27 мар. 2024 г.

From Metaverse to Matterverse: Why the ‘Industrial Metaverse’ is better than its reputation

In this article, our CPTO Mei Dent discusses the industrial metaverse and how it is already leading to enhanced efficiency in manufacturing and support.

  • Connect and support people
  • What is the industrial metaverse? 

    What do you think of when you hear the word ‘metaverse’? It might involve people wearing AR (augmented reality) glasses, playing games, or navigating virtual worlds. And you wouldn’t be alone in that. 
    In short, our first idea is often of the consumer metaverse. This is a form of virtual reality with digital representations of humans and things — an extension of social life. And this metaverse is a very exciting feature of modern technological life. But it’s not what I want to talk about here.  
    I want to talk about the industrial metaverse. And by this, I mean the holistic digitization of industry through spatial computing and augmented reality (AR). By and large, this metaverse uses pre-existing data, rather than creating whole new worlds from scratch. While not quite as widely known as its consumer version, it is already making huge waves across all industrial sectors. And it’s just getting started! 

    The challenge of digitalization in industrial environments  

    You might be wondering why the industrial metaverse is so important, especially now that we all live in digital worlds. Post-pandemic, many kinds of work have become even more digital in line with remote working. At this point, digital tools like video conferencing and virtual collaboration have become almost routine.  
    However, this is only one kind of work. Currently, about 80% of jobs are not even tied to a desk — in an office or elsewhere — meaning there are approximately 2.7 billion frontline workers worldwide. By and large, these have not been digitalized.  
    Industrial processes are traditionally anchored in the real world making them more difficult to digitalize. They often require direct oversight and maintenance. And, rightly so, when we think about physical objects like complex machines and equipment.  
    Challenges to industrial digitalization have meant that many businesses have not had the opportunities to reap the same benefits as those enjoyed in more immaterial industries. But more and more businesses are now waking up to the huge potential of digitalization.   

    The change is already underway 

    Apple is now also moving into the industrial metaverse space. Specifically, with its Apple Vision Pro, launched recently after years of anticipation. A spatial computing device using the new vision OS with high technical quality and a focus on user-friendliness, we believe this will revolutionize the field.  
    We at TeamViewer were proud to launch an app, Spatial Support, which is now available for use on the Apple Vision Pro. With this, our users can enjoy the incredible accuracy of the Vision Pro to monitor and troubleshoot remote devices and machinery. You can get a glimpse of how it works in the video below. 
    As our Senior Vice President of Product Management and Solution Delivery, Brian Ballard, wrote recently, AR-enabled solutions like these offer to boost efficiency and deliver incredible levels of support for businesses of all sizes. And this is just a taster of how the industrial metaverse will play out. 

    We believe that in the future, AR will empower frontline workers in industrial environments across all departments — including logistics, assembly, remote support, and maintenance.  
    Crucially, innovative business owners see the future the same way. According to Forbes, nearly 80% of manufacturing executives believe that the metaverse will transform the industry. Almost one-third are already implementing or experimenting with virtual aftermarket services. The future is well underway!  

    Claims about the industrial metaverse and why they are unfounded

    As with any new technology, there is always pushback. I often hear arguments claiming that the industrial metaverse is a fringe case, something fantastical. That it’s not workable in the real world. Here are the four main objections that I come across: 

    1. There are no large-scale deployments. 
    2. Smart glasses and AR are for show and not integrated into everyday business processes. 
    3. The ecosystem is too diverse to allow integrations. 
    4. Immersive AR experiences and 3D models are too complex to work with. 

     These are all valid concerns. Let’s take a closer look at them. 

    Claim 1. There are no large-scale deployments.

