Metaverse meets business

The latest wave of Smart Digital Reality innovations leverage artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies that empower customers to sustainably create and manage real-world systems in a digitally immersive environment.

The metaverse is already interwoven with our real lives today. It will affect beyond imagination how we live and work. The key to unlocking the true power of the metaverse is data — be it hyperrealistic visualisations of spaces and objects or insights that were previously inconceivable without artificial intelligence (AI).

Peter Drucker's quote, "You can't manage what you can't measure," encapsulates Hexagon's journey into digital reality. We built our technology on reality capture. Through our acquisition of Leica Geosystems, which has transformed the world of measurement and surveying (and continues to do so), and NovAtel, a leader in global positioning technology, Hexagon has paved the way for cutting-edge digital reality solutions.

A new era of autonomous reality capture systems

Hexagon has set out to create a digital mirror world using autonomous robots and platforms. The Leica BLK ARC – with ARC standing for "autonomous reality capture” – is an autonomous perception, navigation and reality capture module for robotic and autonomous platforms. As a module, it can be integrated with many different robotic platforms and used in a broad range of applications.

With BLK2FLY, Hexagon has created the world's first autonomous flying laser scanner. The BLK2FLY enables users to capture complex buildings and structures from facades to rooftops, bringing reality capture to previously inaccessible spaces. BLK2FLY creates its own scan path and flies around structures while capturing reality in 3D. It automatically uploads the data to Hexagon’s cloud-based, digital reality visualisation platform HxDR, where users and collaborators can view and share data in real time.

The fusion of LiDAR with oblique imagery creates photorealistic city models, even in urban canyons and hard-to-see areas. Mesh models offer an intuitive method to visualise planning and context, and derive 3D city models automatically. But we go a step further: We are on a mission to merge airborne and streetview data to create a "Supermesh," which enables you to see a city in all its detail, from above and below, under trees, canopies, doorways and bridges.

Toward a smart digital reality

At Hexagon, we see an opportunity to go way beyond the digital twin. Digitalising the physical world opens the door to creating Smart Digital Realities. By applying various AI techniques, we can autonomously extract all layers of semantics, from sealed surfaces to green areas, and from rooftops to complete buildings. One of our AI-based workflows is called auto-tagging. It combines pipe routing from 3D laser scans with plant and instrumentation drawings, and merges asset information with deep learning.

We have advanced air-based insights to make digital realities smart. Hexagon’s R-evolution, for example, is creating a multidimensional intelligent map of seagrass vegetation off the coast of The Bahamas — a crucial first step for protecting some of the world’s most significant blue carbon sinks.

Next, we want to visualise what does not exist. That way, we will change how we design, plan and create. Imagine you are an architect. You are designing a future landmark in Lower Manhattan — an ambitious project. You design in BricsCAD and then, magically, with the push of a button, you build your project autonomously. But now you want to go photorealistic. You create a new reality by placing your project within HxDR’s Supermesh and bringing it to life by simulating various scenarios such as various weather conditions.

Smart Digital Realities can also visualise fictional scenarios. You can scout a location, design a film set and plan movie scenes on your device. The digital world becomes your set at your fingertips!

Smart digital realities for a better future

How can we put data to work to make our cities more sustainable? We need fact-based information. AI now helps us know precisely where the green areas are, down to a single tree, and how much carbon dioxide each green space absorbs. The technology allows city planners to simulate wind and air exchange scenarios to tackle urban overheating. We can also find out which rooftops are already equipped with solar panels, where green rooftops exist and, more importantly, where they do not.

Innovation can create a sustainable, new reality. Seamlessly connecting the physical with the digital worlds will enable the emergence of the true Internet of Things. Hexagon is building a spatial web, the business version of the metaverse, seamlessly connecting the physical with the digital worlds and enabling multiple users to have the same experience in reality and in real-time, anchored to an actual physical location. Users can immerse themselves in a wealth of information based on what they see.

Spatial anchoring is the first step to connecting our vision and sense of direction to the metaverse. Our technology, such as Immersal, HxDR and Xalt, are the connective tissues. In the future, we may be able to connect all of our senses, even our minds, and create a truly immersive digital experience that lets us communicate the most complex ideas instantaneously. You can focus on your purpose and let our technology run quietly in the background. Again: The metaverse will fundamentally change how we interact and collaborate.

The metaverse and the interplay between the digital and the physical world will help us create a more sustainable planet. We can't change what has already happened, but we can (and must) take action to protect the global ecosystem. We have no time to spare.

Read more from Burkhard Böckem

Find more thought leadership articles from the Hexagon CTO.
Find more thought leadership articles from the Hexagon CTO.

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