What is Digital Twin Technology? [2024 Guide]
Digital twin technology is revolutionizing industries and businesses. Learn what digital twins are, how they work, and their use cases.
Julia Szatar
Julia is the Head of Marketing at Tavus, a developer-first AI video research company powering revolutionary apps in video editing, marketing, sales, and education via APIs.
July 23, 2024

Digital twin technology has the power to revolutionize how individuals, manufacturers, and systems generate and test new products and ideas. Even as scholars and industries work on creating one cohesive definition of what a digital twin is and what it can do, the concept is revolutionizing how organizations can test products and understand how their equipment, facilities, or their business’s organizational structures work. With such understanding, organizations can create increasingly optimized processes and products.

With use cases ranging from product prototypes to talking-head video generation, the possibilities are vast. We’ll define what a digital twin is and explore the many types and benefits of this technology.

What is a Digital Twin? 

A digital twin is a digital representation of objects, people, or processes, whether real or intended. Digital twins utilize real-time data, simulation, machine learning, and reasoning to simulate real situations, demonstrating possible outcomes so organizations can make better decisions.

Digital twins transform industries and businesses by providing a holistic understanding of objects or systems quickly and effectively, optimizing decision-making, processes, and more. They utilize both historical and real-time data to represent their models in the past, present, and (predicted) future, allowing for more effective predictive capabilities and streamlined planning processes.

Digital twin models are often broken down into two categories:

  • Representational models that use data (historical and live) to represent entities and processes
  • Computational simulation models, which are executable models of processes consisting of data and algorithms to create virtual representations.

Digital twin models can take the form of mathematical equations, databases, spreadsheets, or 3D models.

How Does Digital Twin Technology Work? 

Digital twin technology uses data gathered from sensors placed on real-world objects or assets to replicate those assets in a digital environment. A digital twin utilizes technologies like AI and the Internet of Things to gather and transmit data and to create the digital model of the asset.

With digital twins of products, businesses can study the lifecycle of an asset; with that data, organizations can understand their strengths and weaknesses from product testing all the way to real-world performance. With digital twins of humans, like those Tavus creates, users can replicate their image and movements to automate video generation, allowing for personalization and saving the time, effort, and money required to record in real life. 

Who Invented Digital Twins?

Dr. Michael Grieves first applied the concept of digital twin technology to manufacturing and formally announced the concept of digital twin software in 2002. The original concept was proposed by David Gelernter in his 1991 book Mirror Worlds. However, the central idea of a digital twin as a means of studying objects appeared decades prior. During NASA’s space exploration missions in the 1960s, the agency pioneered the concept of digital twin technology when they used exact replications of each spacecraft for earth-bound study and simulation.

In 2010, NASA’s John Vickers introduced the term “digital twin” in relation to Grieves’ technology. 

Benefits of Digital Twins

The benefits digital twins provide differ depending on what industry uses them and the purpose of each use case. We’ll explore some of the top benefits of using digital twins.

Expedited testing & development 

Digital twins provide companies with the ability to test digital replicas of potential products before those products even exist in reality. Whether they’re building products or facilities, organizations can use the digital replica to observe failures or weaknesses and address them before moving into production. 

Without the time-consuming need to build models for initial testing and to create new models based on observed weaknesses, testing and development processes accelerate. As a result, products get to the market faster and organizations have more time freed up for greater innovation.

Improved performance & reduced downtime 

The real-time insights provided by digital twin testing allow organizations to optimize the performance of facilities, equipment, and more without delays. If problems are solved as they happen, systems reach optimal performance and reduce the once-inevitable delays of regular maintenance.

Greater sustainability 

Manufacturers often use digital twins to improve not only their production processes but their sustainability, as well. 

Several manufacturers have discovered this benefit inadvertently, discovering their increased sustainability after utilizing digital twin technology for other primary benefits. LG Electronics, for example, discovered that incorporating digital twin technology in their Changwon, Korea, factory not only improved productivity by 17% and product quality by 70% but also reduced the factory’s energy consumption by 30%.

The ability to observe products and systems both before going live and in real time (post-production) allows organizations to identify areas of inefficiency and waste. This real-time observation helps organizations prevent waste before it happens.

Types of Digital Twins

Digital twins come in various forms; let’s explore some of the most common types of digital twins.

People

Human digital twins come in different forms and are used for varying functions. One such possibility is the ability for individuals to create their own personal digital twin through AI face generators like Tavus. With just a short video of you speaking, Tavus AI can create a replica of your face, matching your face, voice, expressions, and movements. People-type digital twins support personalized marketing, onboarding, and more at scale while also helping organizations avoid the often labor-intensive work of video recording with real-life humans.

