From PLM to Industrial Metaverse?

From PLM to Industrial Metaverse?

In a previous blog post, I shared my thoughts about Metaverse and PLM user experience. Check this out here. PLM systems and environments are usually coming in the context of streamlining operations and improving communication among teams. But what if there was a way to take things one step further? What if we could create a virtual world in which all stakeholders could collaborate on design projects in real-time? Enter the PLM metaverse. Using a PLM metaverse, manufacturers and engineers could communicate and collaborate more easily than ever before. They could share designs, test products, and troubleshoot issues in a secure online environment.

IIoT World article by John Burton The Industrial Metaverse is Coming. Are you ready? brings an interesting perspective on what can happen in the future in the industrial space and how companies will be working together. The article highlights that rich collaborative metaverse environments are coming. Here is an interesting passage:

Richly immersive 3D environments that can be viewed on any device — a smartphone, iPad or a wearable headset — are going to make inroads into the industrial metaverse space, allowing for more meaningful collaboration and user-friendly experiences. Think sales and marketing, on-site training conducted from a distance, and remote maintenance to name a few. Some of these applications will use virtual reality, but more are likely to use ‘mixed reality’ where data is overlaid in the real world allowing the operator to make use of the real time data in an industrial setting.

Gaming technology allows for additional visualizations to be created and overlaid in the real world to further enhance the operators dataset. Connectivity problems are being tackled by technologies such as 5G and high speed satellite links which deliver the needed bandwidth in industrial or remote applications. 2022 will see all of these technologies mature and start to be used in more and more industrial use cases.It is not the first industrial software to look into a virtual environment and gamification. I’m sure you remember the Second Life about 15 years ago that started to drive a lot of media attention.

Second Life’s status as a virtual world, a computer game, or a talker, is frequently debated.Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective, nor traditional game play mechanics or rules. It can also be argued that Second Life is a multi-user virtual world, because its virtual world facilitates interaction between multiple users. As it does not have any stipulated goals, it is irrelevant to talk about winning or losing in relation to Second Life. Likewise, unlike a traditional talker[vague], Second Life contains an extensive world that can be explored and interacted with, and it can be used purely as a creative tool set if the user so chooses. In March 2006, while speaking at Google TechTalks,[28] Rosedale said: “So, we don’t see this as a game. We see it as a platform.”

The most interesting was the time when large entrepreneurial and companies activities such as buying Second life property (eg. island). Second life had social activity and economy. For the last 15 years, Second Life provided an interesting environment to learn from.

As the IIoT article stated, modern digital environments are navigating towards the creation of virtual environments where people and companies can collaborate and work together. Which made me think about what is needed to have an industrial metaverse – an environment where multiple teams and companies can work virtually, communicate and collaborate.
The Second Life gave some interesting examples of technologies used to make it happen. From servers, virtual space and multiple viewers hosted in different platforms. Each region of Second Life runs on its own multi-core server. Objects are stored in clusters. There are official viewers and alternative viewers.

Last year was big for metaverse activity with B2C companies spending billions of dollars for metaverse ideas and I believe CAD and PLM companies are starting to pay attention. The XR blog brings you a list of 160 companies building metaverse economy and tech. The Hustle blog brings another list of companies building metaverses – Everyone is doing metaverse. I found 2 interesting examples here from Microsoft and Autodesk. So, you can think about virtual Excel with avatars or another 3D Visualization project for buildings and other large objects managed by Autodesk.

The articles and discussions made me think about 3 important characteristics of the industrial metaverse. These characteristics are extremely similar to the problems of integration and information exchange by large CAD/PLM vendors today:

1- Data neutrality

2- Collaboration

3- Mixed content

While it is really too early to speak about what the metaverse needs to be in the future it is clear that old data management problems cannot come and create a new metaverse. The old PLM/CAD data management is relying on the platforms created 15-20 years ago and will be slow downing any technological process. At the same time, modern online multi-tenant SaaS platforms can provide a new collaborative data management environment to connect people and companies.

What is my conclusion? There is a need for a solid foundation to build an industrial metaverse.  Everything starts from data platforms and visualization engines. While Facebook, Microsoft, and some others are looking for visualization, the industrial metaverse real, we need to find how to bring real customer and industry data to make it real. It includes data and many other physical and virtual assets. Just my thoughts…

In my next blog, I will talk about what technologies are needed for industrial metaverses. Stay tuned…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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