Now the industrial metaverse has become the latest talk of the town, as it is seen as one of the most promising ways to revolutionize manufacturing in the years to come. China’s Huawei, Tencent, and Lenovo, and foreign firms like Siemens are exploring metaverse industrial applications in China, reported China Daily on December 19.
Industrial metaverse loosely refers to a virtual world where real machines and factories, buildings, transportation, grids, and other industrial objects and systems are mirrored digitally with technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality, experts said.
Li Bohu, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said industrial metaverse is now one of the most oft-heard technological themes, as it has become a new carrier for the integration of digital economy and real economy.
Hu Houkun, the rotating chairman of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, said that compared with consumer-oriented applications, metaverse has larger value in its industrial use.
Industrial metaverse is expected to drive the market size of global smart manufacturing to exceed $540 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 15.35% from 2021 to 2025, said market research company TrendForce.
China currently has more than 10,000 enterprises engaged in VR-related business, the ministry said, adding that it will step up its push to promote typical, replicable industrial VR applications, said the China Daily report.
Tencent is building an early version of a digital twin factory with Ruitai Masteel New Materials Technology that carries out digital simulation and virtual testing before processing real products.
Lenovo also said earlier this year that it will spend more than RMB100 billion ($14.34 billion) over the next five years on research and development of metaverse and other technologies, as it shifts from hardware to high-tech services.
Rui Yong, Lenovo's CTO, said the company offers a diverse product portfolio of metaverse, including its latest ThinkReality VRX, an all-in-one virtual reality headset for enterprise applications.
Foreign companies are also actively exploring the application of industrial metaverse in China. German industrial giant Siemens is building a digital twin factory in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.
The entire factory is simulated with a digital twin, which optimizes the building, and detects and mitigates potential problems at an early stage, according to Siemens.
Planning errors, both small and big, which in the past could have cost a lot of money and time, are completely avoided. "And we continue to use the power of simulation during operations. The true benefit of this digital plant is that manufacturing capacity has increased by 200 percent and productivity by 20 percent," Siemens added.
The Chinese government, which is well aware of the trend, is moving quickly to roll out favorable policies. Last month, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology jointly released a plan for the years 2022-26 with several other ministries to integrate VR technology with industrial applications.
Though it did not explicitly mention metaverse, the plan called for more efforts to create fundamental technologies that support immersive AR, VR and mixed reality experiences, all of which are aspects of metaverse.
The plan aims to grow the market size of China's VR industry beyond RMB350 billion ($50.4 billion) by 2026, by which time it intends to have cultivated more than 100 enterprises with strong innovative ability and industrial influence.
The value of the VR market in China had exceeded RMB100 billion ($14.34 billion) in 2021, according to market consulting firm CCID.
In a mid-November virtual reality conference in Nanchang, southeastern China's Jiangxi Province, Wang Jiangping, vice-minister of industry and information technology, said, "The ministry will seize the window of opportunity of the VR industry to promote its integration with the real economy."
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