The Spatial Web: The Next Giant Leap Forward in Technological Innovation
Updated November 29, 2022
We never shy away from researching complex topics, ideas, or sectors. We strive to develop a working understanding of the area of focus and then take a step-by-step approach to walk people through the concepts, value, risks, and opportunities. It’s challenging but immensely rewarding. We relish in forcing our minds to break through limiting beliefs and wish to inspire and encourage others to focus their attention on the dynamic prospects that present themselves rather than be swayed by the worrisome and often misinformed opinions expressed in mainstream media. And that goes for both sides of the political table.
Understanding the Spatial Web may be our most formidable challenge to date, not only because it is an enormous concept to wrap one’s brain around but also because the scope and scale seem improbable. When new ideas, technology, and concepts are first considered, they’re often viewed with healthy skepticism. Think back to society’s initial reaction to Web 1.0 or our current Web 2.0. Compare the technology of the 1990s to where we are now with computer power, applications, and integration. We’re on the cusp of the next giant leap forward, and it’s what Gabriel René and Dan Mapes, founders and leaders of VERSES Technology, have termed the Spatial Web or Web 3.0 in their 2019 book.
It’s worth mentioning that this is a foundational book that walks the reader through the concepts behind and the future that the Spatial Web promises. It’s a fascinating snapshot of a possible future where augmented and virtual reality will enable us to overlay our information and imaginations onto the world. It describes how AI will infuse the environments and objects around us with adaptive intelligence and how the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics will enable our vehicles, appliances, clothing, furniture, and homes to become embodied with the power of the five senses. It promises a future in which the physical and the virtual will be seamlessly enmeshed for the betterment of individuals, businesses, and countries alike. Sound like something out of a science fiction movie? That’s precisely what we’re looking at.
We’re grateful to be involved with VERSES Technology which is certainly not alone in this rapidly growing sector but is a crucial driver, player, and partner in developing the very standards that will make the Spatial Web a reality. In fact, VERSES’ founders invented the Spatial Web protocols which were put into a public foundation (The Spatial Web Foundation). More on that later.
What exactly is the Spatial Web?
The enormity of this topic is too great to cover in this article, but I’ll give you a snapshot taken from the words of Gabriel René himself. The Spatial Web, or Web 3.0, draws from trends we’re already seeing. Think about how our lives have been transformed by the emergence of smart cities and factories, autonomous cars, smart appliances, automated shopping, and digitized personal medicine. All around us, technology is blending with the physical world to change how we live, work, and play. As René says, we’re digitizing the physical and physicalizing the digital, with boundaries between the two quickly evaporating.
The Spatial Web incorporates technologies that enable future smart cities and virtual worlds known as the Metaverse. It’s a hyper-connected, contextually-aware network of humans, machines, and AI. This network integrates powerful technologies such as IoT, machine learning, extended reality, autonomous vehicles, drones and robots, distributed ledgers, and edge computing into a unified cyber-physical network.
And there’s abundant evidence that we’re already headed in this direction. René draws our attention to a significant trend evident across the many “Top Technologies” lists compiled by leading research firms worldwide. Namely, that the investments and acquisitions made by the largest tech companies over the last decade have been in artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, IoT, smart cars, drones, robotics, and biometric wearables in addition to blockchain, cryptocurrency, 5G Networks, 3D printing, and the list goes on. These technologies are often referred to as “exponential,” which is true to Moore’s Law in the sense that about every 18 months, their capabilities and performance powers double.
The Spatial Web will take these advancements a step further by granting the ability to connect and computerize everything into a new network of people, places, things, and rules. It represents a “convergence” of all computing technologies and networks to fully integrate physical, digital, and biological domains. While it may sound scary and intimidating, this convergence can be leveraged to build a brighter future by supporting a prosperous economy, achieving ESG goals, and creating a healthier civilization.
