related to the meta universe throughout their career, so they also helped me better understand some hardware device knowledge of the meta universe. Many of them also helped edit the book, and they are also an important source of ideas in the book. In fact, one of my most exciting things is to update this book in the next few years to reflect the many rapid advances I have seen in the field of virtual extended hybrid reality devices in recent years.

Krypton: Does that mean that we will soon see your next monograph on the meta universe?

Matthew Bauer: Oh no, I'm not going to write an updated book anytime soon. I didn't write this book to reflect a particular moment. For example, this book does not emphasize a single startup company or a single research project trying to solve the problem of the meta universe, but focuses on explaining the essential parts of the meta universe and the macro themes of the meta universe, which will last forever. Some problems such as cloud computing, computing processor networking or other path dependent problems, such as optics or minimizing batteries, are not problems that can be solved in a short time. We will not make breakthroughs tomorrow, but you will see a continuous progress in this area. Some people will really focus on writing a book to reflect what is happening at this moment, including the contributions made by each company related to this, but this is not what I did in this book. Therefore, I believe that in the next few years, this book will still be an introduction to the gate of the meta universe.

Krypton: I still need to ask, so how far away are we from the realization of such a meta universe?

Matthew Ball: That's a good question. There is a famous saying in Silicon Valley that the future has come, but it is not evenly distributed. The meaning of this sentence is that the future we think of has actually been experienced by a few people. I often think of this sentence because there has never been a specific way to describe when technological change started. For example, China turned to digital and mobile payment long before the United States, so those of us in North America said that the rise of mobile and digital payment was much later than the real rise of these technologies in other parts of the world (such as China). For another example, Japan is the leader in mobile and digital services, ten years ahead of the United States. These facts make it difficult for us to tell the exact time when the mobile era began or when the economy turned to mobile e-commerce mode.

Similarly, when we talk about the meta universe, it is clear that the younger generation, the generation we call Generation Z or Alpha in the United States, will feel that we are already in the meta universe era. Today, three quarters of American children aged 9-12 often use the game platform Roblox. The virtual social interaction they spend time on these platforms is completely different from that of their older brother who was 10 years older.

For example, in this book, I talked about the progress of holographic images. Holographic image already exists in reality, but it is very expensive and relatively few people use it. But in the next ten years, we will see the cost and size of these devices drop, and we will see these technologies promoted globally. One of the most incredible experiences I ever had was using a virtual reality head display device worth 3000 dollars. When you use it, it is obvious that the universe you imagine with it will be much closer to reality than the meta universe imagined by many people (especially skeptics).

In addition, I played Microsoft Simulated Flight with this head display device. Microsoft Simulated Flight could not be run on most devices, and most people could not afford to buy a device worth 3000 dollars. The "sense of the future" I experienced when playing this game with expensive devices clearly existed. In this experience, I experienced the "future" in the eyes of others as a minority. So this is also a perfect demonstration of the statement that "the future has come, and it is just not evenly distributed". In the near future, more devices will be able to run Microsoft Simulated Flight, and the price of the $3000 device will be reduced to $300, which will be more accessible to more people in the future. So I don't want to predict in which year the meta universe will come, but I want you to realize that every year more people live in the virtual world, and we believe that some technologies that the meta universe needs or will need, usually they already exist in reality, but we don't know yet.

Krypton: In your book, you discussed the layout of some big companies in the meta universe and their respective prospects. Could you tell us more about your specific interests in these big companies?

Matthew Bauer: First of all, Facebook is a very interesting case. Now we can see that this company has established great advantages. It has the largest identity system in human history. It has 3 billion monthly active users and 200 million daily active users. Last year, it created a cash flow of 60 billion dollars. They also have more than 15000 engineers working to realize the vision of the meta universe. At the same time, they have a founder who controls the company. The founder, like others, believes in the future of the meta universe. Facebook has started in the field of virtual reality for many years, and it is impossible to ignore the value of these things. However, time has taught us that having cash resources and beliefs is not enough to become a leader in the next century. For example, Microsoft had all these advantages at the beginning of the smartphone era and the Internet era, but it did not succeed in becoming the leader of the new era. In many ways, we may see examples like this. Many people do not want Facebook to succeed. It is not a company that many developers like. Perhaps many of Facebook's visions and theme settings in the early meta universe were wrong, just as Microsoft focused on the wrong business model, the wrong mobile devices and the wrong price. We may see such mistakes again. For example, it seems that Apple, a competitor of Meta, will focus on making $200 devices instead of $3000 devices. It focuses on non game experience rather than game experience like Meta. So I saw an extraordinary opportunity and vision in Meta, but time will prove whether it can implement the vision.

