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Manufacturing in the Metaverse

Overview

The future of manufacturing will be underpinned by two elements: digital technologies and collaboration. The industrial metaverse is the epitome of these elements, using extended reality to blend the physical and digital worlds to transform how businesses design, manufacture, and interact with objects.

This report presents a coherent summary of established knowledge from academia and practice on the drivers, risks, enablers, and barriers of the industrial metaverse for manufacturing through a systematic literature review. These aspects are explored at three levels of granularity: the individual, the firm, and the manufacturing ecosystem.

As a result of this work, the InterAct funded team has also conceptualised a prototype for an industrial metaverse implementation using a case of cocoa manufacturing.

This research was conducted by Dr. Nikolai Kazantsev, Dr. Bethan Moncur, Russell Goh, Professor Chander Velu (IfM, University of Cambridge). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or to propose potential applications/collaborations, please contact Nikolai Kazantsev.

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InterAct Blog

Industrial metaverse for manufacturing systems: hype or future reality?

Our project aims to provide a coherent interdisciplinary summary of established knowledge from academia and practice on the application and potential benefits, barriers, and risks of a metaverse in manufacturing, mainly focusing on bridging technical and social insights.

Metaverse is expected to provide numerous benefits, particularly in production process optimisation, employee induction and collaboration. The most surprising research finding so far is just how varied the definitions of metaverse are. For our study, we define industrial metaverse as” a sensory environment that uses extended reality to blend the physical and digital worlds to transform how businesses design, manufacture and interact with objects”.

The existing industrial cases reveal technological barriers such as immaturity, lack of sufficiently strong communication networks and sustainability concerns. Other cases include cybersecurity risks like cyberattacks and data protection/privacy issues. The social barriers include jurisdictional and legislative difficulties, lack of cooperation between companies necessary to achieve interoperability and the need to change worker and user mindsets. 

Figure 1. Industrial metaverse as a new interface to the products’ manufacturing system

Although the data suggests immersion as a driving force of the metaverse[1], a full immersion can not be achieved without impacting the senses and feelings of a user. For example, in sensory marketing, similar impacts (experience stimuli) are used to trigger purchasing intention (Dewey, 1925; Schmitt, 1999), however, in the physical reality. Hence, we envision a similar trend in the digital world, where an industrial metaverse will extend the numeric and graphical data (such as reports) into coherent immersive experiences that will also affect feelings, Figure 2.

Figure 2. Industrial Metaverse as a combination of senses stimuli

Our conceptualisation efforts aim to prototype an industrial metaverse that activates several senses (sight, sound, temperature, and smell) and test how the extended experience triggers actions.

“Highly promising results are expected for the intersection of resilience and sustainability,” said Nikolai. “For example, based on the sensory marketing research that positions smell as the strongest attractor for purchasing decisions, we aim to virtualise the production conditions with sight, sound, temperature, and smell and enhance experience stimuli in the metaverse. We think it will better inform purchasing choice and support the demand pattern for clean energy, ethical production, and fewer emissions along supply chains.”

After the first results of the systematic literature review, we wish to explore the feasibility of the extended reality to shift decision-making towards more expensive but more sustainable decision-making along the manufacturing value chain[2]. Over the following months, our research aims to exemplify our concept using a scenario based on food manufacturing system for chocolate production. To do so, we will integrate the popular Augmented Reality platform with audio, temperature and smell generator devices to extend the experience for a policy-maker, manufacturer or customer making a hard choice between a cost-efficient vs. sustainable manufacturing system. This prototype will be used as a sensory dashboard for an extended representation of material sources, production conditions, carbon footprint and energy sources to better inform the stakeholder about the impacts of their decision.

“Carbon emission, working conditions, and energy consumption remain underexplored in the real world but visible in the metaverse. Hence, the metaverse can be used to raise awareness about manufacturing systems.”

Yet, It is unclear if being informed on carbon emissions in real-time will impact manufacturers’ use of their machines and shift the regulation imposed by policymakers. For example, would the smell of burning Amazon forests shift a consumer’s decision-making closer to more expensive sustainable purchase better than the printed carbon footprint number on the product package?

Figure 3. Industrial metaverse as a sensualisation of real-time data sharing   

The project has an open innovation philosophy, so we wish to create a discussion space around the metaverse application for manufacturing and are open to collaboration with the InterAct researchers and the industrial community.

To disseminate the findings, we plan to run a public event involving technology providers, industry, academia and stakeholders from the local public administration at the end of 2023.


