For public agencies, proposed ‘metaverse’ has implications beyond social media—like predicting the spread of wildfire
For the past few weeks, talk of Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the ‘metaverse’ has dominated the internet. The metaverse—a hypothesized evolution of the internet—would take websites and social media platforms one step further into virtual reality.
And it’s not just Meta Platforms Inc. (previously Facebook) that’s latched onto the idea.
Other global tech companies including Microsoft and Nvidia are also on board, announcing their own iterations of the same concept. The term metaverse was coined by Neal Stephensen in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash.” Proponents have pitched it as an open-source platform like the world wide web—connecting unlimited virtual worlds built with the same infrastructure.
Users could seamlessly travel between these spaces.
From virtual-entertainment events to social apps that could bring people together into the same digital space, to remote workplaces, the implications of such a technological evolution—both positive and negative—are sweeping. Local government and public agencies are among those that could be affected.
The technology behind the concept is powerful, and with the right application, it could prove beneficial in helping city planners address challenges like traffic congestion, scientists better understand how to mitigate climate change, and first responders contain wildfires. This is made possible through “digital twins”—virtual replicas of things that exist in the physical world.
At a press briefing last week ahead of Nvidia’s annual GPU Technology Conference Tuesday, Rev Lebaredian, vice president of simulation technology and Omniverse engineering at Nvidia, highlighted the launch of an artificial-intelligence (AI) simulation lab in Silicon Valley that will be dedicated to predicting and responding to wildfires. The lab will be built with Nvidia’s digital-twin technology through a collaboration between the tech brand, Lockheed Martin with it’s Cognitive Mission Manager system, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control.
When it’s fully up and running, fire officials will be able to study a real-world wildfire’s behavior in the virtual space, in real time, and run simulations projecting what could happen in the future.
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