    This is perhaps one of the most persistent charges against the industrial metaverse. But does it really carry weight? 
    Absolutely not. Look at the iconic car manufacturer, Ford. Back at the start of the nineteenth century, the company made history with its introduction of the moving assembly line — a truly groundbreaking moment in manufacturing. Still one of the leading car brands, it has over 3,000 dealerships in the US and 7,500 worldwide.  
    These days, Ford continues in its spirit of innovation by implementing AR-based remote assistance with TeamViewer Frontline to support its dealers with complex repairs. The large-scale deployment of smart glasses — some 3,0000 of them — has been central to this shift. 
    And the results speak for themselves. By implementing our AR-based remote support solution, Ford has reduced resolution time to as little as 40 minutes for over 20,000 remote support calls!

    Claim 2. Smart glasses and AR are for show and not integrated into everyday business processes.  

    To investigate this objection, let’s look at the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (HBC). It is one of the largest bottlers for the Coca-Cola Company in terms of volume, with sales of more than two billion units annually.  
    Across all its operations, the company now uses AR vision picking with TeamViewer Frontline to streamline operations and reduce error rates. By deploying AR smart glasses, this vision-picking solution is used 24/7 in 26 countries​. This innovative move has led the company to achieve 99% picking accuracy and 6-8% increased performance

    Another company using smart glasses and AR at scale is Samsung SDS, one of Europe's fastest-growing logistics service providers​. This stretches back to 2016, when they first implemented vision picking with smart glasses.  
    As a result of these technologies, the company achieved benefits, including an up to 30% increase in picking speed, better workplace ergonomics, and lower error rates​. All of which gives them a considerable competitive edge. 
    These two examples clearly show that smart glasses and AR can be a vital and productive part of everyday manufacturing operations.   

    Claim 3. The ecosystem is too diverse to allow integrations.  

    Let’s look at the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center in Singapore. Opened in 2023, it is a fully functional smart factory, interconnecting humans, robots, and logistics.​ With only 29 human employees, approximately 50 per cent of all tasks are carried out by some 200 robots. Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot carries out quality control.  
    Spread out over seven floors, the factory integrates digital twin technology, automated material handling systems, AR, and spatial computing​ with TeamViewer Frontline. Thanks to its unique production processes, customers can order a car and drive it away in three hours! If that's not a successful integration of AR, I don’t know what is.   

    Claim 4. Immersive AR experiences and 3D models are too complex to work with. 

    Another objection that I often hear is that immersive AR and 3D models are too complex to work with and that you need a lot of complicated technology to make use of them.  
    But does this stand up? Let’s look at the case of Hymer, a German manufacturer of premium motorhomes. By integrating Siemens Teamcenter and TeamViewer Frontline, they are now exploring the impact of connecting their frontline workforce to optimize assembly and quality assessment.

    Using AR, Hymer can create detailed 3D models and spatially pinned work instructions to visualize vehicle parts and workflows for production processes. Not only this, but it can use existing Teamcenter data for training with immersive 3D workflows. So, while it sounds very complex, Hymer is a real-world example of a company exploring how AR and 3D modelling can play a central role in everyday processes.   


    As we can see from the above examples, the industrial metaverse is already well underway. There are large deployments, as with the iconic car manufacturer Ford. Smart factories, likewise, are in operation, delivering unprecedented levels of efficiency.  
    Furthermore, smart glasses, AR, and 3D models are already being integrated in industry worldwide. They are revolutionizing how companies big and small are doing business, and it is happening right now.  
    What's stopping you from launching your company’s digital transformation today? 

    The above article is based on Mei’s keynote speech at TRANSFORM, which took place on 6-7 March 2024 in Berlin.

    Mei Dent

    Member of the Executive Board and CPTO (Chief Product and Technology Officer) at TeamViewer

    Mei Dent has an excellent track record as a technology executive in the software and IT industry. She started her career as a software developer at IBM and spent nearly 25 years in various product and engineering-related leadership roles at Canadian software giant OpenText. As part of the senior leadership team of the company’s software development organization, she was responsible for global engineering practices and processes for security, performance, user experience, and reusable and shared services. In her most recent role as CTO at customer communications management and engagement software provider Doxim, Mei led the entire technology organization and scaled it to support the company’s growth.