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When is the Industrial Metaverse Coming?

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Our roundtable panel got real with predictions and insights into the Industrial Metaverse.

With all the buzz about the metaverse in the consumer space, our industrial customers wanted answers: What is it? Will it be pertinent to the enterprise? What are the benefits?  And is it real?  They don’t want to get stung again like they did during the AR hype cycle.

We brought together big hitters in XR space for a live open forum titled “Welcome to the Industrial Metaverse”, which had a nice turnout!

If you missed it, here’s the full recording:

Moderated by Chris Preimesberger of ZDNet & VentureBeat, speakers were:

  • Andrew Chrostowski – CEO and Chairman, RealWear, Inc.
  • Indranil Sircar – CTO, Manufacturing Industry, Microsoft
  • Brian Vogelsang – Sr. Director of Product Management – AR & Snapdragon Spaces, Qualcomm
  • John Fan – CEO/Chairman, Kopin. 

Chris Preimesberger’s key takeaways:

  • Reality and safety will come first at all times
  • We’ll de synchronizing data and modelling, and supercharging operations to get more things done quicker and more efficiently
  • The audio metaverse is here now
  • A non-connected worker will be a disadvantaged worker in the Industrial Metaverse.

What’s your perspective on the Industrial Metaverse?

“The Industrial Metaverse is where real world work can be accomplished in conjunction with digital systems.” Andrew Chrostowski - Chairman and CEO, RealWear, Inc.

Proceedings opened up with the speakers each being asked for their perspective on the future of industry. Chrostowski said change is going to be huge – foreseeing parallels with the level of impact that the internet and powerful search engines have had on society and productivity.

“[Industrial Metaverse] is not a new technology, it’s an evolution of technology, a convergence.” Brian Vogelsang - Sr. Director, Product Management - AR & Snapdragon Spaces, Qualcomm

Brian Vogelsang, who is a senior AR expert at semiconductor leader Qualcomm, said that while these changes are indeed going to have an incredible effect on the industrial landscape, the changes won’t happen overnight. In fact, from his perspective, the Industrial Metaverse is a convergence of the technologies and digital transformation trends we’ve seen over the past five years – many of which (as also mentioned by Microsoft’s Indranil Sircar) came about as a necessary response to post-pandemic staff shortages.

Here’s more good news – the panel confirmed that the Industrial Metaverse will provide the means to carry out even more tasks remotely, leading to a workforce that’s more connected than ever before – and that’s just scratching the surface of its potential as we look at what is likely to be a seismic shift in the working landscape. 

What are the big benefits? What’s it going to be like?

The panel was broadly enthusiastic in outlining the positives of the digital transformation of industry. Digitalization of processes will allow workers and management to track what’s going on and keep archives for future reference and training, which can improve complex operations. 

The consensus of the panel was that The Great Resignation (as it’s now called) provided a huge issue over the past few years, producing a massive skilled labor gap. Companies are still seeing seasoned employees retiring and taking their valuable knowledge with them. All the while, the younger workforce expect to be able to use tools that do their job properly in an augmented or enhanced world. XR and the Industrial Metaverse could provide a solution in accommodating even better live remote training methods.

Of course, a huge benefit is the reduced time to perform tasks.

“The Industrial Metaverse is where real world work can be accomplished in conjunction with digital systems.” John Fan - CEO/Chairman, Kopin

How will factories workers interact with the metaverse, given they need both their hands for the job and in hazardous environments?

“You can’t be oblivious to reality with your head stuck in the metaverse when there are real potentially lethal risks around you in the factory.” Andrew Chrostowski - Chairman and CEO, RealWear, Inc.

The group placed a lot of emphasis on hazardous workplaces and frontline worker safety. Chrostowski was swift to point out that safety must be the top priority on the frontline. “You can’t be oblivious to reality with your head stuck in the metaverse when there are real and potentially lethal risks around you in the factory.” 

To that end, Fan highlighted that Augmented Reality isn’t a suitable solution on the frontline as overlaid graphics obstruct the user’s view. Comparatively, Assisted Reality devices are the safest solution for factory workers as they offer unobstructed vision and complete situational awareness. 

“It’s a more human-centric approach, not just automation. The Metaverse will facilitate humans being part of that nexus of control. It’ll be more productive, safer, more collaborative and rewarding.” Indrani Sircar - CTO, Manufacturing Industry, Microsoft

As the event progressed, we thought one theme that became clear was the importance of the human element of the Industrial Metaverse. It isn’t about replacing people, but rather empowering the human element using technology.

“Having the [Industrial] Metaverse in place without the human element is not going to work. Factory workers need these wearable devices, they need to have the data at their fingertips to help improve their outcomes, and they need to be hands-free. Today, Assisted Reality devices from RealWear are huge in making that happen.” Brian Vogelsang - Sr. Director, Product Management - AR & Snapdragon Spaces, Qualcomm

Last but not least, what pieces are available today of the industrial metaverse, and what needs to be built? How will we know when we’ve finally arrived? What’s the ultimate objective?

The discussion wrapped up with the speakers looking at the current state of the Industrial Metaverse.

“[Microsoft] can’t solve the problem all by ourselves. It has to be an ecosystem of partnerships that can bring these core technologies.” Indrani Sircar - CTO, Manufacturing Industry, Microsoft

Fan was quick to point out that the audio side of the Industrial Metaverse is already here. It’s the video that requires further development. However, it was Chrostowski’s sobering perspective that provided an eye-opening insight into what can happen to those that don’t make the necessary changes.

“When you’re not a connected worker, you’ll be a disadvantaged worker. You’re not going to have the same ability to be productive.” Andrew Chrostowski - Chairman and CEO, RealWear, Inc.

Everyone agreed that a lot of these technologies are already in place, and there’s a lot more to come. According to the group, we haven’t yet created the necessary standards to allow this digital experience to flow seamlessly. Once that happens, we’ll see some real traction. 

We hope you found this insight as interesting as we did! For future roundtable talks and webinars, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our newsletter.

For more reporting on the event, check out XR Today’s piece.

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