Co-Founder and Chief Solution Architect of affine. Specializes in designing and developing advanced analytics, AI, ML and cloud solutions.
I envision a future where people, organizations and resources are connected in one confluence. The time-honored concept of the metaverse has recently seen varied activity and popularization due to advances in extended reality (XR) technologies. Combine this with the widely accepted problem-solving power of AI and a world of immeasurable possibilities opens up to us.
With nearly two decades in the decision science industry, especially leading the way in designing AI and advanced analytics solutions, I’ve seen new use cases emerging from the unique needs of each industry. Today, the powerful combination of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR) and metaverse is well equipped to drive the next stage of innovation in industries such as manufacturing, retail, healthcare and smart cities.
The origin of the term ‘metaverse’ can be traced to a 1992 novel by Neal Stephenson, where he described the metaverse as a virtual reality environment with lifelike elements such as 3D buildings. This has manifested itself in reality through various technologies – AR, VR, MR – that come under the umbrella of X-reality or XR.
Growth of AI
I think the current level of AI adoption and massive investments to improve AI’s capacity and agility are testament to AI’s limitless ability to transform businesses. By combining AI and the metaverse, I’ve found that we can classify most business use cases into the following key applications.
1. Data magnification.
2. Simulation in the metaverse before real world execution.
There are endless use cases that show the transformational potential of the metaverse AI confluence in various industries. Let’s look at some possible use cases in the manufacturing industry to understand these applications on a practical basis.
The production metaverse
Manufacturing is a complex and measured process with huge risks and costs associated with any change. This leads to many facets that can greatly benefit from the confluence of metaverse AI.
Production planning: The whole process can be made logistically easier by building a detailed digital twin of the factory. Simulations that were once too difficult to run in real factory settings because of the time and risk involved could now be run seamlessly in a digital twin factory. The outcome of these simulations could then be communicated and reproduced accordingly in the actual factory.
Guidance floor worker: Employee loss is a serious reality, which entails a loss of knowledge and experience. Training and onboarding new staff is a continuous and time-consuming process. A speech and computer vision-based multimodal AI engine can understand the worker’s demand (speech) and see the equipment (computer vision) to generate an AR response to guide the worker to operate a machine, perform process or repair equipment if necessary.
Training robots for production and logistics: Production line robots or warehouse robots used for transportation have helped to save time and money. Using reinforcement learning is a powerful but iterative process that, like product planning, is difficult to perform in a physical factory.
These are just a few examples of how combining AI and the metaverse can solve real-world problems in the production space. Many more aspects of manufacturing can be improved with this duo.
For manufacturing companies interested in leveraging the best that the combination of the metaverse and AI has to offer, I suggest these three best practices.
1. Find the right skills.
The metaverse is an emerging concept. While much has been written about the metaverse, not many people in the industry have the fundamental knowledge of the metaverse to be able to use it in a real world. I recommend that manufacturing companies looking to enter the metaverse find the right partners and employees who understand concepts like decentralization and their importance in the context of your business. (Disclosure: My company helps with this.) It’s also important to have a deep understanding of AI to combine the two universes. Your employees must have a fundamental understanding to follow developments in the metaverse in the coming years.
2. Develop a strategy rooted in your unique use cases.
The metaverse is a brand new ball game! It is therefore important that you see metaverse and AI in the context of what your company wants to get out of this combination. Identify the gaps this technology can close and the long-term opportunities for metaverse and AI in your production setup. Develop a specific plan for each use case, as well as for security and identity.
3. Start small.
The metaverse is still in the evolutionary stage. So, before you go all in, select the key opportunities within the metaverse that can help your business. Start with low-risk use cases, such as those described in this article. Once these use cases are successful, you can diversify and expand your budget for brand new, riskier use cases.
Ultimately, AI and the metaverse could power applications that transform the way we approach problems in real industries.