Jeff Burke, professor in residence and associate dean of research and technology at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, and Lixia Zhang, the Jonathan B. Postel professor of Computer Systems at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, have been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Omidyar Network.

The grant, presented earlier this month at South by Southwest, is part of the inaugural Future of Data Challenge, which awards $1.1 million to transformative solutions that can help build a more equitable future for data sharing. Omidyar Network, which invests in ventures working toward more inclusive and equitable societies, focuses on three areas: responsible technology, reimagining capitalism and building cultures of belonging.

Named Data Microverse, a project led by Burke, Zhang and Dirk Kutscher, a professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, explores how a new technology, Named Data Networking, can enable a free, open and decentralized approach to “the metaverse.” They envision metaverses — extended-reality spaces where users can interact with others — built off content from small independent microverses, such as individuals, rather than large entities with the potential to monopolize content and maneuverability. The development of Named Data Networking started in 2010 with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Future Internet Architecture program.

Burke is a co-founder of TFT’s Center for Research in Engineering, Media and Performance, a collaboration with UCLA Engineering. Zhang, a member of the Internet Hall of Fame, is a fellow for the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.