In October of 2020, NVIDIA announced the beta release of its Omniverse, billed as a scalable, multi-GPU real-time reference development platform for 3-D simulation. Based on Pixar’s Universal Scene Description and NVIDIA RTX technology, Omniverse will let users create 3-D models of the physical world.
NVIDIA announced NVIDIA Omniverse Enterprise six months later, allowing global 3-D design teams working across multiple software suites to collaborate in real-time in a shared virtual space. Richard Kerris, vice president of the Omniverse development platform at NVIDIA, said in a 2021 press release that “NVIDIA Omniverse connects worlds by enabling the vision of the metaverse to become a reality."
Another NVIDIA platform, Omniverse Avatar, debuted in November of 2021. It helps developers generate, animate, simulate and render state-of-the-art interactive avatars for use in NVIDIA Omniverse. It also features AI-enabled toolsets, accelerated rendering and simulation technology, all designed to facilitate the creation of realistic, high-fidelity avatars. While still in the development stage, developers can sign up for the waiting list and can use NVIDIA Omniverse Audio2Face to generate expressive facial animations in the meantime.
On Jan. 10, 2022, at CES, NVIDIA announced that Omniverse was out of beta and available free to consumers, a move that was likely in response to Facebook’s name change to Meta three months earlier.
More recently, at the NVIDIA GTC AI conference in March of 2022, CEO Jensen Huang discussed how major tech players such as Amazon Robotics, PepsiCo, Kroger and others are using NVIDIA Omniverse Enterprise to build digital twins.
Other announcements included the availability of nearly a million Omniverse-ready 3-D assets and live-sync connections with apps such as Adobe Substance 3-D Materials and Painter, Epic Games Unreal Engine, Maxon Cinema 4-D and NVIDIA OVX, which was designed to operate complex digital twin simulations for NVIDIA Omniverse Enterprise.
Mark Gruenwald, a writer and editor for Marvel, and one of the leading theoreticians on the concept of the omniverse, defined it as "the continuum of all universes, the space/time matrix that comprises all alternative realms of reality." Despite his background, Gruenwald claimed the idea was not limited to comics.
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Competitors in the Multiverse
NVIDIA Omniverse is not alone in the bid for multiverse dominance. Another Web3 metaverse, Decentraland, has also been available since 2020, but only 15%–20% of it is developed. It was created by a group of Argentine software engineers who had a vision of a user-governed virtual world that would allow people — using customized avatars — to “create experiences” on plots of pixelated land. Users buy and sell land using Mana tokens, all part of the Ethereum blockchain.
Another multiverse player, Microsoft Mesh, currently available as a preview for Holo Lens 2, allows developers to build immersive, multi-user, cross-platform mixed reality (XR) apps. It enables presence and shared experiences from anywhere on any device. Mesh can be accessed via app using HoloLens 2, VR headsets, mobile phones, tablets or PCs.
At Microsoft Ignite 2021, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that as the digital and physical worlds merge, Microsoft is creating an entirely new platform layer — the metaverse. “The metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world and to embed the real world into computing, bringing real presence to any digital space.”
Mesh for Microsoft Teams, announced in late 2021, will be available in the first half of 2022 and let video conferencing users share immersive experiences.
Another omniverse participant, Roblox, was launched in 2006. By April 2021, Roblox had 202 million monthly active users — an increase of 56 million since April 2020. With hundreds of different “realities,” customer avatars, the ability to create unique worlds and an in-house currency (Robux), Roblox has a strong lead.
We can’t forget about Facebook, which officially changed the name of its parent company to Meta. The company sees itself as the next evolution of social connection and plans to bring a 3-D world to the masses using virtual reality, largely based on the Oculus VR headset (the parent company of which Meta acquired in 2014).
Meta’s initial entry into the metaverse, VR platform Horizon Worlds, is available for Oculus Touch on the Quest 2 platform. The company is purportedly incorporating tools for using cryptocurrency within the game.
Many people believe NVIDIA has created a platform that the internet's biggest brands will use to create virtual experiences. It's touted as the evolution of the web — metaverse, part of the mother of all metaverses, the Omniverse.
It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the long run, as many players have yet to make an entry into the metaverse playing field.
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