Levelling up to the metaverse
Many companies are regarding the metaverse - a virtual environment where people can game, work and communicate - as the latest evolution of interpersonal communications. The metaverse could even be thought of as the next generation of the internet. By powering disruptive transformation following the emergence of the web and social media, the metaverse brings us incrementally closer to a fully simulated virtual reality. Fully connected, immersive and engaging 3D experiences are beginning to populate a metaverse of potentially limitless opportunity, created using digital twin and extended reality technologies including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
As part of this ongoing evolution, the metaverse opens an advanced frontier that - like the internet before it - will bring infinite opportunities for consumers and businesses alike. As part of this, digital twins - virtual replicas of the physical world - can help to build the metaverse by importing dimensionally accurate real-life spaces into this virtual mirror world. There is a lot of value in it too; EY recently estimated that digital twins will have a projected market size of $48bn by 2026, showing its wider economic potential.
Matterport research shows that there are over four billion buildings comprising 20 billion spaces in the world, yet only 1 per cent of this is digitised, representing an enormous opportunity to generate tangible business value in a metaverse context.
The business potential of the metaverse
Digital twin technology creates an immersive 3D virtual model of any building or space. The potential is immense; made up of billions of digital twins, the metaverse could fundamentally change the way that businesses and consumers experience, interact with, and analyse the physical environment of the built world. Digital twins bring online a mass of analog data that can be searched, modelled, and ultimately used to derive value from physical spaces. There is immense value in accruing this data and applying the insights generated from it to improve both businesses and society at large. This data and the ability to source it, search it and use it will open a vast array of future opportunities and evolve infinite applications.
Successful businesses will be those who ensure digital twins are included in their strategic planning, both to offer new experiences to consumers in the growth of the metaverse and to optimise their own productivity and operations. From the evolving worlds of property ownership or virtual gaming experiences through to the AI technology that will underpin it all, digital twins are helping to build the mirror world, a digital version of everything we see around us, autonomously.
The opportunity across industries
Using digital twins, businesses can create dimensionally accurate replicas of physical locations, which can operate as a separate entity as a virtual layer. Demand for the technology boomed in the property sector during the pandemic, when lockdowns prevented potential buyers from viewing properties in person. With digital twins of properties, estate agents could generate virtual tours, enabling buyers to view properties virtually, which increased the trend to purchasing properties without even having stepped foot inside the door. Meanwhile, commercial real estate firms are using digital twins to help clients plan and optimise return-to-work initiatives, as more businesses return to the office.
With the increasing need for convenient, engaging and digital-first experiences, demand for digital twin technology has exploded and is spreading exponentially across multiple industries. The benefits of the technology are recognised in a wide range of sectors from engineering, construction, architecture, travel and hospitality, through to insurance, facilities and retail.
For industries such as retail, even before the onset of the pandemic, traditional brick-and-mortar stores were under pressure to stay competitive in a market increasingly dominated by eCommerce. Using digital twin technology, retail businesses can now remodel and reshape hundreds of stores remotely. The technology also enables retailers to provide more immersive experiences. This unifies the experience of in-person and online shopping, improving customer engagement and conversion. Consumers can use digital twin technology for everything from trying on clothes virtually or checking out a new shop before it opens, through to visualising and confirming whether new furniture would fit before making a purchase for the home, all from the comfort of their couch.
In the construction industry, engineers can virtually visit locations to plan any challenging or potentially invasive construction work remotely, accelerating construction schedules through faster project management and decision making. Engineers can also tap into the rich data that digital twins hold to identify building features and preserve their original character during renovation. In the travel and arts industries for example, virtual replicas of many museums and historical sites such as Egypt’s heritage sites have been created to enable visitors around the world to explore them anytime and at their own pace in clarity and detail through VR. Visitors can see the spaces exactly as they were previously, without also bringing physical foot traffic into spaces which could be thousands of years old.
The road to the metaverse
The realisation of the metaverse is taking place both through computing technology or data, and also through computational photography that blends the structural integrity of a space with 4K HD photographic realism. A physical space can be easily and quickly captured and turned into an accurate and immersive digital replica using 3D spatial data technology cameras. The 3D reconstruction process is fully automated, powered by advanced computer vision and Artificial Intelligence (AI), so businesses can scale with equal precision to millions of buildings and spaces of any kind, anywhere in the world. This technology is also becoming more widely accessible, via several cameras, such as an iPhone, 360 cameras or LIDAR cameras.
Digital twin technology will provide a diverse and growing set of industries with the critical tools and insights needed to drive ROI improvements across every aspect of the building lifecycle. Whether during the design or build phases, promotion of a building or its operation, right through to insuring and repairing, digital twin technology enables faster and more informed decisions to be made in a mirror world. In tandem with advances in AI, Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) technologies, businesses will be able to unlock many additional growth opportunities using increasingly powerful spatial data-driven property insights and analytics.
The types of metaverse services that could become reality in the built world are potentially limitless. Driven by ever-evolving technology innovation and the sheer magnitude of analog data in the physical built environment, businesses using the most detailed, accurate and data-rich digital twins are just scratching the surface of arguably the biggest opportunity of the next decade.