Metaverse, how the military works on the fusion of the real and virtual world
by Fabio Vanorio
We publish an extract of the paper “Metaverse and National Security Internet 3.0 and the New Digital World Order” by Fabio Vanorio for the Italian Institute of Strategic Studies Niccolò Machiavelli
Many of the companies involved have contributed significantly to the fundamental research base in computer graphics (both hardware and software), essential for the take-off of VR. Once again, however, long-term government support, particularly from DARPA, has been crucial to support innovative research directions and to build the array of hardware and software needed by the industry to advance VR. The merging of substantially different technologies in virtual worlds could not have been undertaken by commercial interests with a limited investment return horizon. In addition to the central role of the research-entertainment complex, federal funding of university research, as well as research in government-funded laboratories (mainly through DARPA contracts), has been instrumental in creating and supporting critical graphics hardware developments. 3D, simulation and virtual reality. Graphics and networks have become two interconnected halves of a larger whole, distributed virtual environment. Central to this work were DARPA funding and the creation by the United States Army of the SIMNET (distributed SIMulator NETworking) military program, the first example of a metaverse.
Conceptualized by Jack Thorpe in 1978, SIMNET, approved by DARPA, was launched in 1983. SIMNET consisted of a vast network of simulators for collective team training and mission testing. Thorpe believed the simulation could enhance live training, not just act as a replacement. SIMNET has therefore developed a scalable virtual architecture that networked the simulators in a collective synthetic (virtual) training exercise. SIMNET has led to a fundamental transformation of the military approach to training, changing the status quo within the simulation industry by forcing it to move from costly tailor-made solutions to more commercial off-the-shelf options.
After SIMNET, the military continued to work on the concept of merging the real and virtual world. Synthetic environments are now at a similar inflection point. Just as SIMNET’s distributed architecture benefited from emerging technologies in its day (for example, microprocessors, computer imaging and communication technologies), today’s technologies catalyze a much more advanced military readiness ecosystem. Advances in distributed computing and edge computing allow users to access more immersive worlds without latency and throughput issues. Scattering computer processing across hundreds, if not tens of thousands of machines, can allow multiple simulation engines and models to run simultaneously and in seamless coordination – thus, simulating a synthetic world on an almost unlimited scale (McArdle and Dohrman 2020).
The fact that the metaverse benefits from a distributed architecture does not mean that money must also be based on a distributed architecture. Our Real Digital Currency is also great in the metaverse world.