Although news coverage of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg may lead you to believe that the social network is the origin of the concept of a metaverse, many attribute it to the futuristic 1992 novel Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.
Put simply, a metaverse is a communication and collaboration tool that adds to our options of face-to-face meetings, email, video calls on Microsoft Teams and virtual reality headsets such as HoloLens.
But there is more. Microsoft has added its Mesh cloud application to Teams, which supports multiple devices to enhance 2D virtual meetings. This mixed reality environment aims to provide a more engaging experience where any media, including 3D assets, can be shared in a mix of virtual and face-to-face collaboration, transcending time and geography.
At CraneMorley, we use digital twins to deliver more efficient and effective training. For example, our client at a famous luxury automotive brand used to orient new technicians to the component locations in its product by having them physically disassemble a car in the training centre. This required travel and absence from the dealership for a week for each model type. By creating a digital twin of the vehicle, the time for this learning experience was reduced to less than a day as the learner applied virtual x-ray vision using the digital twin, in this case, overlaid on the real vehicle. The experience achieves the same objective of learning component location without the time-consuming physical requirement of wrenching the vehicle.
In the future, digital twins will be used in a more comprehensive way. Imagine a model of anything physical or logical that could be synchronised with the physical world using sensors and internet of things connections. Once in place, artificial intelligence can be used for analytics that provide insight for process improvement in simulation and tracking the results in real time.
For example, Anheuser-Busch has created a brewery of the future. Its AB InBev system, using technology built in the Microsoft Azure cloud, supports the packaging line operations to ensure they are carried out correctly. The system detects and automatically compensates to prevent bottlenecks.
The concept of a digital twin may be the foundation for an enterprise metaverse. Embedded in all the hype about the coming of this technology is a new, well financed flow of innovation that may include the right tool for businesses’ most important tasks.
Thomas Pratt is president at CraneMorley
This article was originally published in the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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