References

Academic

Dewey, J. (1981). The later works, 1925-1953 (Vol. 3). SIU Press.

Schmitt, B. (1999). Experiential marketing. Journal of marketing management15(1-3), 53-67.

Petit, O., Velasco, C., Wang, Q. J., & Spence, C. (2022). Consumer consciousness in multisensory extended reality. Frontiers in psychology13.

Industrial

https://www.radiantvisionsystems.com/blog/creating-full-sensory-experiences-future-ar/vr/mr/xr

https://www.ericsson.com/en/6g/internet-of-senses

https://www.bitstamp.net/learn/web3/extended-reality-virtual-reality-augmented-reality-and-more/

https://www.designnews.com/augmented-reality/metaverse-will-engage-all-five-senses


[1]64% of industrial cases describe metaverse as a realistic user experience

[2] The team is considering to apply for further funding via the newly launched Impact Booster Competition of Made Smarter Innovation Challenge

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News

InterAct Systematic Reviews second funding round – successful projects announced

InterAct is pleased to announce the recipients of our second round of Systematic Review funding. These two projects are led by Dr. Dalila Ribaudo of Aston University and Dr. Nikolai Kazantsev of the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge. The projects will focus on topics relating to ‘Manufacturing in the metaverse’ and ‘Perceptions of manufacturing’.

Manufacturing in the metaverse: Conceptual model and future research directions

Principal Investigator:

Professor Chander Velu – Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge.

Lead researcher:

Dr. Nikolai Kazantsev – Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge.

Project Outline:

The industrial metaverse uses ‘virtual and augmented reality to blend the physical and digital worlds to transform how businesses design, manufacture and interact with objects’.

The project aims to provide a coherent interdisciplinary summary of established knowledge from academia and practice on the application and potential benefits of a metaverse in manufacturing, mainly focusing on bridging technical and social insights.

The specific objectives are:

  1. To clarify the terminology, technologies, and roles the metaverse can play in manufacturing.
  2. To derive the barriers, drivers and benefits of adopting the metaverse for individuals, firms, the manufacturing ecosystem and the economy.
  3. To summarise a conceptual model and outline future research directions of an industrial metaverse in manufacturing.

The industrial metaverse is often explored solely from a technological perspective despite being a fast-growing field of study in various domains. As a result, complex terms and concepts are misinterpreted by the industry, resulting in an overlapping stack of technologies and, therefore, unclear evidence of the application of the concept in manufacturing.

By investigating overlooked social and economic factors behind metaverse applications, the project aims unlock the virtual space for goods manufacturing and transaction, and discover how the interactions between firms and customers happen.

The team is open for collaborations on this research. Please contact nk622@cam.ac.uk if you are interested.

The purpose of a potential collaboration would be to better inform research on the positioning of the metaverse as a technological tool in manufacturing.

The team are keen to hear from:

  • Industrial partners who have already applied some elements of virtual reality or who want to do so soon, but are unclear on how to progress due to the perceived risks or unclear benefits of the technology.
  • This could be technology providers, such as Vuforia, Hololens (MST), Meta or creators of alternative augmented reality glasses.

How to make manufacturing charming again? It is everything, everywhere, all at once.

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Dalila Ribaudo – Aston University

Co-investigators:

Dr. Guendalina Anzolin – University of Cambridge

Dr. Jennifer Castañeda-Navarrete – University of Cambridge

Project Outline:

The aim of this project is to conduct a comprehensive literature review of the perceptions of manufacturing, with a particular emphasis on international industrial strategies.

The team plans to analyse how perceptions of manufacturing have been changing across countries and how governments are taking actions to bring manufacturing back into the policy agenda. One of the main areas where this is happening is the adoption of digital technologies, a field where the changing features of manufacturing are evident.

For example, policy makers need to design industrial strategies that address both the increasingly higher requirement for skilled labour, and firms’ adoption of digital technologies, while also developing strategic sectors, such as semiconductors.

This study will reveal how countries prioritize manufacturing in the context of national and regional industrial strategies (i.e., for example with the levelling up agenda in the UK and the Innovation and Competition Act in the US.

There are four main topics the team will examine that can be linked to negative perceptions on manufacturing:

  1. It is believed to be a declining industry, replaced by services, especially in advanced economies.
  2. Manufacturing is a low-skilled and low-paying employment environment.
  3. Manufacturing is a dirty and polluting industry that harms the environment.
  4. Ideological as well as practical barriers for policymakers to provide sufficient attention to manufacturing.