Plans unveiled for digital twin of Old Fire Station café to join the Industrial Metaverse

Categories: School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

The University is unveiling plans to bring the recently-refurbished Old Fire Station café, bakery and microbrewery into our burgeoning campus metaverse.

Following on from the success of the digital twin of our MediaCity campus,  the University is now working to bring the Old Fire Station into the Industrial Metaverse.

In this forthcoming digital space, consumers would be able to interact and purchase goods from AI conversational agents, developed on the venue’s staff such as the Master Brewer and Head Baker. They would be able to have a detailed interactive conversation with the staff, represented in the form of avatars, about the processes involved in preparing the goods, the history of the space and be able to access a full overview of space’s physical footprint.

The space is earmarked to become the ‘perfect place’ to explore the potential possibilities of the Industrial Metaverse – a burgeoning virtual platform where shops, facilities, transport systems, machines and factories are always on and mirror their functions in the physical world. The benefits of the Industrial Metaverse include empowering businesses to cut costs, act more sustainably, improve the work experience and accelerate potential technological developments by moving expensive, time-consuming activities into fully virtual environments.

Whilst the possibilities of the Industrial Metaverse are yet to be fully realised, The University is hoping to use the Old Fire Station as a pilot project to help us understand the applications of the technology in a commercialised environment. It is hoped to be a space where our researchers can test new theories, lecturers can provide new projects for our students and where we can partner with industry leaders as we charter this new frontier.

Mike Brown, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the University of Salford, said: “With the rate of pace at which artificial intelligence is progressing, it is becoming clearer each day that it is going to have massive implications for the commercial sector.

“Therefore, we are very excited about having this opportunity to develop a pilot project in the Industrial Metaverse, where we can apply AI technology in a real-world commercial setting and provide a risk-free sandpit for our researchers, students and industry to test out new theories and projects in this new frontier.

“Its important we do this now and try and understand the full mechanics of it before five years down the line when the technology is already common place and we are catching up.”

A digital scan of the building has already been developed, which is available to access now.

Roger McKinley, Creative Technology and Content Manager for the University’s Technical Services team, said: “The Old Fire Station is already a leading example of the unique innovation between the University and industry as it has spawned many projects for our students and researchers within the commercial sector. Taking it into the Metaverse will only increase these opportunities further and continue to position the University as a leader in this new technological arena.”

The existing MediaCity Campus digital twin was developed and unveiled in 2023, providing both current and prospective students with the opportunity to visit the building in a 3D virtual environment.

The space was also conceived as a virtual platform where teaching could taking place in specifically-designed digital spaces as well as acting as a virtual blueprint of the building for those keen to get a feel of the campus before arriving or for virtual open days when attendees may be unable to visit in person.

On the potential for further expansion of the University’s campus buildings into the Metaverse, Mike said: “It is my hope that we would be able to explore this technology with other buildings around our Peel Park campus. Wouldn’t it be great to have a metaverse version of the Peel Building, where you could explore its history, the lectures that were given there and see how it was used in 1846 when it first opened?

“My hope is that we can push forward with this technology, expanding this to create a full metaverse campus in the coming years. I strongly believe we need to be at the forefront of this and the benefits it provides.”

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