Web 3.0 promises a smarter world that will be facilitated using the language of geometry. The Spatial Web uses a digitally-mediated universal language in which all information becomes spatial. For example, it will enable information on the web to be placed spatially and contextually on objects and at locations where it can be interacted with naturally and intuitively. This will accelerate and augment every facet of our existence, including our education, creativity, health, businesses, legal system, politics, and ecologies.
According to a Deloitte Insights report, business leaders should begin bracing for the shift to Web 3.0. Protocols related to the Spatial Web can create unique and compelling experiences, enable greater efficiency, and address regulatory pressures. Some businesses may be able to commodify virtual goods, extend their brands, or offer enterprise services through Metaverse experiences. Companies could also leverage cryptocurrency and smart contracts to manage finances, essentially automating capital and making their money programmable. However, the Deloitte report cautions business leaders to take it slow. Shifting to Web 3.0 will require building out networks and storage capacity while adding the talent necessary to execute next-generation capabilities while staying on top of emerging regulations.
According to a Deloitte Insights report, business leaders should begin bracing for the shift to Web 3.0. Protocols related to the Spatial Web can create unique and compelling experiences, enable greater efficiency, and address regulatory pressures.
The AR Cloud is a key component of the Spatial Web, and some experts view these terms interchangeably. According to the Open AR Cloud association (OARC), the simplest definition of the AR Cloud is a 3D digital copy of the world. The idea behind a digital twin is making a virtual copy of something that exists in the physical world and being able to see it in augmented or virtual reality. Imagine walking through house plans or a new city block development or contemplating newly designed and fabricated objects like tools or circuit boards. You can replicate these entities exactly.
The digital twin idea is essential because it’s like an avatar, for those of you who are knowledgeable about video games. A digital twin will eventually be a replication of your most important information: your passwords, health records, dental records, bank account, wallet, portfolio, and legal documents, all replicated digitally. Let’s stop here, though. We can come back to this in the future. I would rather people get the basics down before we go too far into the future of what might be! It can be overwhelming.
The idea behind a digital twin is making a virtual copy of something that exists in the physical world and being able to see it in augmented or virtual reality.
Developing the standards required to turn fiction into reality
While the Spatial Web may sound like a pipedream versus reality, one of several indications that Web 3.0 is within our grasp is the fact that The Spatial Web Foundation, of which Gabriel René is the Executive Director, has joined forces with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. They’re behind existing protocols and standards for the Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth devices we enjoy today. They’ve declared the Spatial Web protocols and standardization as a “Public Imperative,” their highest and rarest classification.
These two organizations are joined by members of academia, government, and business leaders across a wide variety of sectors to collectively form the Spatial Web Working Group. The Group’s mission is to further develop specifications to meet rigorous requirements related to becoming globally adopted IEEE standards. There is a specific emphasis on the incorporation of foundational ethics and values as informed by IEEE’s Ethically-Aligned Design P7000 Series of standards. These standards guide the support of human rights, well-being, accountability, and transparency for AI and Autonomous Intelligent Systems, which the Spatial Web standards intend to incorporate and advance.
After years of research and development, the Spatial Web Foundation presented its overview of initial draft specifications in July of last year. The Foundation is initially focused on contributing its specifications for Hyperspatial Domains, Hyperspatial Transaction Protocol (HSTP), and Hyperspatial Modeling Language (HSML) capable of enabling and governing context-aware collaborative computing across connected hardware (autonomous vehicles, sensors, smart devices, robots), and software (services, platforms, applications, artificial intelligence systems). The specifications also include mechanisms for quantifying and credentialing context-specific levels of trust, interoperability, privacy, and security required for both virtual and digitally-mediated physical activities.
Further proof that this is more than just a pipedream
To look forward, let’s first look back at a company that was an early adopter with a similar story. You may have heard of this company; it’s called Amazon. Now, I know some people will think this sounds promotional, and I don’t mean it that way – there are no guarantees with anything, but the Spatial Web has this scale of opportunity. Amazon started selling books online – people could simply buy a book with one click. Humble beginnings, but the true concept of the company was not selling books or every other product they soon started to sell. Much of that business was a loss – they were able to run the core (retail side) of the business at a loss because that’s not where the company’s true potential resided.
