Literal light in the tunnel reveals the direction of the metaverse
Our recent ‘Metaverse at work’ research, in partnership with EY, showed the sheer variety of use cases being considered across industry. Discover some of the surprising ones we’ve stumbled across in the real world.
Leslie Shannon, Head of Trend and Innovation Scouting here at Nokia, is on a mission to change how people see the metaverse. And in her travels to research her new book, Interconnected Realities, she’s come across a raft of innovative real-world use cases that go far beyond what you might expect.
Her findings also tally strongly with our own Metaverse at work research which polled business leaders on the transformative value of different industrial use cases based on current operations. This revealed that while use cases are as varied as the industries themselves, the devil, as always, is in the detail.
So, to help flesh out how this bevy of real-world use cases might really deliver transformative value we’ve picked Shannon’s brain and share our discoveries below.
Guiding light in toll tunnel changes traffic flow
Road tunnels can be strange, unsettling places and when a new toll tunnel was built in Melbourne the steep dips in the road intensified the problem. The trouble was to deliver on its purpose of streamlining traffic outside the city, drivers had to reach a certain speed, but conditions made them nervous.
To discover the source of the problem, Snobal built a VR model of the tunnel and A/B tested hundreds of “drivers” in VR headsets against different conditions like lighting, road markers and signage. It wasn’t an easy problem to solve until they eventually tried green guiding lights that run at 78 kmph and prompt drivers to match their speed.
Surprising transformative value: Many more conventional options were trialed in VR before this novel solution was reached. It would have been simply impossible to install something so unorthodox without a VR test first.
Digital twin with normalized civic data reveals toilet gaps
Wellington, in New Zealand, has been on a long mission to create a true digital twin of the city. But things are never as easy as they might seem, and any digital twin is only as good as its data sources, which have often been created in siloes over time.
So, while an initial satellite-generated digital twin of the city proved useful, it really came into its own when the city normalized its historic data across all department databases, and finally let administrators see critical city measurements represented visually in the city model, not just as Excel rows.
And one truly surprising use of this was providing a map of all the places where people had vomited across the city. This might sound like a very strange use of data but by highlighting the ‘vomit hotspots’ it revealed where the toilet gaps were and provided tangible insights to city planners.
Surprising transformative value: The ability to visualize scenarios opens up hidden data to new audiences. This means city planners and other personnel can understand real-world problems and improve the city for citizens.
Factory optimized two years before it’s built
Unlike cities which tend to develop over long periods of time, factories can be built quickly from scratch and in Debrecen, Hungary, BMW has been busy designing the perfect data-first factory from the ground up. This circumvents all legacy data issues and presents a direct journey to the metaverse.
The iFactory was created by 3D scanning existing factories to produce a digital twin of the site a full two years before building the physical factory. This enables experimentation – and optimization – of floor layouts, safety procedures, and workflows. All before any material costs are sunk.
Surprising transformative value: Starting with a digital twin means that all factory and sensor data is in one system from the get-go. This enables the kind of immediate cross-department communication and insight generation that is simply not possible with siloed data and delivers extensive productivity gains.
Landlords see Wi-Fi and maximize connectivity
In apartment blocks it’s common for Wi-Fi routers in neighboring flats to interfere with each other and create a weak signal. This means that the people who live there – often tenants reliant on landlords – struggle with connectivity.
Previously the only solution was the frustratingly unscientific task of wandering round the floorspace, router in hand, looking for the best spot. But now Norwegian CSP challenger brand, Telia, offers something altogether simpler.
With the help of US-based AR developer BadVR, it provides an overlay [Norwegian news source] of the Wi-Fi signal strength onto the living space. This shows inhabitants exactly where to put their kit for maximum signal and to provide optimized performance across the building.
This novel idea is not available to the public at large, as it needs to work with a deeper layer of telecoms data, so necessitates involvement from the CSP. Not surprisingly it has proved a massive hit amongst Norwegian landlords.
Surprising transformative value: The collaboration between BadVR and Telia shows the business impact of a full metaverse ecosystem to improve customer satisfaction.
Neuroscience to turbocharge VR training
Collaborative VR training is an easy and obvious use case for the metaverse – especially for dry running rare scenarios. Yet the emphasis has tended to be all about cost and efficiency. When Turku University of Applied Sciences ran training with the help of shipping industry and maritime training centers, their approach was far more sophisticated.
The metaverse is so new that this idea is still in the testing phase, but ultimately Turku UAS is running visualizations of a real command bridge on which personnel can practice collision avoidance between 20 other vessels in the busy stretch of open sea between Tallinn and Helsinki. And what makes it interesting is they’re using technology to collect and analyze human behavior.
In concrete terms, researchers are collecting things like eye and hand movements via Varjo devices, then imputing them into MarISOT – a backend system for collecting and analyzing human behavioristic data. And the upshot is a blend of neuroscience, AI, and metaverse technologies to suggest practical training outcome improvements based on group and individual human behavior.
Surprising transformative value: Training may be an obvious initial step into the metaverse, but it can also go far beyond what is possible through any form of conventional training. It means teams can seamlessly marry neuroscience with simulated real-world training to deliver actionable improvements on questions that really matter – like shipping safety.
These use cases are the tip of the iceberg
This handful of innovative real-world metaverse use cases may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the metaverse at work, but our research shows it is a clear direction of travel. The enterprise and industrial metaverse is here to stay, it is already providing surprising sustainability benefits, and its uses are escalating with trial and error as businesses become more experienced.
The next few years are likely to bring a wealth of metaverse uses that nobody has even dreamed of yet. Some will seem weird. Some will seem wonderful. And all will bring tangible – transformative – benefits to our world.
The metaverse at work surveyed 860 business leaders in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Japan, and South Korea across four key industries: automotive, industrial goods and manufacturing, transportation, supply chain and logistics, and power and utilities. Conducted by EY teams in collaboration with Nokia, there are five reports available for download, covering the global findings along with one for each industry.