I have been reading recently about the trends that are revolutionary and the topic of “Digital Twin” surfaced.
If you are not familiar with the concept, Gartner® has quite few articles and research papers on the topic. But to just simplify, a Digital Twin is a computer generated replicate of a system or a machine. A concept that is not new, but the enhancements in sensors, software, and tracking technologies a.k.a Internet of Things (IoT) capitalized on it and revolutionized the usage. Companies in the manufacturing industry, in particular, depend heavily on Digital Twins to monitor systems, detect faults, and increase the efficiency of their operations.
Human Digital Twins
In the same way that a machine Digital Twin is created using software and scanners, a human Digital Twin would require two elements:
- Full scan of the human body covering every body part, organ, and cell.
- Monitoring sensors to provide real-time information about heart rate, blood pressure, and other changing parameters like body temperature and oxygen level to name a few.
Scanners have evolved throughout, however, for a true replicate we need to provide more details about the genetic composition and as such studies in the human DNA and initiative like the Genome Project helped provide an understanding that can be built into the software that can replicate a human.
One obstacle remains and that would be how far we are with uncovering the human brain. With the level of complexity and the limitations in the available devices, that part remains a mystery and without full comprehension and view of the inner parts of our brains, a true replicate is yet to be fathomed.
For the monitoring aspects, wearable technology has gone far and provides real-time tracking & reports on human vitals. In addition, real-time biosensors that continuously monitor drug levels in the bloodstream are available, as of this writing, and going through testing to measure their effectiveness in administering life-saving dosages against some illnesses.
Are Robotics Digital Twins?
The short answer is No! A human Digital Twin, by definition, should replicate the elements that make a human being including all the details that enable it to function. Robotics would have an entire different structure and as they are created could have their own Digital Twins. The confusion might arise from the fact that a Robot can mimic the behaviour and actions of a human, thus the continuous efforts in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to make robotics look & feel more like humans.
Another aspect of Digital Twins is the shape of the twin. A human replicate within a software might not have the exact same shape or form unless the shape or size enforces part of the functionality. The modelling of the Digital Twin does not necessarily mean we would have a 3-D image of the person on screen.
What would your Digital Twin do?
Aside from the limitations, currently speaking, the technology and the studies would need to justify the creation of a digital replicate for a human. With systems the objective is clear, as the Digital Twin can simplify the monitoring and reporting of issues up front to enhance the operation. What would a human Digital Twin do? Can we predict illnesses and how accurate those would be? Will that be any different from going for regular check-ups and running few scans to detect anomalies?
Who will actually be monitoring those Twins and would we again trust systems and wearable devices to provide a full picture on how our bodies are impacted by external parameters? What about human feelings? Can systems monitoring our Digital Twins project something or send us signals to shift our focus and change our moods? Are their commercial benefits or economical ones that can support get enough funding for those replicates?
I wouldn’t attempt to answer any of these questions and as fascinating as the topic might be, we are yet again faced with challenges that go beyond what is technically possible to what is morally, socially, and economically feasible!
Would you want a Digital Twin if it became possible?!!