Earth Has a Digital Twin

Image credit: iStockphoto/Pr3t3nd3r

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have joined NASA in exploring space and looking for new worlds, but there is another world right here on earth, and it’s a virtual world being built by NVIDIA.

In the ultimate ‘digital twin,’ the NVIDIA Omniverse is a real-time virtual world collaboration platform for 3D workflows that can be used to twin facilities such as factories, self-driving cars, robots, cities, and even the world itself.

Ultimately, this global twin can be used to look into the future, understand the impact of global warming, and model different responses.

In November 2021, NVIDIA announced plans to build a new AI supercomputer, Earth-2 —or E-2 for short — precisely to model climate change. 

“For the first time, we have the technology to do ultra-high-resolution climate modeling, to jump to lightspeed, and predict changes in regional extreme weather decades out,” wrote Jensen Huang, NVIDIA’s chief executive, in a recent article.

“We can achieve million-x speedups by combining three technologies: GPU-accelerated computing; deep learning and breakthroughs in physics-informed neural networks; and AI supercomputers, along with vast quantities of observed and model data to learn from,” he added.

The system would be the climate change counterpart to Cambridge-1, the world’s most powerful AI supercomputer for healthcare research. Cambridge-1, unveiled earlier this year in the U.K., is used by several leading healthcare companies.

“All the technologies we’ve invented up to this moment are needed to make Earth-2 possible. I can’t imagine a greater or more important use,” Huang continued.

The complete world omniverse might be a while off, but NVIDIA is already progressing with individual projects in digital twinning.

Launched in December 2020, the NVIDIA Omniverse has been in beta testing with more than 70,000 users and moved to general availability in early November.

Collaborations

In the U.S., the company uses advanced visualization and virtual world simulation and partners with Lockheed Martin to help fight wildfires with AI.

By recreating a fire in a physically accurate digital twin, the system will suggest actions to suppress the blaze best.

“If you imagine earth as a physical thing, this will be the engine of alternate worlds”

German engineering company Siemens Energy is also working with NVIDIA to develop digital twins of its power plants in the omniverse, while perhaps the most advanced collaboration is with Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson.

The company combines decades of radio network simulation expertise with the NVIDIA Omniverse and building city-scale digital twins to accurately simulate the interplay between 5G cells and the environment for maximum performance and coverage.

Virtual testing

The digital twin approach delivers more detailed information on the interaction between radio transmitters, the environment, humans, and devices on the move. Before the advent of the digital twin, many features were tested after the networks were already built.

“Before Omniverse, coverage and capacity of networks was analyzed by simplifying many aspects of the complex interactions, such as the physical phenomena and mobility aspects,” says German Caballos, a researcher at Ericsson.

“Now we’ll be able to simulate network deployments and features in a highly detailed scale using Omniverse.”

Soon, network engineers could be pulling on their virtual-reality headsets to explore any part of the model at a 1:1 scale, tune the antenna and see the impacts of consequences and changes not visible in real life.

NVIDIA’s Huang says the company plans to reveal the architecture of Earth-2 to the public soon, saying it will be the “most energy-efficient supercomputer ever created.”

“If you imagine earth as a physical thing, this will be the engine of alternate worlds,” he says.

This world also contains avatars, and in his keynote at the company’s recent conference, Huang unveiled his avatar, a pint-sized simulation of himself he called “Toy Jensen.”

The NVIDIA Omniverse Avatar, he said, could create avatars as conversational AI assistants and connect NVIDIA’s existing work in speech AI, computer vision, natural language processing, recommendation engines, and simulation technologies.

Ultimately, AI avatars could take restaurant orders, make personal appointments, and handle banking transactions as the virtual world begins to interact with the real in the digital future.

Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and DigitalWorkforceTrends, and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborating with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Pr3t3nd3r