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From Digital Reality to Reality – V

A backhoe is no longer an independent physical object, it lives in symbioses with its digital twin and its features are the result of soft an hard operation. Image credit: Mevea

The reasoning I have followed has pointed so far to the evolution from a reality “out there” to a digital reality that is being created and that we can perceive in various ways using technology. Furthermore, as technology becomes more and more advanced, both in the creation and in the fruition of digital reality, the boundary separating reality from digital reality fades away and the two create a new symbiotic reality that is ultimately the one we perceive. However, I also pointed out that whilst reality as we have known it for centuries was an objective one, it existed out there and it was the same for every person getting exposed to it, the symbioses of Digital Reality and Physical Reality is mediated by technology and this technology, in a near future, will tailor the perception to the specific need of that specific person. The personal Digital Twin will play this role of intermediator and personalization. What it is searched on the web may produce different results depending on who is searching. Two persons looking at the same “thing” will get different perceptions. Reality is becoming subjective. Notice that from as far as we can tell reality has always been interpreted in a subjective way, leading to different perceptions and understanding in different brains… what was seen as an act god a thousand years ago is now seen as a natural phenomena, what an engineer sees in a car may be different from what another person sees because of different education and interest… However, we are now talking about a subjective reality not in terms of different interpretation of the same objective reality rather in terms of accessing different realities, different data sets!

OK, this is just about data, of variations in the cyberspace that being so huge cannot be seen as a whole but as tiny slices by different people. Or is it not?

The Digital Transformation is doing much more than shifting some (many) atoms into bits. It is creating the possibility of an unlimited slate of features in the cyberspace that becomes intimately connected with atoms, with a product, to the point that they are actually defining the product itself and of course its perception by a user.

Take the example of Mevea. They are using Digital Twins as starting point in the definition of specification of a product and are using them to interact with their customer making them perceivable as a real product through Virtual Reality. Once there is the agreement with the customer they will further develop the digital twin to the point that it can become an executable manufacturing spec. Part of this spec will result in actual metal being forged into a backhoe (as an example), another part will be used to create the software giving life to the product. The digital twin remains associated to the soft and hard parts of the product and can be used for simulation and training and over time feedback from the field will lead to changes (easier to be implemented in the soft part of the product). The customer does not see a dividing line between soft and hard, to his experience both are present at the same time.

Now, let’s jump ahead a bit into the future and let’s assume that there will be a personal digital twin of a backhoe operator. This personal digital twin might engage in an interaction with the backhoe digital twin resulting in a different experience to different operators using the very same backhoe! And of course, this can be generalised to any product, to the car, that will become aware of that particular driver and interact seamlessly with her, to a kitchen robot that being aware of that particular cook will interact in a very specific way…

Now, look at this from the opposite direction. A backhoe operator, a driver, a cook, will perceive a very specific reality that will differ depending on who, operators, drivers, cooks is exposed to it, although the object they are interacting with is (at atom level) exactly the same. The digital reality, now no longer perceived as an independent one, being part of the “reality”, is changing the subjective experience.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.