Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Extended reality, and Digital Twins are proving invaluable for testing and simulating new parameters and design variants in various industries. Yet despite their influence to facilitate the creation of better products and the golden opportunity experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a perception that these technologies are lacking in maturity. Is this true? And most importantly, what does the industry need to jump in?
In a world where social media mediates so much of our reality perception, things are not exactly what they look. The press says Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) remain stubbornly stuck in the stage of early adoption, basically because of bulky and costly devices that are obviously less attractive than smartphones.
And yet the industry is increasingly using simulations to better understand processes and improve them, whether they be learning how to serve a customer at a supermarket checkout, how to act in an emergency situation, how to perform an intervention in an OR, how to better pilot an airplane, or what tire to use in a F1 circuit.
You can fuss about whether the technology used is AR, VR or Digital Twins. And of course, there are differences between them. Augmented Reality superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, and Virtual Reality provides an immersive simulated environment, while Digital Twin technology creates a virtual replica of a physical object, system, or process. But they all have in common that they enable to overcome real-world limitations.
“Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are technologies that follow their own process of evolution. In recent years, their development has accelerated, and now AI will allow to generate content, assets, and even experiences in a more effective, faster, cheaper, and better optimized way”, states Cai Felip, CEO of Linking Realities – Union Avatars, a Barcelona-based company offering an engine to developers to create 3D avatars.
Be as it may with AI—and the distinction of what is real—meanwhile, immersive experiences are making their way into diverse industries beyond gaming and entertainment or even healthcare, education, real estate, or recruitment—to cite the most obvious use cases—as it’s becoming more and more necessary to merge physical assets into IT applications to get critical insights to be more competitive.
Cost-efficiency and risk mitigation
For many players, the key is avoiding errors, reducing costs, and being more efficient. And, in this sense, the name of the technology to get there is secondary, although the investment is not. And, in this regard, it’s useful to know that DT has a more analytical and predictive approach, while VR has a more visual and immersive approach.
Therefore, a hotel may need VR and AR to display various decorations in its rooms, and a hospital or healthcare center may use VR to treat patients with post-traumatic stress.
“Mixed reality (rather than virtual reality) will improve the productivity of less experienced personnel because it will allow them to know how to perform tasks in which they have very little experience or knowledge, something which is really relevant in industrial companies with high levels of rotation”, says David Boronat, Founder and Chief Future Officer of Multiplica, a well-known Barcelona-based digital consultancy company.”
Yet a logistics company may prefer Digital Twins (DT) to predict the performance of packaging materials, enhance shipment protection, or optimize warehouse design. Construction firms can also use DT to better understand how a building is performing in real time. Automotive companies may choose DT to create a virtual model of a connected vehicle and discover the problems that might occur once the vehicle hits the roads.
While other simulation software may only focus on specific aspects or domains, DT solutions offer a comprehensive view of the asset, system, or process they are modeling.
“This will surely enable companies to simulate, analyze and optimize their processes, products, and services”, insists Boronat.
At IOTSWC23, Michael Grieves, Executive Director of the Digital Twin Institute, sifted through the different types of existing Digital Twins and the critical role of IoT for getting data from the physical world and moving it to the virtual world. Admittedly, he acknowledged that “we still are in the conceptual era and have a lot to do in terms of operability” but he was confident that in the future we will have “Front Running Simulations”, which “will give us projections of the future” to be able to predict problems and better look for solutions.
Be they projections of the future or rough replicas of the present, the time to take action is now. According to a Markets and Markets study, the global market for Digital Twins is expected to grow from $10.1 billion in 2023 to $110.1 billion in 2028. As for AR and VR, the revenue forecast for 2028 is anticipated to reach over $77.5 billion.
IOTSWC24 will get deeper into these immersive technologies to give attendees better insights on how to run their businesses.
By: Anna Solana