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Digital Twins: The collaboration between real and virtual world

IFM_ Digital Twins real and virtual world
Technology analyst Rob Enderle acknowledges that we will have the first versions of thinking human digital twins before the decade ends

There might be a time when you would have come across a person who would have had an uncanny resemblance to you. Or you might have heard from your friend who would have met someone who looked similar to you.

But what if I tell you that you could create your own twin, an inch-by-inch replica of yourself, but living in digital life?

We currently live in a world where things that exist in the real world are being digitally replicated, be it our cars, our homes, our cities, and even ourselves.

Digital twins have emerged as a new tech trend, just like the much-discussed metaverse—plans for a virtual, digital world where you might roam about as an avatar.

A digital twin is a distinct clone of something in the physical world with the specific goal of aiding in improving or proposing feedback to the real-world counterpart.

Before artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things, which uses sensors to connect physical objects to the network, it was only possible to create sophisticated 3D computer models of these twins. However, thanks to AI and the internet of things, it is now possible to create digital twins that are constantly learning from and assisting in improving their physical counterparts.

Technology analyst Rob Enderle acknowledges that we will have the first versions of thinking human digital twins before the decade ends.

He said, “The emergence of these will need a huge amount of thought and ethical consideration, because a thinking replica of ourselves could be incredibly useful to employers. What happens if your company creates a digital twin of you, and says ‘hey, you’ve got this digital twin who we pay no salary to, so why are we still employing you?'”

According to Enderle, the issue of who owns these digital twins will come to define the upcoming metaverse period.

As we have already started the journey towards human twinning via avatars, there is still that feeling of it being at the elementary level.

For instance, you might be able to give your avatar a face that might be similar to yours in Meta’s virtual reality platform, Horizon Worlds, but you can’t even give it hands or legs because of the fact that technology is still in its early stages.

Prof Sandra Wachter, a senior research fellow in AI at Oxford University, shared her views about creating digital twins.

The professor said, “it is reminiscent of exciting science fiction novels, and at the moment that is the stage where it is at.”

“Whether someone will be successful at law school, get sick, or commit a crime – will depend on the still debated ‘nature versus nurture question’. It will depend on good luck and bad luck, friends, family, their socio-economic background and environment, and of course their personal choices,” she added.

The most advanced and pervasive usage of digital twins is now found in the industries of product design, distribution, and urban planning.

Formula One giants Red Bull and McLaren are also using digital twins of their race cars.

To be more effective, DHL is currently constructing a digital map of its supply lines and warehouses.

Singapore and Shanghai both have digital twins that were designed to aid in enhancing the structure and functionality of transportation, networks, and streets.

The major task of the digital twin in Singapore is to guide people to navigate on the streets to avoid areas that are polluted. This innovative technology is also used to indicate where to build new infrastructure.

The Middle East has been building new cities simultaneously both in the digital as well as the real world.

French software giant Dassault Systemes says it is now receiving interest from thousands of companies for its digital twins technology.

Till now it has used the digital twins to help out a hair care company in digitally designing more sustainable shampoo bottles, in place of the regular real-life prototyping. This has eventually resulted in cutting down on waste.

And this doesn’t stop there. It is also guiding other firms in churning out fresh futuristic projects. This includes jetpacks, motorbikes with floating wheels and flying cars.

However, digital twins will end up being more useful when it comes to the healthcare industry. The Living Heart project initiated by Dassault Systemes has produced a precise virtual model of the human heart that can be tested and analysed. This will enable surgeons to simulate a variety of ‘what if’ scenarios for the organ using different procedures and medical equipment.

Dr Steve Levine, who had founded the project, has his own reasons to create a digital twin. His daughter was born with congenital heart disease and she was at a high risk of heart failure in her last 20s. This is when Dr Steve decided to recreate her heart in virtual reality.

Currently, Boston Children’s Hospital with the help of this technology is mapping out the real heart condition of patients. A committed group of engineers is collaborating with medical professionals at London’s Great Ormond Street hospital to test devices that could benefit kids with uncommon and challenging-to-treat cardiac problems.

Dassault Systemes’ Global Affairs Director Severine Trouillet stated that experimentation taking place on a digital heart has knock-on effect of cutting down on the requirement to test on animals, which is considered one of the most controversial aspects of scientific research.

They are now planning for more digital organ twins, including the brain and eyes.

Trouillet said, “At some point we will all have a digital twin, so that you can go to the doctor, and we can increasingly make preventative medicine, and make sure that every treatment is personalised.”

What might be more challenging than replicating human organs is the vision of building a digitalised version of the entire planet.

Nvidia, a US software firm, runs a medium called Omniverse that is designed to create digital twins and virtual worlds. Building a digital twin of the Earth and collecting high-definition images of its entire surface is one of its most ambitious projects.

In order to simulate physical settings in the digital realm and develop climate change solutions, Earth-2, as it is now known, will combine neural networks and deep-learning algorithms.

Earlier this March, working alongside the European Space Agency and others, the European Commission revealed its own ambitious project to create a digital twin of the planet, called Destination Earth.

Hopefully, by end of 2024, it should have the acquired necessary data from simulations and real-time observations to have a digital twin that will concentrate on floods, drought, tsunamis, heatwaves, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. This information is ought to be shared with other countries which will definitely help save lives during the time of crisis.

Hexagon, Fujitsu Join Hands To Solve Societal Challenges For ‘Trusted Society’

Hexagon and Fujitsu Limited have collaborated on a new partnership where one will get to witness the two provide joint use cases leveraging their respective digital twin technologies to drive advancement towards ‘Trusted Society’.

Information and communications services firm Fujitsu describes its Trusted Society as promoting a safe, secure, and sustainable society by utilising technologies to address societal issues with the help of all stakeholders.

The safety, infrastructure, and geospatial branch of the information technology business will collaborate with Fujitsu as part of the cooperation.

The two will combine their digital twin technologies and solutions, including high-performance computing IoT sensors, infrastructure, AI analysis, data processing, and enhanced cloud data visualisation.

Fujitsu executive vice president and vice head, Yoshinami Takahashi said, “Our goal at Fujitsu is to realise our vision for a ‘Trusted Society’. Partnering with Hexagon will allow us to extend our reach and provide even greater value to cities and regions around the world.”

Echoing similar views, Hexagon’s safety, infrastructure & geospatial division president Steven Cost stated that cities are playing a huge role in solving challenges.

He said, “Cities are playing a leading role in solving global challenges, from addressing climate change to eliminating traffic fatalities. Our partnership with Fujitsu can help cities put data to work to solve these pressing problems and meet sustainability and safety goals.”

This partnership was announced during Hexagon’s digital technology conference – HxGN LIVE Global 2022.

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