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LocationTech NZ

LocationTech vs. the Metaverse

The Metaverse is a bit of a mystery at the moment. Asking what it is is a bit like asking Tim Berners-Lee what the future of the internet was after he invented the world wide web in 1989. Even so, most can agree that the Metaverse represents a shared experience often in a connected 3D virtual environment.

From a location technology perspective, the Metaverse presents an interesting challenge. The real world obeys certain scientific laws, those of physics, thermodynamics and so forth. The first law of geography states ‘Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.’ This law, proposed by Waldo Tobler, forms the basis of many of the fundamental concepts of location technology. Yet, like other scientific laws within the Metaverse, can be bent, broken, or outright ignored.

The physical geography of the real world has been created over millennia. Mountain ranges are thrust skyward by plate tectonics, whilst deep canyons are eroded by mighty rivers. Physical geography often dictates human geography. Towns and cities rise where physical geography allows.

Location Technology has developed a set of practices, principles and algorithms which are based on our physical world. This means that location technology algorithms won’t work within the virtual world in their current form.

Is this actually a problem? If laws like gravity can be ignored, then what need is there for laws of geography?

Ultimately, virtual worlds deal with real people who have real behaviours. Fortnite, by Epic Games, is often used as an example of the Metaverse. People from all over the world come together to do much more than game. Travis Scott held a virtual concert in the Fortnite platform recently, and the game has its own virtual currency.

Whilst the world is virtual, the players within it are human. They exhibit human traits and patterns of behaviour that we might recognise in the real world.

For example, a player might take the shortest path between two virtual locations, or might choose a starting place on a map based on the availability of resources (weapons) at that place.  Alternatively, a developer might want to identify the best location of a virtual stage so Travis Scott is visible from as many places as possible within the virtual world.

Understanding these patterns and challenges allows developers to improve the experience for the gamer.

Epic might be able to answer some of these questions using proprietary tools. But for a location analytics industry to support the Metaverse we need a set of rules or standards that all worlds share.

Without agreement, the Metaverse could become a series of unrelated, disparate geographics that reduce the cohesion of the Metaverse.  Humanity faced a similar problem in the real world, but Location Technology experts resolved the challenge with datums.

The Location Technology industry has in-depth knowledge and experience of the real world, and that experience will be transferable into the Metaverse. How do we as an industry influence the future and help build a Metaverse is a question which is still far from being answered.

Here at LocationTech we welcome the opportunity to discuss not only the future of the Metaverse but technology in general because Location Technology is an enabler of the future.

I hope you are all staying safe, looking after yourselves and your loved ones as we come toward the closing stages of 2021. As always, if you are interested in getting more involved with LocationTech, reach out to our community manager

Ngā mihi
Chris Morris, Deputy Chair

LocationTech NZ Our mission is to establish LocationTechNZ as the voice of location technology and spatial intelligence in New Zealand.