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What is the metaverse? A tech CEO who is helping build it explains

Christian Hetrick, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Business News

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, got a lot of attention when it renamed itself to reflect its focus on the "metaverse." But Meta is hardly the only firm building the immersive digital world that could be the next big thing on the internet. One is based in Philadelphia.

Cesium, a software company, provides a platform to create applications using three-dimensional location data. For example, the construction equipment giant Komatsu uses Cesium's platform to build digital twins of construction sites to track safety and progress. Clients can use drones and rovers to gather location data to build up-to-date models using Cesium's platform.

CEO Patrick Cozzi said his company is deeply involved in building the metaverse and one of the strongest advocates for making sure it is open and interoperable, so users can own their data and bring it from one metaverse to another. The company was spun out of Analytical Graphics, based in Exton, Pennsylvania, in 2019. It now has about 40 employees and clients in the energy, defense and real estate industries.

Cozzi spoke with The Inquirer to explain what the metaverse is and why it's important. The conversation was lightly edited for length and clarity.

What is the metaverse?

I think if you ask 10 different people, you're gonna get 10 different answers and you're gonna get 80% overlap. Just like if 30 years ago you asked someone what the internet was, right? Because we are at a very exciting time in the metaverse where it's starting to unfold. A very simple way to think about the metaverse is a future internet that is 3D immersive. So today, we see the internet with text, images, audio, video. Well, the next media type is full, immersive 3D — just like [video] games today with Fortnite and Roblox — where instead of being on this video chat, we may be immersed as if we're in the same location and able to interact.

 

How will we access the metaverse?

Today you can access the internet from your phone, from a tablet, from a laptop. With the metaverse, you'll be able to access it from full virtual reality (VR), right? So [a headset] fully over your eyes and you look around and you're fully inside of it. You'll also be able to access it from future augmented reality (AR) wearables. So like the glasses you and I are wearing right now will be able to overlay virtual information on the physical world. And you'll be able to access it from a game console or a computer like we do today.

What can people do in the metaverse?

So folks look at something like Fortnite and think, "That's a game." Well, it's a future platform for a lot more than a game, such as these [virtual community] concerts. A big challenge right now is, how do you scale up the number of concurrent people that can engage in that concert in essentially one virtual venue? But anything from really immersive virtual meetings, to concerts, to games, to enterprise use cases, like virtually inspecting a construction site to [military] defense use cases such as planning.

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