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Remote Collaboration, Digital Twins, and the Metaverse

Jan. 24, 2022
Peering into the technology crystal ball shows a digital twin.

This article is part of the 2022 Electronic Design Forecast issue

Forecasting is always fun when you get it right, but that only happens occasionally. On the plus side, going with the trends tends to be the way to stay out of trouble. On the downside, COVID-19 has affected everyone and everything, so take anything like this as a very big grain of salt. It may be a while before certain things come to fruition.

That said, some clear trends have emerged in the electronics space when it comes to development. Remote collaboration has always been growing, accelerating in fits and starts over the past two years as a large amount of the workforce was forced to work from home. Articles based on our annual salary survey bear this out. I didn’t have much of a problem since I’ve been doing that for the past three decades, but when you have to switch in a week, it tends to be a bit disconcerting.

Video conferences and general collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams are the mainstay at this point, but the number of development tools with integrated collaboration support is rising significantly. What’s interesting is that the collaboration support facilitates working with others. However, it also ties all those people to the platform in a way that’s hard to migrate to integrate with other platforms.

Enter the metaverse. The idea of a virtual environment isn’t new. Actually, the term is rather old, but it’s becoming more commonly used as companies like Facebook rename themselves as Meta. Unfortunately, these metaverses tend to be walled gardens. Such metaverses also may be focused on particular solutions like NVIDIA’s Isaac robot simulation environment.

Robotic simulation is only a subset of these virtual environments and linking them to the design world and real world is where digital twins have become involved (see figure). Again, digital twins aren’t a new idea, but often these have been created and used in isolation. We’re moving toward an environment where they’re ubiquitous or at least very common and usable by a wider group of people.

So, the general forecast is that virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), digital twins, and the metaverse will continue to expand in their use and functionality. And practical and economical uses of these technologies will grow as they become cheaper and more functional. High-resolution VR and AR glasses have made things practical, although not necessarily cheap. In addition, technologies like ray tracing are providing more natural visual presentations. 

Luckily the forecasts presented by Electronic Design are not limited to this one in print or online. Our first print issue of the year has a number of articles looking ahead and our digital Top Stories forecast issue includes these articles and many more that address topics from development tools to semiconductors.

Read more articles in the 2022 Electronic Design Forecast issue

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