Since its inception, Amazon has grown every year and clocked a massive $469 billion last year. Most of their sales come from the retail and e-commerce side of the business, but on the bottom line, 74% of Amazon’s operating profit comes from Amazon Web Services (AWS). The cloud business has been, and potentially always will be, a more lucrative and consistent profit center compared to e-commerce and the physical distribution of goods. In an industry worth an excess of $180 billion, Amazon’s 33% market share position exceeds both Google and Microsoft Azure combined.
On a similar note, supply chain disruptions have become a mainstream media story since the pandemic lockdowns. Everyone has become acutely aware of logistics and the transportation and flow of materials, metals, and products. In all this, warehouses are critical to developing products and getting them to end users in a reasonable amount of time. Imagine an Amazon warehouse that is state-of-the-art, robotic, and futuristic. This is one futuristic vision that companies like VERSES are making a near-term reality.
We should also consider that we already have many products integrating into the Spatial Web, many of which we take for granted, like Google Maps. Using real-time data, these maps show us the best route to take, the traffic delays to expect, and the time it will take us to get to our destination, whether by car, on foot, or by public transport. We need not look any further than this example to understand where a company like VERSES comes in.
Where does VERSES fit in
VERSES is a Los Angeles-based, next-generation AI company led by a stellar management team, including Founder Gabriel René, the Executive Director of the Spatial Web Foundation. VERSES has developed several ground-breaking AI operating systems and apps, including the AI-assisted Wayfinder app that is literally revolutionizing the logistics and fulfillment space and has led to a 30%+ boost in productivity among its end users. The former Vice Chair of Deloitte, Jay Samit, just joined on as their Independent Chair, further adding to their governance, reach and credibility.
Wayfinder is powered by advanced AI, visual navigation, and multi-lingual audio cues to unlock hidden patterns and opportunities to improve workflows. Converting text-based instructions into spatial holographic instructions enables spatial order picking, like a 3D GPS.
VERSES’ AI-assisted Wayfinder app is revolutionizing the logistics and fulfillment space and has led to a 30%+ boost in productivity among its end users.
The company also developed COSM, an AI operating system that powers context-aware applications which bridge the gap between digital and physical systems. COSM generates a unified intelligent network of contextualized data, policies, simulation models, and workflow automation that can be shared within and between organizations. It interacts directly on your behalf in the physical world, analyzing and anticipating any dimension of data that can be measured and tracked.
VERSES is constantly innovating, and this is being noticed. The company booked US$9 million in one year with a renewal option of US$17.5 million. It has a go-to-market strategy involving system integrators and OEM partners, not to mention a pipeline of Fortune 500 companies. It’s also listed on the fintech NEO Exchange as VERS and on the OTCQX as VRSSF.
On Monday, November 28th, VERSES announced that it had signed a reseller agreement with Blue Yonder for Wayfinder. Blue Yonder is the largest Warehouse Management System in the world and will be reselling Wayfinder into its 3,500-strong client base in 78 countries. The potential revenue to VERSES from this is staggering, to say the least.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Gabriel René to discuss the latest VERSES activity including what’s happening with the next generation of contextual computing, Spatial Web and Web 3.0, the company’s public listing, and how VERSES is scaling up to meet their current demand. Check out the video to hear what René had to say.
The Bigger Picture – Artificial Intelligence
While everything we discussed above presents both a fascinating and compelling investment case, there is a larger prize afoot with VERSES – that of true artificial intelligence.
The AI market is poised to become the largest technology sector in history, growing from its current market of US$120B in 2022 to US$1.6T by 2030 – four times as fast and twice as large as the mobility, or Web 2.0 market.