In another unusual year for the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona — even organizers GSMA said the trade show feels "immaterial" in the face of conflict in Ukraine — one trend did provide a compelling vision for the future that could benefit humanity in tangible ways.
Several companies showed their vision for mirror worlds or digital twins that they believe will provide a realistic representation of our entire planet. During a Thursday panel discussion at MWC, Tommy Bjjorkberg, director at ZTE, said digital twins are one of the "key things that can help to make a greener planet."
One impressive example that could already have staggering real-world applications is Nvidia’s Earth-2 digital twin project which is powered by the company's Omniverse — its version of the metaverse. It is a simulation of the entire planet that will greatly enhance the capacity for climate modeling. And it goes far beyond that.
Digital twins: The future of computer interactions?
Another panel attendant at MWC, Unity VP of AR and VR Timoni West, said they believe that digital twin projects will harness the "wealth of real-time contextual information" to bring about the next phase of computer evolution within the next 50 years. It's a development, they said, that will see computers interacting with us on a human level via vastly advanced "object recognition and semantic analysis."
The term "mirror world" used to refer to a like-for-like representation of the world in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) was popularized by WIRED founding editor Kevin Keeley in an op-ed in which he wrote about future applications for the technology. Keeley described a full-scale digital representation of the world that would become the next generation for internet platforms. Primitive versions of this mirror world already exist as augmented reality apps that map digital objects over GPS satellite data. The most popular example so far is the 2016 breakout hit Pokemon Go.
Digital twin and mirror world projects powered by the metaverse were a big trend this year at the Mobile World Congress, and they continue to evolve at an increasingly accelerated rate, providing crucial innovations. Though Meta might have great plans for the future, other companies are leading the way with practical real-world applications that will bring the benefits of the digital world into much greater focus in the coming months and years.