Metaverse, swarm, smart dust, neuro symbolic AI …

In a trend book, CEA researchers gather the major technological trends that are likely to have a profound impact on society and economic sectors. These groundbreaking technologies were shared at DIMS 2022.

How to detect and predict the emergence of disruptive technologies? Thanks to the collection of weak signals, in particular. For Timothée Silvestre, head of technological foresight, societal trends and weak signals at CEA, a groundbreaking technology is multisectoral.

To map these trends, the research center has thus chosen a network representation. “This allows us to visualize trends in the context of several themes. Like a metro station, the closer a knot is, the more you can assess that this trend will have an impact, ”explained the representative of CEA’s Y.Spot Labs at the DIMS 2022 conference organized by IMA, collaborative innovation club.

Trends that connect multiple sectors

This mapping therefore makes it possible to distinguish between 10 major trends. Among these is the swarm or swarm technology. Its principle is based on decentralized and coordinated piloting of intelligent agents, such as drones. The technology is inspired by the animal world and aims to respond to complex challenges such as escaping a predator or overcoming obstacles.

The swarm has been the subject of work in the robot world for years. For CEA, advances in onboard artificial intelligence are now opening up applications in various fields. The swarm is thus envisaged to pilot delivery robots in the logistics sector.

The military is also interested in swarm applications, for example to manage fleets of drones. It should be noted that these robots and / or drones may be of a heterogeneous nature. This heterogeneity is crucial for considering in the future dynamic interactions between swarms of autonomous cars and other systems, for example.

Another trend at the moment, hard to hide at the moment: the metaverse. The definition of the metaverse and the scope of the technologies it encompasses are of variable geometry. Timothée Silvestre makes sure to specify that his access is not limited to the use of virtual reality headsets.

In the gaming industry, where metaverse applications are growing, only 2% of users use a platform like Steam VR headsets. Thus, all terminals, especially PCs and smartphones, are gateways to these virtual universes.

Metaverse, Mirror World and the real world intersect

Metaverse-induced transformations are also expected in e-commerce. The purpose of the startup Boson Protocol is thus to “disrupt” online trading by replacing intermediaries with programmable contracts or smart contracts. For Timothée Silvestre, the meta-verse also gives rise to new shopping experiences.

For example, a consumer buys a virtual item, such as a pair of shoes, whose ownership takes the form of an NFT, a non-fungible token. This token can then entitle to its real equivalent. A brand like Nike closely follows these uses, which can be connected to the physical world. In December 2021, the manufacturer bought RTFKT, a creator of virtual shoes.

Metaverse and the physical world are not waterproof. They present intersection areas, including with Mirror World or the mirror world, another trend identified by the CEA. The Mirror World is the aggregate of real-world data, like a digital twin. Nvidia is digitizing together with BMW, especially factories.


Since 2016, Dassault Systèmes has participated in the creation of a digital twin of the city of Singapore as part of the Virtual Singapore smart city project. The mirror world, metaverse and real world are therefore interconnected, the CEA predicts. The intersection of the real world and the meta-verse is Cyber ​​Physical Asset. The industrial metaverse is at the crossroads between the metaverse and the mirror world.

Smart dust is perhaps a more tangible trend today. Its foundations were laid in the 1990s by DARPA through a concept of autonomous and networked mini-sensors. Advances in miniaturization have allowed a leap forward in these miniature computers. Health presents possible uses of smart dust through neurograins.

Space start-up, autonomous agriculture and eco-circular

The Energy Commission also notes the emergence of concepts as a place for all, that is, its democratization. The space is no longer reserved for great powers and governmental organizations. Startups are also developing technologies in this sector. The Toulouse incubator TechTheMoon is an illustration of this.

Disruptive technology, however, is not exclusively oriented towards the conquest of space. In agriculture, a trend is emerging: autonomous agriculture. In 2021, the first manufacturer of agricultural vehicles bought John Deere Bear Flag Robotics.

Agriculture is home to other trends such as vertical agriculture (which uses hydroponics to optimize water consumption) and agri-voltaic, which combines agricultural land and energy production. According to experiments, certain crops, such as vines, benefit from increased yields thanks to the installation of solar panels by reducing evaporation transpiration during heat waves.

These energy sources may in the future operate modular light mobility platforms. To these trends, Y.Spot Labs adds geo-engineering (collecting C02, creating artificial clouds to reduce the temperature of the earth, etc.), all as a service (batteries, light bulbs with Signify, energy, etc.), circular economy and neuro symbolic AI.

The principle of circular economy can be applied to urbanization, conceptualized through a 15-minute city, where everything is achievable within a 15-minute area. The concept also includes urban mining, which consists of recycling local resources in the city.

Technology at the service of performance and robustness

“This also raises the question of product design, especially in construction with disassembly designs. It is like rethinking the design so that the constructions of the future can be separated, ”explains Timothée Silvestre. Mastery of product design and their entire life cycle may in the future be based on the combination of the circular economy, digital twins and blockchain.

Finally, Neuro Symbolic AI or hybrid AI. It responds to several questions. The main thing: to overcome the limits of connection systems such as neural networks, which consume a lot of energy and can be explained little or not at all. The special thing about Neuro Symbolic AI is to merge logical rules and neural networks to deal with complex problems.

But technologies alone will not be enough to solve all the problems facing the various sectors. The CEA director also calls for a change in culture, which according to him has been focused for the last 30 years on the cultivation of achievements.

“A small grain of sand has disrupted this global optimization,” he says, referring to the pandemic and its implications for supply chains. Optimization has taken precedence over resilience, believes Timothée Silvestre. New technological trends must therefore be accompanied by thinking about resilience and used to improve resilience and not just performance, he urges business innovation leaders.

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