Manufacturing and the Metaverse

The current trends in tech talk are focusing on artificial intelligence, especially generative AI, and humanoid robots. They are more thrilling than the AR and VR experiences that were energizing the conversations about the metaverse. But the metaverse may be more relevant for manufacturing right now.

What’s the metaverse?

The term “metaverse” refers to a collective virtual shared space, merging elements of physical and digital reality, where users can interact with each other, digital objects, and the environment itself. It’s a concept that has evolved from science fiction and virtual reality into a more tangible and practical idea in the tech industry.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are key features of the metaverse, but social connections, user control, and digital economies are also essential to the metaverse. Above all, it is supposed to interconnect all the experiences of this type. Rather than having separate worlds for a game or a tool, the meters should connect all the virtual environments into one…well, metaverse.

In today’s factories, AR and VR can help by creating virtual prototypes that can be tried out virtually before the investment in producing physical models. They can allow virtual walk-throughs of planned factory floors set ups, remote maintenance, and safe training on virtual systems before workers encounter the dangers of the real-world machinery.

But there are problems.

What’s wrong with the metaverse?

We don’t hear as much about the metaverse as we used to. It’s not just that it’s no longer the latest fad. There are some actual problems.

For one thing, AR and VR make a lot of people sick. Literally nauseated. Experiments with creating virtual workspaces usually get a lot of oohs and aahs at first, but then subjects have to drop out because they feel too ill to continue. 40-70% of users experience virtual reality sickness within 15 minutes of use.

In addition to the physical discomfort, many people worry about privacy and security in AR and VR. Users may be worried about the collection and misuse of their personal data, as well as the potential for surveillance within virtual spaces. The metaverse could also become a target for cyberattacks and hacking, leading to data breaches, identity theft, and other security risks.

If this problem can be overcome, there are also sustainability issues. The energy and resource requirements of maintaining vast virtual environments could have environmental consequences, particularly if powered by energy sources with a high carbon footprint.

Any of these drawbacks could interfere with adoption within the manufacturing industry. If these issues can be overcome, however, manufacturing and the metaverse could be a good mix.