After Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta in October 2021, we have started to hear the term “metaverse” frequently. Metaverse promises us a future where we can be virtually anywhere we want, without the necessity to be there physically. So how will our travels and the aviation industry be affected as we rapidly make steps towards such a digital future?
Metaverse is summarized as the convergence of digital and physical experiences through the internet. Thanks to augmented reality, a world awaits us where digital experiences can be placed in physical spaces with virtual reality reflecting real-life physical spaces in all details. This scenario certainly seems to rock the foundations of both our travels and the aviation industry.
With the effect of the pandemic, intercity and inter-country business travels have substantially decreased. Physical meetings have moved to virtual meetings. Although business travels seem to regain momentum in the short term in the post-pandemic period, according to many experts, the future of the business travel industry is not very promising in the long term. Businesspeople will no longer need to make long hours of flights to shake hands or make eye contact, as the platforms through which we conduct online meetings will be able to become exact replicas of physical meeting rooms thanks to metaverse.
In the world prevailed by the metaverse, it is claimed that the vast majority of travelers will make these travels for entertainment and touristic purposes. The prevalence of such vacation and leisure travels is expected to change all other transport infrastructure and means, especially airport terminals and airplanes.
METAVERSE AIMS TRANSFORMATION, NOT DEVASTATION!
Don’t get nervous about what I’ve said! The metaverse, which is expected to pave the way to a more digital and robotic world with major changes in every aspect of our lives, from urban transportation systems to business manners, does not aim to wipe out existing systems. Instead, it aims to make a transformation.
Metaverse will enable us to create high-quality digital twins of what we physically experience, such as airports, airplanes, and digitally manage them. And this seems advantageous in theory as it will eliminate inefficiencies and difficulties.
This new way of managing complexity will become autonomous through codes to be continually developed by artificial intelligence and this will accordingly deactivate the inefficient systems and programs developed by the human brain today. Thus, all transportation services where passengers are dynamically routed through multiple models will be managed over a network. For instance, after you get off the plane, the hours of the metro from the airport to your hotel and the traffic jam on the road will be managed in sync within this complex system. The entire transportation infrastructure will turn out to be more holistic.
BOEING TO BUILD AIRCRAF IN “METAVERSE”
US aircraft manufacturer Boeing also plans to make a rapid transition to metaverse technology. Boeing pressed the button for futuristic projects worth $15 billion in total, where it seeks to gather its design, production and services to airlines under a single digital ecosystem.
Boeing preps to lay the foundations of the new aircraft model, which is planned to be launched in the next decade, with the metaverse. The company aims to avoid the manufacturing problems it has experienced in the 787 Dreamliner and 737 MAX aircraft, thanks to the new system.
Boeing describes this move as strengthening engineering and fundamentally changing the way they work across the entire company. At Boeing's future facilities, three-dimensional virtual designs will be twinned with robots communicating each other. Officials around the world will be able to connect to this system with the $3,500 HoloLens headsets. A team of over 100 engineers has already started this digital transformation process.
Considering that metaverse will offer faster, higher quality production and better communication, it will be possible to manage it better when a problem arises in processes. As the quality of received parts improves during the supply process, the aircraft manufacturing process will be more smoothly. It is aimed to increase financial performance by minimizing inefficient work.
DIGITAL TWIN ERA IN AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURING
Boeing management estimates that more than 70% of quality issues on existing aircraft trace back to some kind of design issue. With the new digital system, Boeing envisages that a new airplane model will be available to market in just 4-5 years.
Thanks to the metaverse, Boeing will be able to build 3D digital twins of airplanes and conduct various simulations. Digital threads will be integrated into each virtual design. In this way, every piece of information from airline requirements to the basic requirements of millions of parts and to thousands of pages of certification documents can be combined and processed. Thanks to the resulting digital mockups, it will be possible to master every detail of the aircraft, from its design to its development and performance. The overhaul of existing paper-based practices will also be one of the most critical steps of this important change.
BOEING’S METAVERSE GAMBLE
Perhaps Boeing's metaverse ambitions could be a game-changer. However, Boeing needs to support this digital revolution with organizational and cultural changes it will make across the company. Boeing had previously integrated digital design tools in its 777X and T-7A Red Hawk training jet projects. However, both projects faced various technical problems. Boeing is about three years behind schedule in the 777X project. The T-7A has also suffered from delays.
It is obvious that Boeing has repeatedly made similar ambitious pledges about the digital revolution and failed to achieve its goals. That's why the industry has some second thoughts about Boeing's breakthrough in the metaverse. However, at this time of multiple major challenges, there is a prevailing view within Boeing that the goals to improve quality and safety are far more urgent and important. Boeing, which has suffered reputation and financial losses while struggling with the 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner crises over the past few years, needs a big win to get things back on track. So, the US manufacturer took such a gamble of $15 billion. The metaverse strategy will either get them out of the turbulence they're in, or this turbulence will get even worse and cause irreversible damage. We will see the result together.
METAVERSE: A NEW FRONT IN BOEING-AIRBUS WAR
Boeing's main competitor, Airbus, has also pledged to leverage digital technologies to develop new manufacturing techniques for the optimization of its industrial system. Both aircraft giants are preparing to step into the digital revolution simultaneously. This indicates that the competition in the aviation industry will shift to the metaverse axis soon.
In conclusion, the future seems to be quite different from today. The concept of travel will apparently undergo a major transformation. The aviation industry will also exceedingly get its share from this transformation. That's why the giants of the industry have started to develop strategies to properly position themselves for the future. It is our common expectation that the results will be in favor of us, as the passengers and the entire industry…