10 Millions 3D Models and a Cubic World

January 18, 2024

I’ll begin with a paraphrase of a Ben Thompson article, DALL-E, the Metaverse, and Zero Marginal Content.

In the past two decades, social networking has created some of the most successful companies. They succeeded because they effectively served user-generated content (UGC). Facebook and Instagram, for example, use an algorithmic timeline to surface the best content from your network. TikTok, however, serves content from across the entire network.

The reason UGCs are so lucrative is two-fold: 1) they can be tailored to the interests of individual users, and 2) they are essentially free for the companies, with the real challenge being delivering the right content to the right audience.

Media products like games, however, are the opposite. They are expensive to make, so 1) AAA games need to target a broad audience, and 2) players come to the game if it matches their interests.

This is also why most social networking companies are like rocket-ships – they serve everyone if they are a success. And game companies are like tractors – every penny matters. (Ben Evans)

With generative AI, we have an opportunity to deliver on the promises of virtual reality (or the metaverse, if you must) that gaming couldn’t deliver. We can drive the costs of 3D models down to zero with generative AI.

I will define an arbitrary goal here: 10 million 3D models are what stand between us and the virtual/augmented reality we've long been tantalized by.

In the meanwhile, I think we have a cost-effective way to get there. We can leverage existing technologies that automate 3D creation (e.g., Photogrammetry) and acquire models that are already made. It would still be a monumental task, but the results will be well worth it —

A foundational model that generates a sprawling, immersive digital world for each individual user.

Cubic World

Many people harbor reservations about a world rooted in virtual reality, conjuring images akin to those described in Ray Bradbury’s dystopian works, Fahrenheit 451 and The Veldt. These concerns are amplified by our world's increasing digitalization, fueling apprehensions about losing touch with the tangible, human elements of existence.

Yet, this perspective only captures one side of the story. A closer look reveals a world where people, now more than ever, value physicality and authentic experiences. This is evident in the resurgence of vinyl record sales and printed books, and in the renewed success of physical storefronts. These trends suggest a deep-rooted human desire to connect with the physical world, highlighting an intrinsic appreciation for tangible experiences.

This dichotomy indicates our world is splitting into two realms: the real world, our blue sphere, a place of breath, birth, and life's tangible joys; and what I call the cubic world, a realm of immersion, tailored to individual preferences and under personal control.

The cubic world, rather than being a dystopian escape, should be envisioned as a complementary space. It offers a canvas for creativity, exploration, and personalized experiences, expanding our reality rather than replacing it. In this cubic world, the boundaries of physics and geography dissolve, enabling us to transcend the limitations of our physical existence.