Another application of people-type digital twins is the use of AI technology to replicate the personalities and characteristics of real people and use those replicas to predict and observe human behavior and interactions. Even healthcare is using digital twins to revitalize the industry through the development of  “smart” healthcare. By creating human replicas, digital twin technology may allow for improved health management through the technology’s predictive capabilities.

Product or Prototype 

Digital twin technology allows for the creation of virtual products or prototype replicas. These digital replicas help manufacturers explore how a potential product works and determine strengths and weaknesses before the product is even created. Prototype digital twins streamline the process of manufacturing, from product development to end-user interaction.

Processes 

Process twins provide a digital representation of the components and workings (or processes) of a physical or digital object. The digital process twin can reproduce how facilities or objects operate and determine how to create optimized functioning. These replicas provide comprehensive looks at new and existing products through the continuous collecting and organizing of data from sources like suppliers, raw materials, and final products. Process twins help monitor process variables, manufacturing time, and more. 

Systems 

Systems twins use digital twin technology to examine how assets work together. Organizations use these twins to explore how well their systems work and what enhancements they can make to improve performance.

One large-scale example of systems twins is the Earth System Digital Twins (ESDT) efforts of NASA. The agency uses digital twin technology to develop models for diverse Earth and human activity to allow for continuous observation and data, allowing for more comprehensive representations and predictions. These models are aimed to support decision-making about how to support Earth systems and to provide actionable information for current and future endeavors.

Digital Twin Technology Examples & Use Cases

Let’s explore use cases for digital twin technology across varied industries.

Communication

The use of AI to create human digital twins allows organizations to explore the possibilities of interactions between people using their digital face, voice, and personality replicas. Digital twins can help anticipate how teams will work together as well as possible points of friction.

Digital twins are also valuable in communications for training, marketing, and customer service. Tavus, for example, makes human digital twins to use in video-generation at scale, recreating the voice, face, expressions, and movements of the original human model. Businesses save time and money by leveraging Tavus to create thousands of personalized videos in minutes, freeing up their time to focus on other work.

Manufacturing 

Digital twins can help optimize manufacturing at every level of the process, whether designing and planning or maintaining existing facilities. These digital representations allow for constant equipment monitoring and data analysis to quickly identify areas where plants or factories need improvement.

Healthcare

Digital twins provide support for the healthcare industry in various ways; the two most common uses include systems-type digital twins and human digital twins. Systems digital twins allow healthcare facilities and labs to view and optimize their operations, while human digital twins provide models of organs and simulations to explore patient responses to treatments. 

Human digital twins in the healthcare system can also revolutionize disease treatment, prevention, and maintenance.

Construction 

Digital twins are helpful for construction teams looking to plan better residential, commercial, or infrastructure projects. Teams can use digital twins to identify problems and opportunities for improvement within the design process itself. They can also examine the current progress of projects with the real-time picture a digital twin provides. 

Architects can examine their projects by combining digital twin technology and 3D modeling. Some building managers are also starting to use digital twin technology to monitor temperature, occupancy, and air-quality data to help them identify areas for improved comfort.

Automotive

In the automotive industry, digital twins provide digital models of manufacturers’ existing vehicles and prototypes of new designs. The industry uses these twins to gain insights into the vehicle’s physical behavior in various situations as well as its software and its mechanical and electrical components. 

Like digital twins for manufacturing, automotive digital twins provide helpful preventative maintenance, alerting service centers or users when they find component performance issues.

Energy

The energy sector regularly uses digital twins to optimize both project planning and the performance and life cycles of assets like wind farms, solar projects, refining facilities, and offshore installations. Energy Digital Twins (EDTs) revolutionize the sector, providing improved efficiency and lower maintenance costs.

Retail

Digital twins have a lot of potential in the retail sector, offering ways to improve customer experience, track product success and lifespan, reduce costs, and optimize in-store planning. With digital twins of customers, companies can more effectively predict customer behavior, allowing them to provide more targeted marketing and customer service. 

Product digital twins help avoid friction points in a product’s life cycle and improve its success, while prototype twins allow companies to cut costs while improving efficiency, productivity, and product success. Finally, systems digital twins allow companies to observe the workings of their brick-and-mortar stores to find areas for improvement and optimization.

How to Create Your Digital Twin

Next, we’ll explore the process of creating your own human digital twin for communications purposes.

