Tag Archives: metaverses

When less is more from describing digital twins to protoplasm

Word cluster diagramI spent several days last week reading drafts of PhD theses from two of my students.  I have three PhD students who are scheduled to finish their studies before Easter when they plan to start jobs that they have already been offered.  So, there is some urgency to their writing besides the usual desire to finish after three years or more of work on the same topic and the end of their funding.  Their relatively undiluted study of their topic can make it difficult for PhD students to see the big picture and write accessible descriptions of their research.  I have also encountered this challenge in describing our recent work on integrating digital twins to form an engineering metaverse.  There are dozens of published definitions of digital twins whereas the reverse holds for metaverses – no one really knows what they are.  Mary Midgley wrote, in her book ‘Beast and Man’, that descriptions should not be an account of everything about an entity or event but just enough to bring to our minds the appropriate conceptual scheme or construct that will tell us everything we need to know.  Our challenge as communicators is identifying the conceptual scheme that is needed, in other words selecting what matters and nothing else.  I like her example of an inappropriate description: “a section of protoplasm, measuring 1.76 meters vertically, emerged at 2:06 P.M. from hole in building at point x on plan and moved northward, its extremities landing alternately on concrete substratum, finally entering hole in further building, at point y on plan, at 2:09 P.M.”  If you need a conceptual scheme to understand this sentence, then try ‘a person walked across the road’.

Source: Mary Midgley, Beast and Man – the roots of human nature. Abingdon, Oxon. Routledge Classics, 2002.

Image: Cluster #1: simulation along product life cycle from Semeraro C, Lezoche M, Panetto H & Dassisti M, Digital twin paradigm: a systematic literature review, Computers in Industry, 130: 103469, 2021 who found thirty definitions of digital twins and created five such clusters of definitions.

Dressing up your digital twin

My research includes work on developing digital twins [see ‘Digital twins that thrive in the real world‘ on June 9th, 2021] of aircraft, power stations and other engineering systems.  And I am aware of similar work in other disciplines [see ‘Digital twins could put at risk what it means to be human‘ on November 18th, 2020]; but I was surprised to learn about the demand for digital clothing.  Three-dimensional virtual spaces or metaverses exist in computer games, chat rooms and more recently virtual spaces designed for socialising and shopping that are populated by avatars that need to wear something.  So, some fashion brands are producing digital clothing and charging you for the privilege of attiring your avatar with their logo.  In other words, you can buy clothes that don’t exist for people who are not real.  However, DressX has gone a step further producing a ‘digital-only collection’ of clothing for your digital twin or, at the moment, two-dimensional images of real people.  So, now you can buy clothes that don’t exist, superimpose them on pictures of real people, and upload the results to social media.  Perhaps it’s not as crazy as it seems at first because it might alleviate the need for fast fashion to produce single-use real clothes at enormous cost to the environment.  However, dressing up your digital twin does not seem to offer the same level of anticipation and excitement as getting dressed up yourself. (Except in a lockdown? Ed)

Source: Alexander Fury, Virtual fashion: the next frontier?, FT Weekend, 28/29 August 2021.