Causality and the Metaverse (and IoT along the way)

In recent weeks, there’s been a huge amount of press on the ‘Metaverse’, mostly driven by Facebook’s rebranding to Meta and their related announcements. Despite the mocked-up videos featuring Mark Zuckerberg and his avatar (did anyone else have trouble distinguishing between the two?), the reality is that Meta is several years away from being able to deliver on the full ‘virtual life’ experience.

In the meantime, companies such as Microsoft and Apple are starting to deliver some initial elements of their Metaverse vision, which is based more on augmented reality (AR) than full virtual reality (VR). Here at Geminos, we think the metaverse will end up being a blend of both AR and VR, which is now being referred to as extended reality (XR). We also think that causality will have a key role to play in making it all work.

What is the Metaverse?

In some ways, the Metaverse is the natural evolution of games such as Second Life and Fortnite, combined with AR & VR technologies, such as headsets and smart glasses. Payment and security tech, including blockchain and NFTs, add the ability to buy and sell both digital and physical goods.

The goal is to blend our physical and virtual worlds so we can seamlessly move between the two and overlay the virtual on the physical to make our lives easier, more productive and richer in terms of experiences. This will not only enhance our leisure time through better gaming and exercise experience: it will also allow us to have true virtual meetings with family, friends and colleagues – Zoom on steroids.

How does the Metaverse relate to IoT?

For the Metaverse to work, it needs to interact with physical objects and gather data from sensors, so there is a direct tie-in to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Where does Causality fit in?

With the current state of the art, we can build fairly sophisticated applications around a number of IoT devices if we know what those devices are in advance. The problem is that to do anything meaningful, we need to know something about the behavior of the things that will be involved – hence the need to know which things we’ll be dealing with so we can look at product manuals and specifications etc.

This goes beyond semantics, which tells us what a piece of data means. We need to know what a thing is going to do in response to external events. Going further, we need to know how a set of things/people can collaborate to share resources in order to achieve shared or separate goals.

That’s why we think causality can add a huge amount of value. If we can express the causal behavior of things in response to events in a standardized way, we will be able to go much further than merely adding semantics to the Metaverse – we will have the capability to understand how things we’ve never seen before will act as other things around them move, respond to stimuli and consume resources. It also helps that Prof Pearl’s causal calculus provides a mathematical underpinning that can be used to make predictions and assess interventions.

Geminos and the Metaverse

While our current focus is on helping large companies’ digital transformation efforts using causality, we can already see how our current platform can evolve to be a key part of the Metaverse.

Business processes in the Metaverse will be digitalized by definition, so Geminos Causeway will be well placed to help people model, understand and refine those processes, since that’s what we’re already focused on. However, our vision for the Metaverse goes much further.

We are already working on the ability to reuse causal models of business processes in different contexts. A key part of this work involves figuring out how to express a causal model via an API so it can be searched for and queried as to its behavior.

Given that the Geminos Causeway platform is built into the widely used low-code IoT platform called Node-RED, it’s a logical step for us to add the ability to describe IoT devices via a causal model. The idea is to offer this approach to Metaverse developers as a standardized way to express the behavior of both physical and virtual things.

If we can pull this off, Geminos will be very well placed to be a significant player as the Metaverse evolves over the next few years. The good news is that this is all a natural extension of the work we’re doing anyway, so it won’t distract us in the meantime!

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