Manufacturers Flock to the Industrial Metaverse

Manufacturers are flocking to the industrial metaverse.

According to a new World Economic Forum report, a staggering 92 percent of US manufacturing executives surveyed are exploring metaverse applications. Worldwide, the industrial metaverse market is expected to hit 100 billion USD by 2030, indicating serious interest and investments in augmented and virtual reality experiences in factory settings.

Surging in parallel is digital twin technology, a core component of the industrial metaverse. The global market for digital twins is projected to reach 183 billion by 2031.

In collaboration with Accenture, the WEF analyzed 634 metaverse announcements from more than 100 large manufacturers across the globe. They sought to understand the industrial and enterprise metaverse’s landscape, including where it’s most active, which sectors have the most activity, and its general outlook.

In the foreward, Cathy Li and David Treat write, “The metaverse aims to be the future of the Internet – a spatial, social Internet experience that uses existing and emerging technologies to seamlessly blend physical and digital worlds.”

The industrial metaverse’s growth market, comprised of Asia; Latin America; the Middle East; and Africa, accounts for 37 percent of total industrial and enterprise metaverse applications.

North America and Europe account for 36 and 27 percent of total activations, respectively, indicating strong interest across regions.

A whopping 97 percent of industrial manufacturing executives surveyed agreed the convergence of digital and physical worlds will transform industry. In the automotive sector, 70 percent of business executives plan to integrate the metaverse in their organizational activities.

Today, manufacturers are in the early adoption and enablement phase.

For the next two years or so, manufacturers’ integrations with advanced technologies like digital twins, extended reality, robotics, artificial intelligence, and IoT will nudge the sector toward the next stage of the maturity cycle.

The development of standards, large scale adoption of immersive tech, and rapid progress in AI, robotics, and blockchain are expected to drive new business models and value pools, according to the report.

The more mature adoption gets, the more integral the technologies become to industrial processes.

From 2029 beyond, transformative capabilities that will reinvent the industrial value and enterprise functions could become ubiquitous.

Quantum computing could also unlock currently unimaginable use cases.

The report notes the potential of quantum sensors that accurately collect detailed data to support functions like quantum navigation.

A 2023 Deloitte report indicated more than 90 percent of manufacturing leaders were experimenting with at least one industrial metaverse use case. Most were implementing five or six.

Common use cases include virtual product design, virtual prototyping, remote collaboration, real-time documentation, data visualizations, maintenance and repair, quality control, remote monitoring and more.

While skepticism remains, perception of the industrial metaverse has shifted dramatically and rapidly. A few years ago, the concept of the industrial metaverse might have seemed like speculative science fiction with questionable practical applications.

Today, however, a rash of high-profile announcements from tech giants underscore the industrial metaverse’s shift from abstract concept to a tangible, possibly transformative tool.

Microsoft has announced plans to scale the industrial metaverse throughout 2024 through its AI Cloud Partner Program. According to Microsoft, the initiative aims to leverage AI, cloud, and metaverse solutions to enhance productivity, resiliency, and sustainability across enterprises.

At NVIDIA’s GTC conference, insights were shared into the metaverse’s potential, showcasing how companies like BMW, General Motors, and Pepsi are using AI-powered simulations and digital twins to transform operations.

During the conference, Siemens and NVIDIA announced a collaboration to develop the industrial metaverse, enhancing AI-driven digital twins through an integration between NVIDIA’s Omniverse Cloud APIs and the Siemens Xcelerator platform.

Earlier in 2024, Siemens and Sony announced a joint immersive headset for industrial applications.

PTC has also announced Onshape Vision for the Apple Vision Pro.

The metaverse concept dates back to 1992, when Neal Stephenson popularized the term in the scifi novel Snow Crash, which envisioned a virtual reality-based world.
The industrial metaverse concept gained significant attention around 2021, sparked by advancements in digital twinning, AI, augmented and virtual reality, and Internet of Things technology.

The World Economic Forum report calls on manufacturing leaders to prioritize designing seamless and user-friendly human experiences to stay competitive.

“Looking ahead, the industrial metaverse will continue to evolve, becoming an interconnected 3D ecosystem that shapes industries and human experiences,” the report says.

Implementation challenges include costs, required computing power, lack of digitally skilled employees, and troubles integrating with legacy tech stacks.