My favorite company is still Epic Games, mainly because I believe that its leader Tim Sweeney's philosophy is most likely to cultivate the meta universe we want - a meta universe that neither pays attention to advertising nor data collection, a meta universe that focuses on the personal rights of users and developers, and a meta universe that will not be controlled by any single company. In the book, I also talked about some things that I think are the most important for this company. One of them is the way that Epic voluntarily gives up its corporate rights and hands them over to the American legal system. This is a form of decentralization, but not based on the decentralization of blockchain. Epic is aware of the importance of the meta universe, which means that as an individual company, it cannot be responsible for its own decisions. On the contrary, we have a legal system for managing property rights, which can manage the rights of individual enterprises and individual users. Therefore, Epic is increasingly emphasizing that, "Even though we have rights today, we believe that our legal system should be entrusted to manage these rights for the benefit of our society, our company itself and our customers. These principles are very important. As a person who likes their products and respects the leaders of this company, as a person who hopes that the universe can become a positive force in the global society, EPIC is my favorite and most talked about The company that gets the most.

Then let me talk about Nvidia. Nvidia's story is very similar to Epic's. Five years ago, few people in the United States knew about these two companies, let alone talk about them. Now they seem to be the forefront of global industry. In fact, these two companies have verified many arguments about the meta universe, which may be partly because they were founded 30 years ago, before and after the publication of Avalanche. They are companies born specifically for this era - a 3D simulation era based on graphic computing and the meta universe era. It is their patience and long-term focus that have made them leaders today. I find that the entrepreneurial stories of these two companies are very inspiring and also very important in this era. We may not go to the future of wearing Nvidia branded head display devices or using Nvidia branded streaming media services, but it is very likely that we will have a future supported by Nvidia engines to a large extent, and it is Nvidia's focus over the past three decades that has prepared for this moment.

Finally, Microsoft is a company that most people will not think of when talking about the meta universe, because they do not have many consumer oriented products, and they usually focus on the enterprise economy. But they have a lot of assets related to computer vision and machine learning. They have hardware departments such as Xbox, cloud games, Microsoft team platforms, and digital dual platforms. So I personally want to see how Microsoft will integrate these pieces together, so that it can even become a bigger company in the meta universe.

Krypton: The title of your book is "The Metauniverse Changes Everything". How do you understand "Changing Everything" here?

Matthew Bauer: Every time we have a fundamental change in computing and network technology, the experience of almost every country, department and person will change because of this. This is because we see changes in "who can access computing and network resources" and "when, where, why and how to access them". For example, in the era of smart phones, no matter where you go, you have a computer in your pocket, and you can continue to surf the Internet, rather than occasionally. When I was young, we had to go online at home or in the office. However, the real innovation in the mobile Internet era does not lie in that we have a portable computer that can continuously access the Internet, but when that happens, we fundamentally change who accesses the Internet, when, where, why, and how, and this has affected the way we organize as human beings in society - for example, our elections in Western societies What we do and what we think - This innovation has also spawned new companies, new leaders, new business models and even new philosophies, challenged many of our ethical concepts, changed the way a country distributes its wealth domestically, and changed most enterprises and their many business behaviors.

So we cannot know exactly how the universe will change various industries or individuals, just as we cannot know how the Internet will change our lives in 2005 in the 1990s, or even how it will change our lives in the future when the first iPhone appeared in 2007. This is why innovations like ticktok have shocked many large companies in the world. When I say that I can't tell you exactly what life is like in the meta cosmic era, it's not surprising. I can't tell you what you will do when you wake up and what you will do when you go home from work in the meta cosmic era - I know this usually disappoints some people, because they want to know the exact answer, and I can't give such an answer. But I believe that when we all participate in and can access the lasting high fidelity 3D virtual world, in fact, when we live in a material world in which we can freely act, and this material world can be connected with the lasting high fidelity 3D virtual world at any time, almost everything we do, what we want to do, and even the way we think will be completely rewritten.