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Welcome to the industrial metaverse

BMW is opening the first entirely virtual factory, two years before the electric vehicle plant in Hungary goes into operation in reality. Siemens is planning billions of euros in investment, in order to create an industrial metaverse in Germany. And KUKA?

Ulrike Götz
February 28, 2024
Reading Time: 4 min.

The industrial metaverse is becoming a place for collaboration, sharing experiences and interaction of the digital twin with the real world – from individual machines and products to entire factories, buildings, cities, networks and transport systems. “As with mobile Internet, looking back, it will not be possible to say when it really started. However, the industrial metaverse will change the way we do business and will shape our daily lives,” says Dr. Quirin Goerz, Chief Information Officer at KUKA.

According to Matthew Ball, one of the concept’s leading experts and visionaries, the metaverse is a virtual 3D world rendered in real time. Unlimited number of users can immerse themselves in this world and experience it synchronously. The metaverse comprises multiple groups. Of decisive importance for KUKA is the so-called realworld metaverse or the industrial metaverse. It facilitates topics such as Industrie 4.0, digital twins or simulation and engineering environments. 

The metaverse is usually mistakenly referred to as Virtual Reality (VR), whereas in actual fact the VR is merely a way of experiencing the metaverse. 

What is already possible today: How KUKA is using the technology

Applications for the industrial metaverse arise along the entire value creation chain. The goal is often to simulate and optimize processes already in a virtual setting, or to be able to carry out servicing and assembly training in complex environments in the metaverse.

Goerz gives a striking example: “It is naturally better to practice the right way of handling a burning fork lift truck in the metaverse than in real life. We can also see a preliminary stage of the industrial metaverse with the ‘KUKA Dome’ in our systems engineering division. Customers meet in this 3D environment and are surrounded by virtual factory layouts. This facilitates both communication and targeted planning of new production concepts,” says Goerz.

Virtual Reality is a technology that creates its own reality and consists of purely digital models and content. Examples fromKUKA Group: KUKAKUKA.Sim and the VR viewer from Visual Components.

The Finnish 3D simulation specialists Visual Components, who belong to the KUKA Group, also offer an interface to the NVIDIA Omniverse with their connector, so that customers can work together in the best possible way in the metaverse and implement projects faster.

The VC team is working to increase the use of AI-driven technology in digital twins. Simulation data are enriched with physics-based digital models, real-time data and photorealistic representations. The result: a digital twin of the production environment that is very close to reality. “Closing this so-called sim-to-real gap is the overall goal that we are pursuing with such developments,” explains Goerz.

The software products offered by Visual Components make it possible to experience the metaverse in Virtual Reality.

When will we experience the metaverse?

Even the most powerful virtual 3D worlds, such as the online games Minecraft, Roblox or Fortnite, are not yet able to fulfill Ball’s definition.
They currently still come up against their limits. For example, the latency of fiber optic cables is limited by the laws of physics, as it is only up to a certain extent possible to transfer data at the speed of light. What else is needed on the way to the metaverse:

  1. High bandwidth: The bandwidth is similar to a motorway and the number of lanes. The more lanes there are, the more vehicles can travel from A to B in a given time. The same applies to the Internet. The more bandwidth is available, the more data can be transferred from server A to server B.
  2. Low latency: The latency can be compared to the speed limit on a motorway. The lower the speed, the fewer vehicles will travel from A to B in a given time. This also applies to the Internet. Low latency thus means the transfer of less data from A to B.

“Bandwidth and latency are not yet good enough, but are improving rapidly. It will take another five to ten years to experience the real metaverse,” predicts Goerz.

Augmented Reality is is a technology that enriches the real world with digital content. Example from KUKA Group: the KUKA.MixedReality Assistant mobile app.

According to the Metaverse Market Research Report, the metaverse market will grow around 45 percent annually by 2030. By the end of this decade, the
industrial metaverse is expected to be a market worth 100 billion dollars, and growing faster than the consumer metaverse and the workplace metaverse combined.

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