November 20, 2023
The excitement (and hype) has been huge ever since Mark Zuckerberg went all-in on the Metaverse. Mostly used for recreation and entertainment via VR headsets and controllers, Meta wants to revolutionize work more than anything else. With that goal in mind, where are we now?
Meta describes the Metaverse as a way to: expand your work experience “Unleash the full potential of Meta’s work solutions by discovering new apps and experiences that bring VR to life, or connecting to the 2D tools you already love.”
At the recent RISC-V Summit, Meta’s Senior Director of Engineering, Prahlad Venkatapuram, spoke in his keynote about the use of RISC-V processors in Meta’s data center SoCs. ) and this public noise about major embedded architecture investments has sparked a lot of debate about whether the metaverse has a place in industry.
Conceptually, virtual reality spaces like the Metaverse have industrial use cases. Applications such as digital twins and virtualized workspaces for remote operation and monitoring immediately come to mind. Going deeper, you can think of the metaverse as an opportunity to solve complex problems by taking a system-of-systems approach. The goals of all systems within the metaverse can be tied to increasing overall efficiency and affordability, and reducing waste from a global perspective. As I’ve written in this series, positive or negative changes within a single system are balanced against their effects on the system as a whole.
However, these are all theoretical and have not been fully implemented in any industrial environment. We asked Vishal Shah, senior director of product line management and strategy at Synaptics, for his thoughts on the company’s VR efforts. He said that when Metaverse was first announced, the tools and applications were not ready for commercial use. , but that’s about to change.
According to Shah, VR has three stages. The first is VR, which we are now familiar with, headsets and a fully digital environment. The second is what he called “mixed reality,” which is often thought of as augmented reality and involves layering digital or virtual elements on top of the physical environment. The third would be a full metaverse implementation, what Shah calls “augmented reality,” a fully interactive, integrated physical/digital world in the form of a heads-up display.
As we approach that highest level, more applications will become viable and available. The most obvious, and perhaps one of the fastest to mature, is a fully realized digital twin. “Digital twins are still in their infancy,” Shah said, and while that’s true, they are also being used to train medical, military and emergency services in some cases. As digital technologies develop, we are likely to see more use of digital twins in warehousing, inventory management, and other supply chain logistics.
At this point, the state of the metaverse is mostly the most sophisticated digital assets of the physical world. However, development is ongoing and could grow rapidly. Although we are not there yet, these virtual tools will eventually gain the fidelity and reliability to control physical infrastructure, operations, and work. This early stage can be seen in UAVs, robotics, and control room technology.
So the Metaverse is sizzling and there’s no steak? So far, I think it’s a delicious appetizer. It takes a while for the main dish to be served, but there’s no chance it will arrive sooner than expected.