Imagine being able to create your own twin … an exact copy of yourself, but with a purely digital life.
We live in an era in where everything that exists in the real world is digitally copied: our cities, ours autoour homes and even ourselves.
And just like the exciting world of the metaverse – the digital virtual world in which there is an avatar for you – digital twins are becoming a new technological trend.
The digital twin is an exact replica of something in the physical world, but with one mission: to help improve the real-life version.
Initially, the twin was just a sophisticated model of computer 3D, but artificial intelligence (AI) combined with the Internet of Things, which uses sensors to connect physical elements to a network, means you can now build something digital that constantly learns and helps improve its real-world counterpart.
Tech analyst Rob Enderle believes we will have the prime versions of human digital twins “before the end of the decade”.
“Their appearance would require a great deal of moral reasoning, because an exact copy of our thinking can be incredibly useful for employers,” he said, according to the BBC.
He continued: “What if the company you work for created a digital twin for you and they said, ‘Hey, we have this digital twin that we don’t pay for, why are we still hiring you?'”
Enderle believes ownership of such digital twins will become one of the defining issues for the next era of the metaverse.
We have already begun our journey towards human twinning, in the form of the aforementioned avatars, but at the moment it is still primitive. For example, in Meta’s Horizon Worlds VR platform (formerly Facebook), you can give your avatar a face similar to yours, but you can’t give it legs because the technology is still in an early stage.
Sandra Wachter, researcher senior in artificial intelligence from the University of Oxford understands the fascination of creating digital twins for humans: “It reminds us of exciting science fiction novels, and now this is where we are.”
He added that whether someone succeeds in studying law, gets sick or commits a crime will depend on the “question between nature and education”.
“It will depend on luck and bad luck, friends and family, your environment, your socioeconomic background and, of course, your personal choices,” he said.
However, he explained, AI isn’t yet in able to predict these “unique social events due to their inherent complexity”.
“So we have a long way to go to understand and shape a person’s life from start to finish, assuming it’s always possible.”
The use of digital twins is currently more complex and extensive in the areas of design of product, distribution and urban planning.
In Formula 1 races, i team McLaren and Red Bull use digital twins for theirs auto racing. Meanwhile, DHL is creating a digital map of its warehouses and supply chains to enable it to be more efficient.
McLaren has a digital twin of its latest autowhich was used to help them develop them.
As more and more cities are replicated in the digital world, Shanghai and Singapore have digital twins, created to help improve the design and operation of buildings, transportation systems and roads.
In Singapore, one of the tasks of the digital twin is to help find new ways in which people can move around and avoid polluted areas. Other places are using technology to suggest where to build new infrastructure, such as subway lines.
New cities in Middle East are also being built simultaneously in the real world and in the digital world.
The company of software French Dassault Systèmes said he sees thousands of companies interested in its technology dual-digitalwhich allows companies to design new futuristic projects such as auto steering wheels. Everyone also has a physical prototype, but the improvement of that prototype is happening in the digital space.
A revolution in the world of medicine
The true value of digital twins lies in healthcare. Dassault Systèmes’ Living Heart project created an accurate virtual model of a human heart that can be tested and analyzed, allowing surgeons to create a series of “what if” scenarios for an organ, using various procedures and medical devices.
The project was founded by Steve Levine, whose desire to create a digital twin was driven by personal reasons. Her daughter was born with congenital heart disease and when she was in her twenties and at risk of heart failure, she decided to recreate her heart in virtual reality.
Boston Children’s Hospital is now using this technology to map patients’ actual heart conditions, while a team of engineers at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital are working with doctors to test devices that could help children with rare and difficult-to-treat heart disease.
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