Beyond cars: Hyundai says 'metamobility' will link real and virtual worlds in the future


FILE PHOTO: A Hyundai booth displays the company logo at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

(Reuters) - Hyundai Motor Co envisions an interactive and partly virtual future it calls "metamobility," where a variety of robotic devices interact with humans to provide a broad range of mobility services, from automated individual transportation to remote control of robots in "smart" factories.

Hyundai executives, led by Chief Executive Euisun Chung, elaborated on that vision in a media briefing at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Buzzwords aside, Hyundai expects to leverage its growing expertise in robotics and artificial intelligence to build out a future mobility network that links human beings in the real world with objects and tasks in the virtual world.

The concept is related to the so-called metaverse, a term coined 30 years ago by author Neal Stephenson, but which gained attention recently when social media company Facebook changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc. It refers to shared virtual world environments which people can access via the internet, and which can make use of virtual reality or augmented reality.

Hyundai offered several examples of how it might link the metaverse and the real world:

- A vehicle that can be transformed into a work space or an entertainment room that includes a 3D video game platform.

- A "smart" factory where humans outside the plant remotely control robots that interact with machines and products inside the plant.

- Automated personal transportation devices for people with disabilities or individuals who want to maintain social distances while traveling.

To make all this work, the automaker said it was building a Mobility of Things ecosystem that will link modular robotic platforms to perform different mobility services.

One module called Plug & Drive or PnD is a single-wheel robotics platform that combines intelligent steering, braking and suspension with in-wheel electric drive, cameras and lidar sensors for automated operation.

For larger logistics tasks and other mobility services, Hyundai can bundle four PnD modules, including one application that pairs with a robot dog called - what else? - Spot.

(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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