Hyundai’s Metaverse Merges the Real And Digital Worlds in One
Hyundai is transforming itself into a mobility company, or at least trying to appear to do so at the 2022 CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show). Using CES’s technology stage, the company presented its future mobility vision with robots that help humans with all sorts of things—from assisting disabled people to visualizing a new “Metamobility” concept.
This latter part merges the use of vehicles and robots with the metaverse to connect to the virtual and real world. If this has you wondering what the heck is going on, don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to Hyundai, its robotic business “will drive the paradigm shift towards future mobility, going beyond the traditional means of transportation to fulfill unlimited freedom of movement for humankind.”
If this sounds like foreign territory for the Korean company, it isn’t, at least not entirely. Hyundai has invested in the development of flying vehicles with Uber and recently acquired a majority stake in Boston Dynamics, the Massachusetts-based company that developed Spot and Atlas, the four-legged and two-legged robots that can dance to The Contour’s “Do You Love Me” while looking terrifying. And for several years it has had a robotics division. But the company is entering a new chapter, expanding the number of robots it has, while connecting them to the metaverse and expanding mobility.
With the metaverse currently taking place through virtual reality, Hyundai is envisioning a future where its vehicles (or smart devices) can create a deeper virtual experience, enabling its users to basically “be” in two worlds. This concept, baptized by Hyundai as Metamobility, “will allow smart devices to access virtual spaces, while robots will act as a medium to connect the virtual and real worlds,” according to the company. Hyundai projects that a car could be transformed into an entertainment space, a meeting room or a 3D video game space. For example, a user will be able to visit Mars with the help of an avatar robot, allowing the user to physically experience the weather changes happening on the digital world.
With the pandemic limiting travel for many, metaverse has allowed some to be virtually present in some places of the world. And with Metamobility, Hyundai is taking that to the next level. The company says that with the use of its robots and VR, plant managers will be able to remotely connect to their machines to perform tasks, interacting with robotic avatars in the metaverse and using hand controls to change things in the real world.
“The idea behind Metamobility is that space, time and distance will all become irrelevant. By connecting robots to the metaverse, we will be able to move freely between both the real world and virtual reality,” said Hyundai’s president and head of the transportation-as-a-service division, Chang Song. “Going one step further from the immersive ‘be there’ proxy experience that the metaverse provides, robots will become an extension of our own physical senses, allowing us to reshape and enrich our daily lives with Metamobility.”
While this task would require a complex change for many companies, Hyundai has partnered with Microsoft to make this a reality. Ulrich Homann, Microsoft corporate vice president, said Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing can connect remote specialists to machines in a factory, including robots. “We could physically retool an assembly line in Asia without ever leaving the office in North America,” he said.
An Ecosystem Where Robots Interact With Humans
While Metamobility has its challenges, that wouldn’t be possible without the integration of new robots and technology. While the Boston Dynamics robots, particularly the four-legged Spot, play a big role in the ecosystem Hyundai is envisioning for the future, the Korean company showed new robots that help move things.
The Plug & Drive (PnD) module is an AI-based single-wheel unit that can give any object or thing limitless mobility. It can steer, move in any direction and brake on its own, and has a suspension hardware that can be scaled up or down, for any purpose, size or application. LiDAR and camera sensors allow it to move autonomously. Its flexibility allows it to be used in a variety of ways, from moving small objects (like a cane) to moving people with disabilities and public transportation. By connecting other PnD modules together, Hyundai sees unimaginable possibilities to scale up—even allowing mobile hospitals to expand their size.
“In the world to come, we will not move our things, but things will actually move around us with the PnD module making traditionally inanimate objects mobile,” said Dong Jin Hyun, vice president and head of Hyundai Motor Group Robotics Lab. “We are directing all our ambitious robotics engineering and creative efforts towards realizing an even bigger vision than ever—the unlimited Mobility of Things ecosystem.”
Part of this ecosystem also includes the MobEd robot, a small platform with four wheels used to move things around. Like the PnD module, MobEd can be used for various tasks—from moving any kind of small, lightweight objects to babies. MobEd can rotate like a figure skater for better flexibility, while keeping its body stable—even allowing it to climb stairs or drive through obstacles.
While CES is all about the new tech trends, Hyundai is taking a big step in the future of mobility and is serious about the use of robots helping humans move around and connect them to the metaverse. “We believe in a future where robots become useful, trusted companions in our everyday lives,” said Marc Raibert, founder and chairman of Boston Dynamics.
We hope you’re excited about what’s coming because this new ecosystem might soon be a reality.
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