Unity, Orlando Economic Partnership unveil digital twin downtown

A digital representation of Orlando unveiled Wednesday for the first time will help economic leaders recruit businesses by showcasing a tech-forward strategy and the talent that exists here.

However, the high-tech rendering of the city, built by Unity and shown off by the Orlando Economic Partnership, could eventually make commutes for residents shorter, improve their utility service and even save lives during natural disasters.

“That is the grail,” OEP President and CEO Tim Giuliani said.

More than 200 stakeholders collaborated on the project, the first of its kind in the country.

Those same businesses and community members will play a role in providing potential use cases, Giuliani said.

“It’s nice and it’s really cool to have but [use cases are] the real value” of the digital twin, Giuliani said.

The process of creating a digital twin

The project mapped out 800 square miles in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties using 3D technology.

Of those, forty of those have been rendered in high fidelity.

Officials say it’s the largest digital twin in use by an economic development group in the country.

The unveiling showed off what is the first in a five-phase project, which incorporates datasets from multiple sources.

Phase II will launch an online version of the project.

The ‘WOW’ factor

During remarks at the unveiling, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the effort was “mind-blowing.”

“This gives us a big tool to be able to present Orlando in the best light,” he told Orlando Tech News after his presentation. “There is definitely a ‘Wow’ factor at play here. It’s definitely built to impress.”

Digital twins have become more popular in recent years.

Companies have built virtual representations of everything from wind turbines and automobiles to diagnose problems before they happen.

However, this is the first effort to build a digital twin of an entire city.

“The sky is the limit on the digital twin and what we can do with it,” said Electronic Arts’ Orlando-based Vice President and General Manager Daryl Holt. “It’s a virtual time machine, to a certain extent, for the region.”

Holt said the digital twin opens the door for companies and stakeholders to explore potential applications of the technology.

The digital twin aggregates both public and private provided data to build datasets and visualizations that will only grow as the project pushes forward through its phases.

Economic leaders said the use cases are “nearly unlimited.”

“This takes us from something very flat in a PowerPoint to really demonstrating what we have in this region,” said David Adelson, OEP’s chief innovation officer. “We are able to show clusters and show where we have certain segments of industries, or even just transportation or utilities. It really brings our city to life and give a much larger perspective.”

Building Orlando’s reputation as a tech hub

Adelson said the digital twin could enhance the region’s reputation as a tech hub, which could draw jobs and talent.

“This affects us all,” he said. “It can affect how companies relocate here or individuals that want to be a part of this.”

Unity VP of Digital Twin Solutions Callan Carpenter said in a news release that the company was excited to be a part of the collaboration.

“We hope it’ll help companies to better plan for expansion in the future and map out new transit routes to connect Floridians with new jobs in the process,” he said.

Giuliani pointed out in his presentation that the project reached a milestone but that more work remained to be done.

“The vision goes well beyond what we are having here today,” he told the gathered crowd of stakeholders, city leaders and Unity partners. “The idea now is to transform this from a marketing center to Orlando’s digital twin in a way that brings partners in.”

He said the model would be crucial to Orlando landing businesses.

At the same time, it will provide a digital infrastructure that companies in Orlando can build upon.

However, the ultimate goal was to use the digital twin in service of the community through specific use-case scenarios, simulations and disaster-response modeling.

“While that won’t happen next year to know that we can get there is pretty exciting,” he said.