How the metaverse will change the industry of tomorrow

The metaverse will fundamentally change the way the economy works. The major financial players have understood this well. AXA Investment Managers launched its thematic fund on the metaverse a few weeks ago. It consists of around 250 titles divided into four categories: gaming, socializing, work, and technology enabler. Much of the attention the metaverse has so far focused on the first two categories (gaming and socializing). But it is as a technological facilitator that the benefits in terms of value creation and innovation will certainly be the most significant. Some speak of an “industrial metaverse”. It’s the same idea.

Numerous industrial applications

The objective is to simulate experiences or phenomena in the virtual world in order to be able to provide an answer to the problems of the physical world. The most emblematic example is certainly that of Nvidia, an American listed company specializing in graphics processors, artificial intelligence and which has one foot in the metaverse. Last December, the group’s CEO, Jensen Huang, announced plans to create a digital twin of the Earth capable of predicting climate change using artificial intelligence. This is not a project that could succeed in the short term. It may take at least ten or fifteen years of research and investment. But suppose Nvidia succeeds. This could make it possible to anticipate and prevent the climate changes that will occur in the physical world, for companies to adapt, for insurers and for all economic players.

Other applications are possible. At Oceans.ai, we aim to create a metaverse within a few years that can help anticipate and predict the impact of corrosion on energy infrastructure, for example. Corrosion, in the broad sense (including pipelines, gas lines, road infrastructure, etc.) cost France nearly 84 billion euros in 2019. This is the equivalent of 3.5% of GDP. If we could better anticipate the degradation of materials under the effect of the environment, this would make it possible to reduce the costs generated as well as the risks and to reinforce the safety of the goods.

In the same vein, Boeing is creating its own internal metaverse based on digital twins in order to avoid design errors on its planes. Boeing is also seeking to improve the maintenance and inspection of its aircraft. The American group uses current and historical maintenance data and has developed a machine learning algorithm which, if the project is successful, could anticipate the weak points to be monitored on aircraft as a priority. However, this is not an easy task.

Regulation and complexity of data processing

The metaverse is based on the following technologies: augmented reality (eg 3D objects that fit into a room), virtual reality (simulation of a 3D environment existing in the physical world), blockchain, 5G, IOT (connection from physical objects to the internet), industry 4.0 (which corresponds to the convergence of the virtual world with real objects) and artificial intelligence. Access to data is the key to success for the latter. It is customary to say that in artificial intelligence there is a need for large volumes of data. It’s true. But what is not often highlighted is that the quality of the data (continuous and consistent data, for example) is even more essential. This makes it possible in particular to create operating systems serving as a framework for the digital twins that we have mentioned.

Data quality is not an end in itself. It is also important to bear in mind all the data privacy needs and the still disparate regulations that apply here and there in this area. Contrary to what we might believe in Europe, we are lucky. The regulations are moving in the right direction. In early April, the European Parliament adopted more flexible rules to facilitate data sharing (neutral intermediaries to aggregate data, incentive for public actors to share their data, etc.). This should help foster the climate of innovation around artificial intelligence and therefore around the metaverse. Finally, this system should soon be supplemented by a law concerning the use of data generated by connected objects (currently under discussion at Member State level). This is also a crucial point for the industry.

Channel funds

The challenge now is to channel funds from the private equity more towards the themes of innovation in the industry. This is a challenge in France where fundraising is essentially dominated by the fintech segment and, to a lesser extent, by medtech. In many cases, only the corporate venture capital (funds held by large industrial groups) with the Public Investment Bank (BPI) in support are present. This is insufficient if we want to reindustrialize France and multiply the sectors of excellence. We hope that the current tenant of the Elysée will tackle this subject as well.