For any great technological innovation and opportunity, there will always be a race to be the first. The first-mover advantage is very real, and being the leader in your domain often gives you the luxury of setting the pace and determining where the roadmap will lead. In case of competing solutions, there are usually two options:
- One solution comes out victorous and will dominate the market, as was the case for example for VHS versus Betamax
- Multiple solutions remain in existence, fragmenting the landscape:
- Android versus iOS
- Xbox vs Playstation vs Switch vs PC
As with the VHS versus Betamax story, it is not always the technically superior solution that comes out on top. First mover advantage, cost, ease of use, etc. are all factors determining the make-or-break of a solution. This raises the question: what will the metaverse look like? Will nations and corporations come together to set industry standards, e.g. USB-C becoming the standard in EU?
Or will we see a fragmented landscape of multiple metaverse bubbles, interlinked through integrations and connectors? And can we even talk about a metaverse in the latter case? Regardless of the answer, compatibility will become an important quality attribute for all metaverse solutions and technologies.
As I mentioned last time in my Usability blog, it is likely that we will access the metaverse through a variety of devices: smartphones, tablets, computers, game consoles, AR/VR goggles, mouse & keyboard, controllers, etc. From a compatibility point of view, this poses the necessary challenges. Somebody entering a virtual meeting using a mobile phone will need to be seemlessly connected to someone dialing in from a VR setup. They also need to be able to interact in similar way, despite utilizing other input devices. This could mean that test laboratories or setups will look a lot different in the future, and there are much bigger variations in potential cross-device user journeys.
To ensure a smooth and fluid user experience, it is vital all these devices and peripherals are compatible. Large companies are already breaking down their walls because they are aware of this necessity. For example, Apple’s iOS 16 now natively supports integration with Nintendo’s Switch controllers (1).
Breaking the boundaries between the physical and digital world, there are devices and wearables out there that could seamlessly work in both ‘realities’. For example, there are bracelets and rings that allow for contactless payment in the real world, but could just as easily work in the metaverse as well. Possibilities like this al have a great impact on how we construct a test approach and guarantee qualitative user journeys.
Apart from the device and peripheral compatibility, there is also the dimension of technological compatibility. While we can dream about one single, uniform metaverse, todays building blocks all exist in a very fragmented landscape because of a few reasons.
On the one hand, today we already have a legacy landscape of different technical components: there are multiple programming languages, there are various rendering engines, etc. What will a user journey look like when moving from an Unreal Engine generated space to a Unity generated space?
On the other hand, we have new technologies and solutions emerging at a fast pace, because everyone wants to lock in their piece of the metaverse pie. For example, where there used to be only Bitcoin, there is now a new crypto currency popping up almost daily. Not only are there multiple crypto currencies going mainstream, there are also various crypto wallet solutions available. When designing and crafting a digital solution, our QA approach will also need to make sure these 3rd party solutions integrate seamlessly.
As the platform/technology matrix is becoming increasingly complex, so are our QA challenges. We will need to be very aware and very deliberate when crafting the optimal test approach. Compatibility will need to become self-evident and a seamless user experience will become the golden standard.