Hidden costs of Metaverses

Photo by julien Tromeur on Unsplash

Before I get to the point, I will spend some time about the good stuff of the Metaverse in general.

It was announced as a new thing and the future (actually the ‘metaverse’ is not really a new thing if we consider all online games like LoL, CoD etc.), and partly it is true at least if we speak about web browsers and making a virtual world of pretty much anything.

It is here to bring many improvements in the manufacturing, network/infrastructure, especially in the UX of eCommerce platforms, help the medicine etc. but it will never replace the real presence or real testing/touching of stuff.

For example: you have a ‘metaverse’ store where you can try different clothes or shoes on your avatar and see how it looks — which is great. But can you imagine the materials, how they feel and how your body feels them without having them to touch them? — well probably not all of them. Or simply said imagine flying like a bird while you sit on chair — can you feel it?

Anyhow back to my point to the hidden costs.

I’m building a ‘metaverse’ on my own using the currently available JavaScript libraries e.g ThreeJS, BabylonJS, A-Frame, Blender for Avatars (I still haven’t tried Metaverse SDK though), and I got to some interesting conclusions or points that makes building a ‘metaverse’ expensive thing, not just for the builder but also for the end-users.

Hardware costs
Due to constant re-render process, that is natural to happen in webGL, your GPU and CPU are constantly doing something, so for starters you need a computer that has a decent GPU and at least some i5 CPU to be able to at least enter and run the world. This will be enough for ‘metaverse’ that uses primitive shapes, a plane and sky. But when we start to add avatars or videos then the real challenge begins, not to mention adding animated spot lights.

If you want to throw a ‘little party’ where you will have some 10 avatars synchronized with their movements on every client (e.g using websockets) then the cost of processing power goes ‘mountains high’ and you will probably end up to have some very expensive gaming PC configuration just to fool around the ‘metaverse’ — and do anyone really need this?

Also you will need additional VR equipment to have the real experience of the ‘metaverse’ + at least optic internet connection + other gadgets (movement sensors, headset etc)

With increased processing power more electricity is spent, at some extend it can be compared to mining crypto coins just with very basic ‘mining rig’ configuration.

Infrastructure costs
Let’s consider the scenario where your ‘metaverse’ is intent to throw small concerts, where you’ll have: a stage, a band, and 1k attendees. For the users to have the ‘real feeling’ like they are physically at a concert, we will have to sync the movements of all 1k avatars (attendees)+ band avatars in the environment, meaning we will have 1k x ~8MB network traffic on every client, to load the avatars (8MB is average file size of 1 gltf/glb optimized human avatar), then 1k websocket (real-time) connections to the server, that will have to process all changes in milliseconds and update all listeners on the network with all new updates.
That leads us to 8GB of network traffic for starters (per attendee) + some expensive cloud hardware configuration, that cost around 200$-300$ per month.

Not to mention the developers pain to achieve this, regardless is it through traditional REST/Sockets or Peer to Peer, Blockchain etc

I’ve been testing this on different machines with different hardware, and as well on mobile devices. The scenario with 10 avatars works on PC’s but the CPU/GPU suffers, while on mobile is almost impossible.

What I have used for testing:
- PC (core i7 CPU 3.2 Ghz, 16GB Ram, 2GB external GPU) — ok, CPU 90%+
- Mac (M1 8 cores CPU, 16GB Ram, Apple M1 8 cores GPU) — ok CPU 100%
- iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone XS — all suffer and crashes
- Samsung s21, Huawei P40 Pro — all suffer, P40 Pro able to run with latency

Economy and Environment
Economy in general will benefit from this ‘tool’ from many perspectives, especially the hardware manufacturers, which will have to focus on producing computers with improved GPU and CPU performances — meaning a PC that cost from $1k and above. The network operators will benefit as well, hence to have smooth and stable connection that can support this kind of load, users will have to move to 5G or better networks in future.

New jobs will be open for 2D/3D graphic designers, UI/UX, developers as well, which is good in general.

While (nature) Environment will suffer mainly due to the excavation of materials for making chips, increased electricity power consumption etc.

And not to mention the suffer of your body and health if you do everything in a ‘metaverse’.

So in a conclusion it is good to have ‘metaverse’, but probably it is not needed everywhere and not for everyone, let’s use it wisely and get the best of it where we really need it ( examples: Medicine (surgery, diagnostics), Retail/eCommerce shops..) and let’s have a party in real life presence.

If you feel that there are things missing or you want to have a discussion, let me know :)

Check my older posts at: https://medium.com/@yoshevski



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