Metaverse, swarm, intelligent dust, nervous token AI…

In the Trends book, CEA researchers gather key technology trends that are likely to have a profound impact on society and economic sectors. These cutting edge technologies were shared at DIMS 2022.

How do you detect and anticipate the emergence of disruptive technologies? This is thanks to the collection of weak signals in particular. For Timothée Silvestre, Head of Technology Foresight, Societal Trends and Weak Signals at CEA, advanced technology is cross-sectoral.

To map these trends, the Research Center has thus chosen to represent the network. “This allows us to visualize trends in relation to many topics. Like the metro station, the denser the node, the more you can estimate that the trend will have an impact,” explained a representative of CEA’s Y.Spot Labs at the DIMS 2022 conference organized by Nadi IMA Collaborative Innovation.

Trends that connect multiple sectors

Thus, this designation makes it possible to distinguish 10 main directions. Among these, the swarm or swarm technique. Its principle is based on the decentralized and coordinated leadership of intelligent agents, such as drones. The technology is inspired by the animal world and aims to respond to complex challenges such as escaping from a predator or overcoming obstacles.

Swarm has been the subject of work in the world of robotics for years. For CEA, advances in artificial intelligence on board are now opening up applications in various fields. Thus, the swarm is envisaged to pilot delivery robots in the logistics sector.

The military is also interested in swarm applications, for example for managing drone fleets. It should be noted that these robots and/or drones can be of a heterogeneous nature. This contrast is necessary to consider future dynamic interactions between swarms of autonomous cars and other systems, for example.

Another trend at the moment is currently hard to hide: the metaverse. The definition of the metaverse and the range of technologies it covers have a variable geometry. Timothée Silvestre is keen to specify that his access is not limited to the use of virtual reality headsets.

In the gaming industry, where metaverse apps are growing, only 2% of users of a platform like Steam use VR headsets. Thus, all terminals, computers and smartphones in particular, are portals of access to these virtual universes.

Metaverse, Mirror World and the real world intersect

Metaverse-induced shifts in e-commerce are also expected. The goal of the startup Boson Protocol is thus to “disrupt” online commerce by replacing intermediaries with programmable contracts or smart contracts. For Timothée Silvestre, the metaverse is also giving rise to new shopping experiences.

A consumer, for example, buys a virtual good, such as a pair of shoes, the ownership of which takes the form of an NFT, a non-fungible token. This symbol can give the right to the true equivalent. A brand like Nike closely follows these uses, which can be linked to the physical world. In December 2021, the manufacturer acquired RTFKT, the creator of virtual shoes.

The Metaverse and the physical world are not weatherproof. They represent areas of intersection, including with the mirror world or the mirror world, another trend identified by CEA. The mirror world is the sum of data from the real world, like a digital twin. Together with BMW, Nvidia is digitizing factories in particular.

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Since 2016, Dassault System has been involved in creating a digital twin of Singapore as part of the Singapore Virtual Smart City project. Thus, the mirror world, the real world and the past are interconnected, predicts CEA. The intersection between the real world and the metaverse is the cyber physical asset. The industrial metaverse is located at a crossroads between the metaverse and the mirror world.

Smart dusting is perhaps a more tangible trend today. Its foundations were laid in the 1990s by DARPA with the concept of small, independent, networked sensors. Advances in miniaturization allowed a leap forward in these minicomputers. Health presents the possible uses of smart dust through nervous scorpions.

Space startup, autonomous farming and ecological circular

The Energy Commission also notes the emergence of concepts such as space for all, that is, democratization. Space is no longer the preserve of major powers and government organizations. Startups are also developing technologies in this sector. The Toulouse incubator TechTheMoon is a case in point.

However, disruptive technology is not exclusively geared towards the conquest of space. In agriculture, a trend is emerging: independent farming. In 2021, the first agricultural vehicle manufacturer John Deere bought Bear Flag Robotics.

Agriculture is home to other trends such as vertical farming (which uses hydroponics to improve water consumption) and photovoltaic farming that combines farmland with energy production. According to experiments, some crops, such as vineyards, benefit from increased yields thanks to the installation of solar panels by reducing evaporative transpiration during heat waves.

These energy sources may in the future be modular light mobility platforms. To these trends, Y.Spot Labs adds geoengineering (capture of carbon dioxide, creation of artificial clouds to reduce the temperature on Earth, etc.), everything as a service (batteries, light bulbs with Signify, power, etc.), economy Circular and Neural Symbolic Artificial Intelligence.

The principle of circular economy can be applied to urbanization, which is envisioned with a 15-minute city where everything can be achieved in a 15-minute area. The concept also includes urban mining which consists in the reuse of local resources within the city.

Technology at the service of performance and flexibility

“This also raises the question of product design, particularly in build with design to disassemble. This amounts to a rethink of the design so that future facilities can be deconstructed,” explains Timothy Sylvester. The future mastery of product design and its entire lifecycle could depend on a combination of the circular economy, digital twins, and blockchain.

Finally, Neuro Symbolic AI or Hybrid AI. It responds to several issues. The main thing: to overcome the limitations of connected systems such as neural networks, which consume a lot of energy and can be explained little or not at all. The peculiarity of Neuro Symbolic AI is the integration of logical rules and neural networks to deal with complex problems.

But technologies alone will not be sufficient to solve all the problems facing the different sectors. The CEA CEO also called for a change in culture, which for the past 30 years has focused on the cult of performance, according to him.

“A small grain of sand has disrupted this global optimization,” he says, referring to the pandemic and its consequences for supply chains. Optimization takes precedence over flexibility, sees Timothy Sylvester. Therefore, new technology trends must be accompanied by thinking and using flexibility to improve flexibility and not only performance, but also business innovation leaders.

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