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Microsoft and others launch Metaverse open standards group

37 organizations and companies, including Microsoft, Meta, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and IKEA, have created a group dedicated to fostering the development of open standards for the Metaverse. Forum membership is free, and the first meeting is expected to occur in July 2022. 

A press release from the Metaverse Standards Forum explains that the group is intended to bring companies and organizations together to foster industry-wide cooperation. The goal is to create the interoperability standards necessary to build the open Metaverse. The group position is that the lack of interoperability is holding back the deployment of the Metaverse.

Interoperability refers to how easily data can be exchanged between the virtual worlds of the proposed Metaverse. Although there isn’t yet a consistent, set definition of the Metaverse, the general idea is an integrated network of 3D, immersive worlds that utilize virtual and augmented reality where users can basically do whatever they want with whoever they want, no matter their physical location. This vision of the Metaverse could also include ownership of portable digital assets, such as cars and clothes, that they would be able to bring from one world to another. As such, interoperability is central to how the Metaverse will work, which is why the Metaverse Standards Forum is now prioritizing it. 

The Metaverse Standards Forum encourages the development and deployment of diverse, collaborative spatial computing, such as online economies, multi-user gaming, photorealistic content authoring, and geospatial systems. The press release explains it will do this by focusing on “pragmatic, action-based projects such as implementation prototyping, hackathons, plugfests, and open-source tooling to accelerate the testing and adoption of metaverse standards, while also developing consistent terminology and deployment guidelines.”

A report from The Verge points out that the development of open standards doesn’t necessarily mean that the Metaverse as it is currently envisioned will come to fruition any time soon. However, open standards could help developers more easily build, use, and transfer relevant content across different platforms.

In other news

  • WordPress founder criticizes GoDaddy. CEO of Automattic and co-founder of WordPress Matt Mullenweg has launched a Twitter attack on the domain and hosting company GoDaddy, according to WPTavern. Mullenweg commented that GoDaddy takes more from the open-source WordPress.org platform than it contributes, and went so far as to brand GoDaddy as “parasitic” and an “existential threat to WordPress’ future.” GoDaddy has not yet responded to the remarks, but they did provoke further comments from some Twitter users who defended the company. Some of Mullenweg’s controversial comments were later deleted, but his position that the current practices of GoDaddy are a threat to the WordPress ecosystem has been made clear. 
  • Chicago experiments with quantum network. The Chicago Quantum Exchange at the University of Chicago announced that they have connected the city with suburban labs in a secure quantum network, according to UChicago News. This doubles the size of the network, which was already the largest in the country. It will soon be available for educational, industrial, and government purposes, as well as testing quantum security technology provided by Toshiba. The network will be used for testing communication devices, security protocols, and algorithms. Researchers hope that in the future, secure quantum internet networks will be used around the world, but further research is still needed to understand more about the technology.
  • Amazon brings you the voices of the deceased. CNBC reports that at the company’s Re: Mars conference in Las Vegas, Amazon vice president Rohit Prasad introduced a new feature of the Alexa voice assistant that replicates particular human voices. A demonstration video showed a child asking for a story to be read by his grandmother, which Alexa then provides. The team claims that it needs less than a minute of a voice recording to deliver a high-quality voice replication. Prasad suggested that the technology could be a good way of preserving the memories of lost ones. Perhaps we will find out if the world is ready for potentially ghostly experiences when the feature is rolled out—though Amazon has not announced a launch date. 
  • Bionic robotic fish to reduce microplastics. The Guardian reports that a new self-propelled robo-fish developed by scientists at a Chinese university will absorb plastic particles that pollute the world’s seas and oceans. The researchers at the Polymer Research Institute of Sichuan University created a 13mm robo-fish with a laser in its tail that enables it to swim and self-repair up to 89% of its ability. The flexible fish model can swim at 30mm a second and collect microplastics up to 5kg (11lbs) in weight. More research is needed before it can be deployed in the real world, but the team aims to have robot fish cleaning up our seas before long. 
  • Personal details of an entire Japanese city lost on USB drive. Data breaches and attacks that expose personal information are fairly common, but it’s not so often that they are the result of a night of heavy drinking. According to the BBC, an unnamed man working for a benefits provider in Amagasaki, Japan lost a memory stick with the personal details of almost half a million people. The man had been drinking with colleagues at a restaurant before passing out in the street. When he woke, he found that his bag containing the memory stick had disappeared. The sensitive information included names, addresses, birth dates, tax information, and bank details. City officials and the mayor have apologized to the city’s residents.   
  • Google and Project Zero warn of new spyware. It was only a short while ago that we reported on the surveillance-for-hire group NSO being brought to book. Now Google’s Threat Analysis Group and Project Zero vulnerability analysis have found an iOS spyware product that traces back to Italian developer RCS Labs, according to Wired. In the previous week, security firm Lookout published findings on the Android version of the same software that also came from RCS Labs. Lookout named the software “Hermit” and says that it was used by Italian officials in a 2019 anti-corruption probe. Google found victims of both the iOS and Android spyware versions in Italy and Kazakstan, while Lookout found it was used in Syria.   

Tip of the Week

Disagreement in the tech industry is inevitable. It’s a critical element of innovation, competition, and teamwork. When working in a team, we all want to agree, but disagreements can result in tension, bad feelings, or even ongoing conflict. That’s why it’s essential to disagree constructively so that it doesn’t lead to an argument. 

Active listening is an essential skill for all interactions. It involves paying attention to what you are hearing while showing that you are engaged by using eye contact, gestures, and other nonverbal cues. This applies to in-person discussions as well as teleconferences. With practice, you will notice that actively listening to your counterpart gives you ideas on how to voice your different point of view without being disagreeable.

When you’re on a remote team, it’s even more critical to ensure there are no misunderstandings when voicing a difference of opinion. In work-related chat groups and email threads, consider expressing your disagreement as a question to start. If there is still a disagreement after 2 or 3 text exchanges, table the conversation and schedule a video conference call. 

Finally, avoid taking things personally. If a coworker seems to become argumentative and ultimately is rude to you, it doesn’t mean that they are mad at you. They may just be having a bad day. If you feel a disagreement escalates into an argument, take a break, reassess your approach, and bring someone else into the discussion for another point of view.

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