Let the Metaverse v/s Omniverse race begin!

Feb 2022 | No Comment

Graeme Hooper

Managing Director, GPSat Systems Australia

With the dual announcements in late 2021 by arguably the technology world’s two biggest heavyweights, both declaring big future investments in 3D Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR), confirms we live in interesting times. Initially, Facebook announces the company name change to META, with the promise of employing many thousands of engineers worldwide to deliver this vision. While NVIDIA, provided greater detail on their future Omniverse aspirations through new accelerated 3D AI and Quantum Computing product offerings, to support growing industrial 3D VR/AR applications.

While Facebook is a well-known name, however, unless familiar with electronics, NVIDIA is less known. But that doesn’t mean they are not significant, as most computers employed in the geospatial sciences industries heavily rely on the amazing parallel processing Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) ICs, that power the modern “GeForce” graphics cards and many consumer 3D gaming consoles.

Metaverse/ Omniverse (MO) – The difference

It seems the Metaverse will be a place where people can interact, work and create a cyberspace future that exists in parallel with life in the physical world. META expects it to reach a billion people within the next decades. While Omniverse focuses on the industrial world, moving towards cyberspace digital transformations for lower transaction costs and higher efficiencies. A new world populated by industrial Digital Twins (DT) autonomous robots, governed by high fidelity virtual 3D environments with all the constraints and details of the real world physical space, which is a sort of Metaverse in itself.

So, emanating from these two significant announcements several questions quickly arise;

What does this mean for the Geospatial Sciences & Navigation (GS&N) industry futures and which new technologies, innovations or capabilities will be required to deliver MO’s new extreme frontiers? The answer, current solid growth will definitely continue, however, growth may quickly transition to explosive, fuelled by new extreme levels of financial investments by companies like META and NVIDIA delivering into future AR/ VR ecosystems. Visualisation display technologies, along with navigation and 3D perception sensors (LIDAR/ RADAR), artificial intelligence and Digital Twins, are all essential ingredients to these new virtual worlds yet to be created.

As modern internet races towards a MO future, GS&N industry’s challenge will to be adequately satisfy the anticipated huge demand for high fidelity 3D digital twins. Both for static cities environments and landscapes, while also, for 3D scaled model avatars of movable objects such as people, machinery, etc. Then, very quickly fuse/ blend both the underlying 3D navigation and perception sensor real time data, with the digital twin spatial avatars, all in interactive AR/VR immersive 3DMO environments. The futuristic 3D immersive technologies imagined by the Avatar movie, are now not that far off.

What will future Omniverse industrial customers be looking for in 2022?

The rollout/ push for improved automation in safe and sustainable ways for delivering increases in productivity, while producing better outcomes for the environment is expected to their highest priorities. GNSS as the most versatile outdoor navigation and absolute positioning sensor has a very significant contribution/ role to play in this area. However, with automation comes with very substantial legal responsibilities that all systems be developed and tested to the highest industrial safety integrity standards. For Australian industry AS61508 or similar, are the standards that govern the formal certification of GNSS sensors in machine automation safety critical applications. These are complex and very arduous standards to meet, and so, to move certified GNSS enabled automation solutions forwards, our customers expect all potential GNSS issues comprehensively addressed, including spectrum protection.

Developing new MO solutions – Challenges/ Opportunities for the GS&N industries

The early immersive navigation MO facilitators will certainly be those mission critical GNSS users in aviation, mining, marine and agriculture where the adoption advantages are hugely beneficial. Consequently, for these same users any GNSS navigation signal failures or interruptions produce potential outcomes that are usually quite dire. These clients are looking for practical solutions to both quickly detect GNSS signal issues and very accurately geolocate the RF interference source. With solutions like GNSS Rf InterFerence FINder (GRIFFIN), effective regional GNSS spectrum protection is now a reality. The challenge for the different GNSS industries is to both plan and regionally deploy effective solutions that ruggedises regional GNSS environments. For example, huge nationwide mobile phone tower infrastructure could be progressive made dual purpose with the addition of GNSS spectrum monitoring/ protection type technologies.

Risks to effectively facilitating new MO avatar future

Fortunately, the modern internet has for decades been a wonderful tool to globally share information. However unfortunately, there has been huge growth in shared mis/dis information deliberately spread to cause confusion and undermine trust in governments or institutions. This cyber cancer is expected to mutate into future MO avatar applications also. For the navigation technologies, the GNSS industry needs to adopt a different philosophical mindset with regards to GNSS technology resiliency. Rather than solely focusing on enhanced receiver senor technologies attempting to avoid RF interference, which is some regards is a pointless exercise, extra R&D technologies should be applied to actively monitor and interdict in regional GNSS spectrum issues. The required technologies, such as, phased array radar, advanced weak signal processing and Time Difference of Arrive, etc, have existed for many decades in other RF disciplines. However, other than GRIFFIN projects none of these have ever been migrated across to GNSS spectrum protection missions. This “do-nothing” GNSS spectrum policing mindset needs to change.

Priorities for 2022

At a global level, humanity’s two current massive challenges are to concurrently deal with both COVID19 and Global Climate Change. Going forwards, both have the potential to adversely affect future populations in many profound undesirable ways. However strangely both these catastrophes are closely related, and whereas, future MO technologies offer significant panacea solutions to both. A future world where MO is globally prevalent and available to all. Delivering a better “connected world” whereby, populations are less dense, the need/ desire for travel is less and industry is operating far more efficiently, with substantially less waste. The dominant 2022 priority for the GS&N industries must be to embrace MO technologies and to facilitate the Avatar movie’s visionary MO world as quickly as possible.

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