How the metaverse could remake manufacturing

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The relentless publicity and initial flirtations with Metavers have led industry, public thinkers, and everyday web users to speculate about the Internet, business, and its potential to reshape our social life. Probably the most complete and impressive mapping of what would be written by Matthews Ball, a strategist, consultant and essayist two years ago. He writes that metavers will be connected to a continuous, synchronous, interoperable, digital and physical world and will be defined by the content of a wide range of contributors.

It is certainly difficult to predict the evolution and impact of such a comprehensive and complex change, but it can be instructive to examine the potential effects of metavars through narrow fields. The manufacturing sector, for example, could see new opportunities for innovation by leveraging the capabilities of Metavers. Let’s take a look at how that can happen.

Accelerate the cycle of innovation

One of the easiest ways Metavers can make a difference in manufacturing is by significantly accelerating the process of prototyping. Unlike real-world prototypes that may require significant product customization, prototypes in metavars can be quickly created by taking advantage of virtual engine rendering capabilities such as Unity and Functionality from rich simulations based on logic tools like Digital Twins. This change in prototyping could lead to innovations in the process and consequently new types of products, ultimately leading to more options for consumers and a shorter timeline from concept to creation.

For example, an automaker may use the digital twins of its real-world assembly with digital prototyping to find ways to optimize the manufacturing process while tweaking its car design. Or it could use digital prototyping to customize processes to produce a vast menu of product variations. Automakers are already moving in this direction. To optimize production processes and operations, Hyundai and BMW have created virtual twins in the manufacturing plant.

Digital twins can also be used to better understand the customization that is required to modify a vehicle for a variety of use cases, for example an automaker can learn from digital twins in the construction industry to develop and build modified vehicles for that industry.

Fertile soil for product testing

In addition to enabling rapid prototyping, Metavers should prove to be a strong environment for testing consumer preferences. By enabling customers to interact with digital prototypes, companies can gain valuable insights into what customers want, influence product development, and increase opportunities for collaboration and customization. The result could be that brands offer a more diverse line of products.

High fidelity virtual test products in Metawors can unlock rich customer insights and allow brands to scale user testing with different models. The decentralized nature of metavers can enable democracy and diverse market research. In contrast, brands can take the opposite approach and reward high-value customers with unique opportunities to input into product design. Brands can also monetize the innovation process by selling subscriptions that provide opportunities to influence advanced access prototypes and development.

At home, consider a new smart fridge maker who wants to gain insight into its next product interface. By restricting permissions to a select group of testers, the brand may introduce virtually new products to users known as potential early adopters. Down the line, such exercises could include test equipment delivering 3-D printed food and additional robotic functionality to the kitchen.

Decentralized, democratized and transparent production

Metavers can also increase democratization, decentralization and transparency within the manufacturing sector across industries. Only-digital or digital-first products will need their own manufacturing teams and processes. These teams can be decentralized and global, consisting of a wide variety of collaborators and can also be paired with post-market innovators who will also be empowered by Metavers to play a growing role in product transformation.

Both product development workers and customers should experience an increase in project visibility from Metavers. With a more complete view of the project cycle, customers can track the production of their products from raw material sourcing to delivery. Such transparency can increase the demand for ethical business practices throughout the production cycle.

Connecting the digital and physical world

Finally, Metavers will connect the digital and physical worlds in a way that will prompt demand for new areas of innovation, business models and manufacturing. In the world of fashion, for example, trends can emerge digitally – on avatars – and then translate into the real-world, which requires physical production. Brands seeking to take advantage of such trends will need responsive and agile manufacturing teams and processes to take advantage of such opportunities. As an example of merging digital and physical, Nike recently acquired RTFKT, paving the way for digital and real-world connections. For example, buyers of sneaker NFTs may have exclusive access to matching physical pairs.

Looking forward

Accelerated innovation cycles, new and immersive product testing, product decentralization and interconnected digital and physical worlds are likely to define big shifts in production as metavores continue to take shape. The exact trends that will catch up are extremely difficult to predict, as consumers are likely to play a significant role in the design, development and transformation of products. If implemented according to its potential, Metavers will democratize not only the product but also the product offering, giving customers the products and features they ask for.

However, we must remember that metavers are resource intensive. While there is a lot to be gained in metavars, its potential environmental impact is significant and worrisome – another very profound way in which the digital and physical worlds are obscured. Those who wish to invest in Metawares and use its immense promise should not do so at the expense of resolving the climate crisis and other physical-world challenges. In manufacturing or any other field, the rise of metavars should ultimately fit into a sustainability framework.

Katherine Zimmerman Is the managing director at TLGGWhich advises global companies Auto, retail and healthcare spaces On digital strategy, business model innovation and organizational transformation.


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