Imagine a new type of internet where you can meet your friends, study, work or even walk among performers at the opera or sing along with your favourite artist, all in an immersive, virtual world. As technology advances, virtual environments are evolving, characterised by enhanced visual fidelity and increasingly realistic avatars. It is projected that by 2030, such platforms will become an integral part of everyday life for numerous individuals.

Virtual worlds, also referred to as metaverses, will provide opportunities as well as challenges. The Commission will ensure they reflect EU values and fundamental rights and foster innovation for businesses. The European Commission has adopted a strategy on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds to steer the next technological transition and ensure an open, secure, trustworthy, fair and inclusive digital environment for EU citizens, businesses and public administrations. 

Opportunities, difficulties and potential solutions

With an estimated global growth of €800 billion by 2030 and a potential 860,000 new jobs created by 2025, virtual worlds are set to transform the business and employment sectors in the EU. The study “Extended Reality: Opportunities, Success Stories and Challenges (Health, Education)” showed that 98 % of the professionals interviewed believe that Extended Reality (XR) technologies will contribute significantly to the development of their respective sectors over the next five years. Examples of sectors that can benefit include: Healthcare, education, art and design and logistics, engineering and manufacturing

These amazing opportunities can also come with challenges. These include awareness, access to trustworthy information, digital skills, user acceptance and trust in new technologies, as well as broader challenges related to fundamental rights. The European Digital Rights and Principles promote a sustainable, human-centric vision for the digital transformation. They will guide the vision of the future virtual worlds, reflecting EU values and fundamental rights.

Logo of the VR/AR Industrial Coalition

The Virtual and Augmented Reality Industrial Coalition

The Virtual and Augmented Reality Industrial Coalition is a platform for structured dialogue between the European VR/AR ecosystem and policymakers. What do they do? They organise a series of workshops with over 100 stakeholders to keep a dialogue between members and the European Commission. For more information, please visit this page: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/virtual-and-augmented-reality-coalition

A strategy for Virtual Worlds

The European Commission has already launched the Virtual and Augmented Reality Industrial coalition bringing together the industry and policy makers on 14 September 2022. From February to April 2023, The Commission held a citizen’s panel, selecting 150 EU citizens at random to make recommendations based of their expectations of virtual worlds and how they can be fair, safe and beneficial in the future. 23 recommendations were solidified and will guide the actions on the new strategy on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds. Web 4.0 is the fourth generation of internet, which will allow more integration between the physical and virtual worlds providing better communication and accessibility across devices. The strategy is constructed around four pillars: Empowering people and reinforcing skills, Business, Government, Openness and global governance of Web 4.0 and virtual worlds: Support open standards to provide a fair and more equal governance so Web 4.0 will not be dominated by larger organisations.

Please read the full story on their website