The recent backlash of Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to relaunch Facebook into Meta and build a comprehensive platform for augmented and virtual reality has consumers questioning the future success of the metaverse. Despite the company's failure to define the metaverse for users, as well Meta's exorbitant spending on the project, Virginia Tech expert Walid Saad says the concept of a future environment where our own digital twin (or avatar) can interact with others in an augmented reality space may become mainstream sooner than we think.  

“The metaverse is an opportunity to experience a digital world for everyone, everywhere. It can help reduce distances and facilitate novel methods for social and business interactions,” said Saad. “During the pandemic, we saw the crucial need for online interactions and connectivity. The metaverse can take video calls to a whole new level whereby you can have holographic meetings in which you can, not just see and speak to the other person, but eventually interact with them with all five senses, as if they were sitting next to you.”

Saad explained that while the metaverse may open the door to unimaginable economic and social opportunities and applications, many privacy and ethical considerations remain largely unaddressed.

“The very thought of having our entire lives uploaded into some sort of a digital system leads to apprehension from the general population, as it somewhat toys with the idea of becoming prisoners of a Matrix-like system,” he said.

Saad’s research also focuses on Digital Twins and their integration into not just the metaverse, but industry as well. By definition, they are exact digital replicas of physical systems, products, or processes that can be used for many purposes like simulations, testing, real-time control, maintenance, or monitoring of the real-world system/process. Digital twins are helping revolutionize automation and product development across multiple areas.

For example, engineers can now work on a product through its digital twin replica. Similarly, they can monitor and diagnose faults in manufacturing, through the digital twins. The twins can essentially be used to simulate and predict performance of various processes, thereby providing companies with means to improve their manufacturing, production, and engineering processes.  

“By working on a product through its digital twin replica, engineers do not even need to be present in the actual factory,” said Saad. “ For example, Boeing in 2018, announced that they started using digital twins for aircraft development, and that it significantly improved the first-time quality of their aircraft components (through twin-based simulations) and reduced costs.”

Saad expects that in the next 5-10 years we could see a more mainstream adoption of digital twins and the metaverse by industries and the average consumer looking for an immersive communications experience.

About Saad

Walid Saad is a professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech and a member of the Wireless@VT research group. He is internationally recognized for his contributions to research surrounding wireless communications (including 5G and 6G), artificial intelligence (AI), game theory, and machine learning. Serving as one of the 12 inaugural faculty members at the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, Saad will be the Next-G Wireless Faculty Lead at the Alexandria location. In this role, he  will aim to lay the foundation of AI-native, sustainable wireless 6G systems that exploit brain-like intelligence and reasoning to support the unique needs of future applications, such as wireless extended reality and digital twins, that will be pillars of the anticipated metaverse. Read more here.

Schedule interview

To schedule an interview with Saad, contact Suzanne Miller at or 540-267-4375; Emily Roediger at or 540-231-2108.

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