Exploring the industrial metaverse
Virtually everyone seems to be talking about the “metaverse” these days. Although industry regulators have yet to agree on a single definition of what metaverse environments will offer, most experts believe these landscapes will be incredible tools for human connectivity.
Since metaverse technologies began emerging into the spotlight, much of the focus from many media outlets have been on the “consumer experience”. There are countless reports and articles discussing how the metaverse will help to bridge gaps between communities and power a new age of entertainment. However, enterprise versions of the metaverse could be even more impactful.
In particular, the “industrial metaverse” has begun to gain more attention in recent years as companies and innovators look for new ways to accelerate innovation, streamline production, and bring teams together in connected, virtual spaces.
Let’s take a closer look at the truth about the industrial metaverse.
What is the Industrial Metaverse?
To understand the industrial metaverse, we first need to understand that the “metaverse” isn’t intended to be one global space but several digital environments built for different purposes. While consumer metaverses may be designed for entertainment and community growth, industrial metaverses are built to enable and empower organisations in the industrial space.
An industrial metaverse is a digitally connected environment designed to bring an entire ecosystem of suppliers, partners, and experts together in one intelligent space. Companies have already begun working on their own versions of this landscape, leveraging XR technology, RT3D content creation tools and cloud streaming to drive business outcomes.
While the exact nature of an industrial metaverse may differ for each company, the core focus will be on boosting productivity, driving innovation, and enhancing collaboration. According to the IIoT World event, the industrial metaverse will revolve around six core technologies:
- IoT: The Internet of Things and connected devices, such as beacons, can provide digital twins with real-time insights and data.
- 5G: Ultra-fast connectivity, allowing for rapid streaming and transmission of data between devices, people, and headsets.
- AI: Intelligent systems capable of automating workflows, deriving insights from digital tools, and supporting employees with virtual assistants.
- Digital twins: Virtual models of physical objects which can be studied and experimented with to accelerate production processes and drive insights.
- Cryptocurrency: Virtual coins and tokens used to provide access to assets in the metaverse and streamline the sharing of data.
- Blockchain technology: The decentralised environment on which future metaverse ecosystems will be built.
The Use Cases for the Industrial Metaverse
Metaverse platforms provide users with the power to connect Web 3.0 assets, disruptive technology, and XR experiences in one unified hub. The industrial metaverse could be an environment where companies can discover insights and improve decision-making with data collected from IoT devices, implemented into digital twin settings, and assessed by artificial intelligence.
Metaverse landscapes could also give organisations new ways to connect distributed workers in a shared, safe, virtual space, where they can access endless tools and resources without waste. There are already various established use cases throughout the industrial world. For instance, Hyundai and Unity partnered to design a new metaverse roadmap and platform for a virtual testing factory.
Varjo recently completed a Series D funding round which provided it with $40 million to help establish an industrial metaverse service for all companies to access. BMW has virtually duplicated its Regensburg manufacturing facility to enhance production times and improve productivity, allowing global teams to collaborate with digital twins in real time.
Even NASA is working with industrial metaverse environments to experiment with transporting flight surgeons into an international space station setting using Hololens hologram technology. When merged with haptics, NASA plans on using this technology to enable engineers to collaborate directly with astronauts in space stations.
Just some of the potential opportunities offered by the industrial metaverse include:
- Improving operations with digital twins: Digital twins empowered by real-time data from IoT devices can provide users with valuable insights into the operation, design, and functionality of machines and processes. Companies can use these tools to create more efficient workflows, minimise risks, and speed product development.
- Enhancing collaboration: Virtual environments built in the metaverse allow users to connect with specialists wherever they are. For instance, BMW’s virtual Regensburg factor allows users to collaborate in real-time when dealing with complex problems without the need for travel.
- Tackling labour issues: Some experts predict the metaverse in the industrial landscape will lead to numerous productivity gains and increased access to talent. Industrial XR solutions will minimise risk, and allow employees to accomplish more from wherever they are. They can also provide useful training environments for new specialists.
- Improving productivity: Smart glasses and holograms produced and managed in the metaverse can be blended into the real world to provide in-house team members with additional guidance and support. Frontline workers can already use tools related to the metaverse to access real-time information from backend systems.
- Enabling innovation: The industrial metaverse can also be a secure setting for experimenting with new innovations and opportunities. It can be a testing ground for new automation and AI-driven solutions. For instance, companies can use metaverse environments to test how new materials will work in production or how certain workflows will help to improve productivity and employee safety.
Industrial Metaverses are Already A Reality
While many companies and business leaders still view the metaverse as a futuristic concept, examples of this landscape are already emerging in the industrial space.
Technically advanced brands are using XR solutions and intelligent design systems to build connected, innovative environments in a virtual setting. These organisations leverage the metaverse to improve training experiences and deliver more value to end-users. Frontline workers in factories are already connecting with various components of the metaverse, from XR to IoT, to help boost productivity and minimise downtime.
As the digital landscape evolves, industrial companies will continue to construct and build their own metaverses based on a combination of tools intended to streamline innovation and bring workers together like never before.