Big tech companies around the world frequently talk about the concept of a metaverse – a virtual environment where people can find new ways to meet and interact online.
Building such a digital world, however, is easier said than done. Croquet Corp., a downtown Los Angeles-based startup, is building a new kind of operating system that the company says will provide essential capabilities for developers creating and connecting the digital spaces of the future.
“I consider this to be an augmented conversation,” said David A. Smith, the company’s chief technology officer. “You and I can be engaged in this world and explore it, expand it, and really redefine the nature of how we communicate.”
The browser-based operating system runs on what the company calls a “slightly identical shared virtual machine” that lets web users log into a shared virtual environment. Croquet is also working on a developer toolkit for “microverses,” or individual apps that can be integrated into a larger metaverse.
One of the earliest customers is Hitachi, and Smith said the Japanese conglomerate envisions the operating system as a way to build software tools for industrial management.
“You can imagine a factory floor,” Smith said. “What we want to do is project information (from the factory) into the virtual world so that if you’re somewhere you can actually see the current state of the ground and you can engage with it and change it. .”
Smith, a veteran computer scientist and influential video game designer, said Croquet’s operating system is based on a concept he began developing years ago in collaboration with pioneering computer scientist Alan Kay.
“Our goal from the beginning was to provide a true next-generation communications and collaboration platform,” Smith said.
The company was officially established in 2018 and announced the launch of its new operating system on May 17. The system is based on open standards and is designed to support a wide range of functions on a multitude of platforms, from computers to mobile devices to 3D headsets. .
Chief executive John Payne said the company has been operating in stealth mode until recently, but recent buzz around the metaverse concept – accelerated by the recent renaming of Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. – had encouraged Croquet to publicize its technology.
Payne said the company’s revenue will eventually come from small charges for users of Croquet’s technology infrastructure, which includes a network of small servers the company calls “reflectors.”
Croquet is still perfecting its operating system and developer tools, but Smith said the technological capabilities of what the company develops could have a transformative effect on everything from live events to games.