In video games, characters that are not played can be subtle. The NPC can wander around the city wall looking at a street light, and then miss another block. NPCs jump players’ punches or volunteer to hit a wall 400 times, not learning that the wall never comes back.
Unity Technologies is in the business of NPCs. Established in 2004, Unity develops a well-known gaming engine that offers hundreds of video game builders using its real-time 3D computer technology. The unit also offers countless tools integrated into the game engine, including AI tools. In the Unity gaming engine, manufacturers create their own 3D city blocks and street lights; imitating their NPCs; strengthening their fists; and maybe — through Unity’s AI technology — teach them when to stop pushing.
Five years ago, Unity executives realized: In the real world, there are many things that can greatly benefit NPCs. Think about making a roller coaster. Engineers would not ask people to stand on a rug in front of a hair curler to test their flying ability. And they can’t ask them to do 100 or 1,000 times, to prove it. But if the NPC were to have all the necessary human characteristics — weight, mobility, even a slight sensation — the engineer would whip them around 100,000 times, like a crazy kid playing. RollerCoaster Tycoon, to know when they will be thrown away. Rollers, of course, would be digital too, with the metal twisting over time and the speed of its cars sinking and rising depending on the number of riders.
Unity made the concept an arm of his business and is now using gaming engine technology to help customers create “digital twins” for real objects, locations, and, more recently, people. “The real world is very small,” said Danny Lange, vice president of Unity of Artificial Intelligence, at Unity headquarters in San Francisco last October. Speaking to WIRED in 2020, he told me, “In a developed country, you can redefine a world that is better than the real world of educational systems. And I can create more and more data in Unity.”
Digital twins are a form of real life, acting and performing in space just as their peers do. Or, that’s what the word means. The word “twins” carries a lot of goods. It will be a long time before the experimenters will glorify the individual truths in their writings; and these “twins” take a mountain of human labor to make. Currently, many companies are using Unity to copy digital twin robots, production lines, houses, and even wind turbines to design, operate, monitor, optimize, and train. The twins are rusty in the rain and are accelerated by the oil. They learn to avoid tumors or to identify broken weapons. With the right digital twins, Lange says, Unity’s gaming engine is able to gather “production information” on tests to understand and develop its dual IRL.
“We are truly a great warehouse company,” says Lange. “We realized in the past that at the end of the day, real 3D just talks about data and nothing but data.” Unity’s digital twin customers are located in an industrial machine world, where they are able to use digital identities instead of the more expensive colors. Unity executives believe that the company’s state-of-the-art 3D technology and AI capabilities make it competitive with many other companies entering the $ 3.2 billion space, including IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft. David Rhodes, vice president of Unity who oversees digital twins, says his goal is for Unity to one day have “digital twins around the world.”