In general, the creation of digital twins involves a few important steps:

  1. Define objectives: Start by outlining how you want to use your “person-type” digital twin and what you need from it.
  2. Gather data: In the case of human digital twins, this means providing data about yourself, often through a video recording of you speaking and moving. Depending on the particular use case of your digital twin, you may also need to record physical data with sensors and medical data via records.
  3. Create a virtual model: Use your chosen software to create a virtual representation of you or someone else based on the data you provided.
  4. Testing and adjustments: Make sure the digital twin looks and sounds the way you want, using software tools to make adjustments as needed.

Further steps in the process vary depending on your specific use case.

If you plan to use Tavus to create your digital twin for video-generation purposes, the process is quick and easy, requiring only a few steps:

  1. Record a video of yourself: Use this as a baseline video, presenting the information you want to share in the tone and style you want to use.
  2. Add variables: Use your template to personalize videos, providing data to match your variables.
  3. Generate videos: Let Tavus do the work of replicating you speaking all of the individual information in your video, with lip syncing to make sure your video looks realistic.
  4. Edit: Use Tavus’ AI-powered video editor to make sure your final product is exactly what you need.

Generating your digital twin is as easy as that!

Learn More About Digital Twins

Let’s learn a little more about what, exactly, digital twins are and answer some frequently asked questions.

Digital twins vs simulations

Digital twins and simulations are similar in that they are both virtual simulations based on models. Simulations, however, are usually used for design or offline optimization, where designers input changes to the simulations to observe possible scenarios. Digital twins instead create larger-scale, complex virtual environments and provide wider application possibilities. 

Real-time integration is another key feature of digital twins as opposed to simulations; while digital twin technology allows for real-time data to update the virtual model, simulations can only use predefined data sets. Alongside the real-time data, users can interact with the digital twin model, whereas simulations only allow interaction before the simulation occurs (through the setting of variables).

With a lack of real-time data and changes, simulations’ utility is often limited to specific scenarios. Digital twins instead maintain continuous relationships with their physical counterparts, allowing continual monitoring and analysis.

Although simulations are often used for predictive analysis, their lack of real-time data integration prevents continual updates in analysis. Digital twins can help organizations make quick and efficient decisions whenever the model shows changes.

Are digital twins AI?

Digital twins, which were fully realized in 2002, haven’t always used AI technology. However, the growing integration of digital twins and artificial intelligence has revolutionized the possibilities of this technology. 

AI gives digital twin technology more sophisticated predictive abilities and more intelligent automation, making digital twin technology a more proactive tool due to its new ability to learn from real-world assets continually. Thanks to AI, these improved capabilities allow for increased optimization based on digital twin models and analyses.

AI has also streamlined the experience of working with digital twins, since AI can understand voice commands and gestures and anticipate your next move. Architects and engineers, for example, can control their building or engine models with gestures or voice commands, creating a more seamless interactive process.

Is digital twin the same as virtual reality?

Digital twin and virtual reality (VR) technology are actually two distinct technologies. Digital twin technology replicates objects, people, processes, or systems in the digital space, providing a model for users to observe and from which they gain valuable analysis and insight. 

Virtual reality is instead a completely immersive simulated environment, in which the user feels as if they are actually existing in and moving through a simulated world. VR also requires a specialized headset or other hardware to allow users entry into the simulation. Once they “enter” the simulation, they can interact with objects rather than simply observing.

Some industries, however, have seen the potential of combining digital twin and VR technologies. Digital twin technology would provide the real-time models and capabilities for analysis and continuous monitoring, while VR can provide an immersive experience of the model to help stakeholders fully understand the data and simulations.

What is digital twin software? 

Digital twin software is a computer program that allows users to create digital twin simulations based on their data and their organization’s predictive or analytical needs. 

Software is the set of programs, data, or instructions that instruct a computer what to do and how to do it. In the case of digital twin software, the programs, data, and instructions allow developers to create their virtual models using the predefined program controls. This allows them to use digital twin technology without needing to understand the hardware that makes it possible.

Make Your Digital Twin with Tavus

As you can see, digital twin technology offers many benefits across a variety of industries and use cases. With the integration of AI into digital twin technology, the possibilities have only grown. More and more, industry leaders are harnessing the predictive and analytical powers to optimize their products, systems, and more. 

If you’re hoping to leverage the power of human digital twins to revolutionize your marketing, onboarding, customer service, and more, Tavus can help. With just a quick self-recording for our AI technology to use as a data set and model, we’ll generate your very own digital twin in minutes.

Get your digital twin today!

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