The industrial metaverse: Introduction

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is surely one of the most popular words of 2021, often associated with the concepts of NFT and crypto-currencies. The term “metaverse” originated in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, as a fusion of “meta” and “universe”. The development of metaverse is often linked to advances in augmented reality or virtual reality technology, due to the growing demand for immersion. The recent interest in the development of metaverse is influenced by Web3, a concept of decentralised iteration of the internet where there are no oligopolies of tech giants like Google for example.

Before talking about the industrial metaverse, we need to differentiate it from the other types of metaverse that exist. Today, although the word “metaverse” is used in every sense of the word, we can distinguish 3 types of metaverse.

The consumer metaverse:

The consumer metaverse is the one with which the media and most people are most familiar, it is a virtual world that aims to create new and more immersive social experiences or better entertainment through an enriched gaming experience, in both cases the aim of the metaverse is to bring a more immersive experience to the user especially with the use of virtual reality headsets.

A hub in the game “VR Chat” with avatars of players in a 3D environment

The commercial metaverse:

The commercial metaverse is very similar to the consumer metaverse as it takes on many of its characteristics, it consists of bringing together all these immersive experiences found in the consumer metaverse and adapting them to the world of work. The commercial metaverse aims to create a new generation of collaborative work by allowing people to work in the same immersive virtual environment via technologies such as mixed reality

A mixed reality visualisation of a building that users can interact with

The industrial metaverse:

The industrial metaverse is a new ecosystem that consists of bridging the real and virtual world in which new information and communication technologies represented by the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and digital twins are deeply integrated into the real economy. The basic idea behind the industrial metaverse is about digital twins. A digital twin is simply a digital representation of a process, a product or service. You can have a digital twin of a building, a transportation system etc… What you need to understand is that compared to a simple 3D model, the digital twin is made to use real world data. The aim is to extract data and enrich it using machine learning or artificial intelligence to then build digital twins that will allow processes to be optimised by making them more effective and efficient, but also to prevent problems before they occur, avoid downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by allowing simulations.

For example, if you create a digital twin of the transportation system of London you want to have real world data about the passengers moves, the energy consumption of the metro / bus, location of each bus / metro, weather or traffic jam forecasts in order to bring the digital twin to life.

Once the digital twin is functional and using real world data, you can start doing simulation in the industrial metaverse without having to do anything in the real world, you could for example add a bus station and use AI with the data you have to predict changes in passenger flows to this newly added station. The goal is to make the virtual model “alive” by feeding it with real world data so the virtual world is as detailed as possible

In a factory, you could produce a digital twin of the factory, then add data about how the factory works, how efficient is the production chain, where the robots are located in real time etc… and then change the layout of the factory to see in which configuration you have the best productivity. Then you could make change to the real life factory knowing exactly what you are doing and how it will impact global performances, all of this while having spent nothing in the real world

A digital twin of a production chain in a car factory

Thus, the goal is also about having the best data that you can obtain because the precision of the data you inject into the metaverse will determine how precise your digital twins will be compared to the real world.

It is a new manufacturing and service system for the entire value chain. Technology companies have long been limited by various bottlenecks. Some of these bottlenecks include technology that could not be delivered, but other bottlenecks have been caused by the inability to train humans quickly enough to make full use of the technologies.

Nowaday, a lot of companies are starting to use the metaverse because those who won’t use it will be less competitive, it will usher in a new era of creative freedom for companies to play with ideas and test technologies without having to deal with the costs or bottlenecks associated with real world implementation. The winners will not only be those who can dream the biggest, but those who can implement in the real world what they have learned in the Industrial Metaverse.