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Shaping Europe’s digital future

Extended Reality

Extended reality is going mainstream, benefitting more industries and sectors including digital learning, entertainment, health, manufacturing and more.

    Green sunlit forest with a transparent sphere representing the virtual object in a real setting

GettyImages-670756670 © Pakhnyushchyy - iStock Getty - MEDIUM mirror

Extended reality (XR) is becoming more realistic and together with more possibilities to use different applications increase the uptake of the technology. Europe is very strong on the application side and the XR market supports many excellent small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) developing high quality software and hardware. Around 90% of all companies working on XR in Europe are SMEs. These SMEs are creating jobs and foster the skills needed to realise the potential of XR in Europe and they need our backing.

A European Ecosystem

The European Commission is supporting research and innovation into a European XR ecosystem ensuring that our European values are upheld. The development of technologies such as 5G/6G, data, artificial intelligence, edge and cloud computing offers new powerful means to XR. The European Commission is also encouraging cross-fertilisation between disciplines and domains, with a special focus on industry and SMEs, which will support Europe to become a force in XR.

Extended reality is a mix of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). These technologies are used for much more than gamification. In fact, many XR applications developed today are used in sectors such as manufacturing and construction, cultural heritage, tourism, training and education, health, advertisement, work processes, industrial processes, but also for entertainment, online commerce and construction. The European Commission Green Deal is another potential use area for XR applications with future virtual spaces for people to meet and work in a climate neutral society. 

The need for skilled staff, both in the companies developing applications and hardware and in industries using extended reality is rising exponentially with expected dramatic increases in the European XR markets. It is not only technological expertise  that is needed, such as software developers and engineers, but also creative artists working with 3D, design, sound, image and video production and people with business skills in relation to XR.

User experience with XR technology is becoming more and more immersive. Apart from re-creating realistic virtual environments, the current work involves improving the user experience even further by adding emotion, language technologies and better speech recognition, as well as human senses like smells and touch.

Virtual universes

The idea of virtual universes, or metaverses, where you could work safely away from big machinery or socialise with your friends has been revived recently. A metaverse is a computer-generated universe with online 3D virtual environments. It could be a virtual world based on the real Earth, as well as a fictional environment where users can game, go shopping for virtual products and services or meet with other users through avatars. 

In such computerised virtual environments, European core values are crucial for the take-up of the technology, including equality, non-discrimination and inclusion. There are a number of other challenges related to the online world, such as cybersecurity, identity, and jurisdiction, but the potential benefits of having access to a virtual environment at your fingertips are staggering.

More on XR:

Virtual and augmented reality coalition

Some figures: 

  • XR will create 1.2-2.4 million new jobs in Europe by 2025 (up to 800,000 directly).
  • More than 93 % of the companies surveyed predicts a moderate to exponential growth in sales until 2025.
  • 94.8 % of companies predicts moderate to exponential growth in the next three years-
  • European XR markets is expected to grow between €35 billion and €65 billion by 2025.
  • XR for enterprises is set to outpace commercial uses.

(source: ECORYS: XR and its potential in Europe (2021))


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