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Companies race to build "digital twins" in the metaverse

Here’s what the Metaverse looks like
You’ve heard of the Metaverse. Here’s what it looks like. 05:13

As the metaverse rapidly expands, major businesses and brands are picking up the tools needed to fill the virtual void and deliver immersive online experiences.

Adobe, known for its photo- and video-editing software, released a "metaverse playbook" on Tuesday and announced partnerships with Coca Cola, NASCAR, Epic Games and NVIDIA on a range of metaverse-related projects. Adobe told CBS MoneyWatch that hundreds of brands are already using its existing 3D tools to create interactive content, adding that demand for tools used to create photorealistic replicas of their products grew 100% from a year ago. 

"We have a very diverse pool of customers, and they are all trying to establish their standard workflow to get to high fidelity digital goods," said Stefano Corazza, head of augmented reality at Adobe. "The one thing they all have in common is the need for the creation of digital twins for all the goods that the brand is representing." 

A "digital twin" is a virtual replica of a real-world product, warehouse or factory floor. In the metaverse, it can be used to simulate a real-world shopping experience. Experts say the pairing of digital replicas with physical products and services also helps with data analysis and allows companies to run simulations using real-life scenarios before making costly decisions.

Amazon uses Adobe's 3D tools to create an immersive shopping experience. Adobe, Amazon

According to research firm Technavio, the digital-twin market is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of nearly 40% between 2020 and 2025 to nearly $25 billion. Research from job search engine Adzuna shows the number of job openings seeking candidates with expertise in the metaverse increased nearly 400% compared to October. Major industries currently recruiting metaverse experts include creative design, advertising and marketing. 

Corazza told CBS News that while brands used to get away with two-dimensional content on traditional websites, the metaverse is making the need for three-dimensional, interactive content a "total necessity for mainstream companies."

Richard Kerris, vice president of the Omniverse at NVIDIA, said every company will soon have a "digital-twin strategy." Kerris said beyond social media, shopping and entertainment, the industrial goods sector is seeing the biggest shake-up from the expansion of the metaverse. 

"True to reality"

German automaker BMW used NVIDIA's Omniverse platform to create a digital twin of its factory floor and optimize production time and cost. BMW produces 2.5 million cars a year and 99% of them are customized. With 100 options for each car and more than 40 BMW models, there are over 2,000 ways to configure a new BMW. 

By creating a digital twin of its factory, Kerris said BMW is able to simulate virtually what it's like to have 300 cars running on a conveyor belt and identify which paths around the factory are safest for employees to use during a shift. 

"The difference that is taking place now, that hasn't been there in the past, is that we have a platform that obeys the laws of physics and obeys true-to-reality submit scenarios, so it is not just an approximation, it's not just a representation, but it's actually something that is true to reality," Kerris said.  

A "digital twin" of BMW's factory floor simulates the automaker's manufacturing process.  NVIDIA, BMW

Lockheed Martin is also using NVIDIA's Omniverse platform. The companies teamed in November to make a digital twin of the wildfire areas in California. The visualizations help fire-behavior analysts model their predictions in a complex virtual simulation of the environment, helping firefighters battle blazes in real life.

"If you're a store operator or a retail operator, you'll want a digital twin to understand the layout of your products and the flow of people in your facility," Kerris said, adding that eventually everyone will also have a digital twin of their home "the same way we have a set of blueprints." 

David Whelan, CEO of Engage XR, a metaverse company that provides a platform for over 160 organizations and businesses to hold immersive meetings, virtual events and companywide training sessions, said their number of clients grew 50% in the last four months.

Whelan said the Engage platform was originally designed for educators. Stanford University partnered with the company last year to teach a seminar on virtual reality called "Virtual People," part of which was held in an immersive space using VR headsets.

Stanford University's "Virtual People" course meeting in the metaverse.  Engage XR, Stanford University

Whelan said more businesses are now finding ways to take advantage of marketing opportunities inside the metaverse while connecting with their own employees in new ways. 

"You need to give people an experience that is completely different to them," he said. 

The metaverse is largely built on a video-game engine, as a lot of the tools that power the metaworlds have been used by game designers for decades. Whelan said the metaverse currently exists in the gaming world in the form of immersive gaming experiences geared to younger audiences. 

He explained that more businesses are jumping on the metaverse bandwagon because it is an opportunity to earn brand recognition with a younger audience that is growing up in immersive worlds. 

"In the mid-90s big brands and companies had to get internet-ready. We're at the very same stage now where they need to get metaverse-ready," Whelan said.

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