Smart *—The metaverse holds tremendous value! The metaverse is worthless!

Nov. 2, 2022
This tool is here in our industrial enterprises, but it exists in the virtual realm.
By Chris McNamara, Smart Industry editor in chief 

I have a soft spot for all things meta. Particularly in the arts world—I love meta-comedies, such as “Being John Malkovich,” that fold inside themselves. Or meta paintings that comment on the form itself, like street art by Banksy that wink at the nature of graffiti itself.

I’ve always tried to spotlight this type of content with my children, all the while struggling to aptly describe to them what, exactly, meta means. (As they age into sharp, mature young adults, and as I age out of that demographic, perhaps they will be more equipped to explain the concept to me. How meta is that?!)

Now, naturally, the notion of the metaverse is different than meta-comedy. In the most general sense, the metaverse is defined by some as a hypothetical iteration of the internet as a single, universal and immersive virtual world facilitated by virtual reality and augmented reality. In the industrial space, consider the metaverse an interactive network of digital twins. Or, as 4Sight’s Wilhelm Swart more poetically labels it, the industrial metaverse is “the place where digital dreams will collide with physical reality.”

Thinking in terms of practical applications, this alternate reality of the metaverse connects to and informs its real-world counterparts and their human operators to enable everyone and everything to work better. Think universes—plural—of digital twins in which any possibility on any asset or collection of assets can be explored, tested for its value and pushed to its breaking point without, actually, breaking anything real.

What’s the true value of the metaverse for those of us in manufacturing? That’s still being debated. We regularly see both arguments in the Smart Industry community. In a recent feature for us, Vikas Khosla of Tavant pondered the notion that the metaverse might just be nothing more than a “digital dystopia.” He ultimately opined that “the metaverse is undeniably the next big tech revolution in manufacturing.”

Likewise, John Burton of UrsaLeo wrote in our Smart Industry Forum how, along with being overhyped, the metaverse will increasingly hold tremendous value for those who dive in. “Companies will experiment with new ideas, then scrap those ideas for even newer (and possibly better) ones,” he wrote. “I do believe that this is only the beginning. None of us will get it all right the first time and many will need to pivot as the metaverse evolves.”

This tool is here in our industrial enterprises, but it exists in the virtual realm. It is overhyped, but it is fantastically valuable. It is a singular concept comprised of multitudes. It is, indisputably, meta.