Digital twin tech, Metaverse an avenue for Orlando tech to thrive

Into the Metaverse through VR

Digital twin technology has put Orlando tech in the spotlight as it has its day (Week? Month? Year?) in the sun.

And, well, why not?

There is a lot to love about the direction this city’s ecosystem is heading. We don’t need to tick off recent wins that we highlighted in THIS COLUMN.

But recently, the tech news site VentureBeat featured The City Beautiful for its digital twin project, which will use Unity to create a virtual, interactive model of Orlando’s 40-square-mile metro area.

What the announcement has done is increased the use of the word “digital twin” on social media from formal and informal Orlando city accounts.

However, it’s important to point out that the city’s tech community has been building digital twins of Orlando, Central Florida and beyond since long before Unity moved into town at the end of last year.

In 2016, in fact, I wrote an article for the Orlando Sentinel highlighting our ecosystem’s work in digital twins.

In that article, I focused on projects that could help manufacturers stave off problems with their products, say, a wind turbine or driverless car.

But there are companies here that have built versions of Orlando for use by defense-related clients.

Orlando’s existing tech ecosystem

Jordan Dauble at SimBlocks has been in Orlando tech for years.

His company has developed software that combines geospatial data and real-time 3D engines (Hello, Unity and Unreal!) to create digital twins.

By his own account, Dauble says the company has created digital twins of cities like Paris, Austin and, yes, Orlando.

The point here is not to downplay Unity’s impact on the community.

Nor do we want to minimize our role as a leader in the upcoming digital twin push.

Having them here clearly raises the profile of Orlando in this space. Heck, the same VentureBeat article I linked proves that out.

But one thing I hope to lead on is the development of a sense of community that highlights what we already have here while touting what’s on the horizon.

Let me explain what I mean by that and why it’s important.

A ‘huge moment’ for Orlando tech

Central Florida’s business community sits at a huge moment in its life span. I really believe that.

As more people talk about the so-called Metaverse, we must lean into the fact that this region has been building aspects of it for years.

Our defense industry friends have been building virtual battlegrounds.

Gaming and simulation companies are clearly adept at using the software that builds worlds.

Even accessibility to these worlds is being led by Orlando-based businesses.

While Miami’s mayor and city leaders planted the city’s flag as a blockchain leader, Orlando should do the same with the technologies that make up the Metaverse.

To do that, you must create a nonstop wave of information and advocacy.

If Unity is touted for its work with the city on a digital twin, the community must highlight other firms working in the space.

It would be fantastic to see, right there in the blog that announced its intent to work with our new neighbors at Unity, a paragraph or two that mentions SimBlocks, DiSTI Corporation, etc.

What kind of simulation work is Lockheed Martin doing nowadays? It’s likely Metaverse-related, no? Siemens was one of the leaders in digital twin technology with its Orlando-based unit leading that effort.

How can we highlight that work?

I recently chatted with Charlie Weis, one of this ecosystem’s leaders. I admire him for his passion about Orlando’s tech community.

He agrees that we should have been planting our flag on these industries yesterday.

Miami jumped in front of it.

Tampa has been doing a good job with its tech industry touting startups.

Orlando should now plant its flag on the Metaverse and this newly popular “digital twin” movement because if we do not, someone else will.

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