Can the Omniverse help us make a better world with digital twins?


Most of our focus on GamesBeat is… well, games. Games are a big part of today’s world and have led to unforeseen innovation in interesting ways. As the world’s obsession with gaming technology grows, more time and money is being put into its development. For example, when I first saw a Kinect, I never expected to read that it would be used in operating rooms to aid surgeons. That leads us to the Omniverse.

“Omniverse is our collaboration and simulation platform,” said Richard Kerris, vice president of Omniverse development platform at NVIDIA. “It is designed as an open, connected platform that works with third-party products. We don’t replace workflows, we extend and improve them by connecting existing tools to the Omniverse. What we have is over 20 years of NVIDIA technology that is part of that platform. AI, multi-GPU rendering, the ability to collaborate around the world, that sort of thing.”

There are clear benefits to being able to design and test products in a virtual world. Eliminating the dangers and costs of testing is a bonus enough, but NVIDIA doesn’t intend to stop there.

“One of the things Omniverse is widely used for is digital twins,” Kerris continues. “At NVIDIA, it’s in our DNA to solve problems and take on big tasks and challenges that help us make the world a better place. Obviously, climate change is one of those challenges that we all face. So Jensen (Jensen Huang, CEO and President of NVIDIA) made the decision that we were going to take our digital twin brother and take it to the next level to create a full digital twin of the Earth. It’s a huge undertaking. The primary goal is to study the environment and climate change and understand and learn from what’s happening in those twins so we can improve the physical world.”

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Big and small

While tackling the problems of climate change is a good reason to create a digital twin of the Earth, there are also far fewer catastrophic uses. One such case, which could be of interest to operations managers around the world, is brought to us by Nivedita Ojha, VP of Platform and Data Strategy at Autodesk.

“We are engaged in designing, making and operating,” says Ojha. “Once you get into ‘make’, once a factory is complete, we focus on delivering digital twins at the end of this process. Right now the use case is mainly focused on providing these digital twins for asset management As we complete every major industrial project there is not just asset management – there is also HVAC to understand as well as IOT devices The future of the digital twin is much more than just a finished digital product it goes beyond that for building management, asset management and, to some extent, expanding into a domain of sustainability, how we reuse, recycle and reduce everything we build.”

Epic Games and the Unreal engine work closely with NVIDIA. Both projects use the Pixar-made USD (Universal Scene Descriptor) file type by default, so moving assets back and forth isn’t terribly difficult. Unreal has been adopted quite a bit outside of the game industry, mainly used in video production, but also branching out into other markets.

“We’ve seen auto companies in the advertising and marketing space understand that with a digital twin of a car, they can create almost all of their marketing variables,” said Marc Petit, GM of Unreal engine for epic games. “The synthetic photos, the car configurator, the VR experience, the big 26k rendering and even commercials can be built from that dataset.”

The learning environment

In the past ten years there has been a lot of talk about self-driving cars. Delivery companies around the world are very interested in self-driving trucks for transportation or drones for delivery. However, there are major drawbacks to real-world testing. For example, Tesla has made a few headlines, for good or bad, with its self-driving functionality. Kerris envisions a world where we can do our training and simulation without the cost in money or human lives.

“We’ve created digital twins of different environments for the cars, so we can have multiple cars in that synthetic world,” Kerris says. “Driving and learning from weather conditions and things like that.”

A big benefit of being able to create digital twins in the Omniverse is something most people haven’t thought of yet: the ability to train AI for the tasks we need them to do much faster.

“Much the same goes for the robotics scenario,” Kerris continues. “Using a digital twin of the physical world, be it a city block, countryside, object, or factory, gives you the ability to do things in that digital world before committing to costs in the physical world.”

Using the Omniverse for the betterment of our species is a noble and hopefully inevitable goal. We’ve only covered a fraction of this talk, so watch the full discussion at the GB Summit: Into the Metaverse 2!

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