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Posted on : Monday 6th July 2020 05:09 PM

Virtual Reality? How about “Virtual before Reality”

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When you learn the idea of “virtual reality,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a headset that lets you touch and feel objects that don’t exist. Perhaps a fully immersive game or tour of an exotic location. But virtual implies so much more in regards to innovating and creating groundbreaking products. In the virtual world, we can simulate and evaluate scenarios before producing the product itself.

For a long time, medical devices such as heart stents were tested on humans or animals. Today, however, research is being done on virtual hearts that are digital twins to their real life counterparts. Likewise car manufacturers once could only see how their cars would handle the stress of a crash by actually crashing into physical objects. Today manufacturers can “crash” them earlier in the manufacturing cycle in the virtual world, and for a fraction of the cost. Today, entire factories can be created digitally to plan and optimize manufacturing lines. Putting it simple, virtual worlds help people just imagine in different ways; they extend and improve the real world.

McDermott, a multinational engineering, procurement, construction and installation company, provides an ideal example of how virtual worlds can create business opportunity. Using virtual twins, McDermott is able to collaboratively engineer, build and operate fixed and floating offshore production facilities, pipelines and subsea systems. By digitalizing and standardizing its processes in addition to deploying a single, secure and collaborative environment, McDermott improved efficiency and performance, thereby increasing the delivery of construction-ready and operations-ready projects.

But it's not merely enterprises that can benefit from going virtual. In Singapore, the entire city has a virtual twin that integrates real-time, dynamic data into a topographical view of the city.

Establishing virtual twins isn't a simple process, and as companies look to leverage virtual technologies they should be aware that not all virtual twins are equal. To achieve full efficiency and value from the virtual world, the twin must pull in and incorporate information from across the enterprise – marketing, engineering, design and manufacturing. It also must be able to create highly detailed models that leverage 3D design and simulation to reproduce an object as a dynamic 3D model.  It’s not enough to just create a virtual object in a vacuum, you must also accurately simulate the environment in which that object will exist. 

By understanding the variations and the interplay between the value-creation processes of the physical world and those of the virtual one, manufacturers can holistically solve strategic production issues to achieve a lean and agile manufacturing process. Platforms that provide a single user interface and a digital thread throughout all enterprise functions and applications are the optimal way to create and leverage digital models that offer both consistency and fidelity. And for those who want to view their model in an immersive virtual experience, headset and all, being able to pull the model into a VR rendering environment is also key. 

The industry of the 21st century is no longer described simply by the ability to manufacture goods. Today’s leaders will be identified by superior mastery of technical knowledge and know-how. This is the new competitive differentiator and it’s happening now caused by a convergence of digital technologies that are converting every aspect of industrial business. To drive a renaissance of business requires a platform approach that enables the real and virtual worlds to inform and reinforce one another. By building the virtual before the real, companies can gain valuable insights, reduce costs, increase sustainability and correct mistakes in real time.


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