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
Virtual worlds are becoming more and more sophisticated with better and clearer images and more life-like avatars. By 2030, many people will be using them daily.
Wealth of opportunities
Immersive virtual worlds present a wealth of opportunities for businesses and the creation of new jobs. According to a market research report published by The Brainy Insights in 2022, the global metaverse market is expected to grow from 36,26 billion euro (39,25 billion US dollars) in 2021 to EUR 918,23 billion (993,86 billion US dollars) by 2030.
Creative industries are already embracing virtual spaces with concerts, plays, and immersive ballets. Virtual worlds have the potential of taking you on a virtual journey across the globe or a journey through a fantasy without leaving your home.
According to the study "Extended Reality: Opportunities, Success Stories and Challenges (Health, Education)" 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.
This study will also give some compelling examples of how extended reality and virtual worlds can be used.
- Healthcare: Virtual worlds will help with faster and more accurate diagnosis as well as therapeutic treatments.
- Education: These technologies can be used to increase the efficiency of training at lower cost and producing better results in areas such as soft skills training. Foreign language learning is another area which is rapidly gaining ground in the virtual world.
- Art and design: Users immerse in a virtual world of museums, galleries and archives where they experience the feeling of being in an actual museum, viewing the exhibition in a realistic way. Architects also use virtual worlds allowing them to walk virtually around virtual 3D buildings to gain a realistic impression of their structure and floorplan, furniture, decorations and even changing shadows depending on the time of day.
- Logistics, engineering and manufacturing: Companies will be able to train staff all over the world and simultaneously in practical use of tools without risk of injuries.
They will also be able to test prototypes of production lines or complex architectural structures using a digital twin of the process to detect potential errors before switching on new features, thus reducing time and cost.
Pitfalls and potential solutions
And just like the internet, all these amazing opportunities can also come with challenges. Some are specific to the use of extended reality, which can give motion sickness to the untrained user. Heavy headsets may be difficult to use for an extended period. The EU is supporting Europe’s extended reality industry to find lighter and more affordable solutions.
There are many aspects that need to be taken into account, such as privacy, safe and secure digital identities and EU wallet, which can be used online to purchase products and services, as well as for communicating with authorities.
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.
Furthermore, the European Union is funding a coordination and support action, which will promote a strong and competitive ecosystem with European companies playing a leading role. It will strive toward an open, decentralised, trustworthy European and global metaverses in line with the vision of human-centric technology set out in the declaration on European Digital Rights and Principles.
Engagement with EU citizens and European industry
The European Commission is consulting industry and academia and engages with EU citizens to find solutions to any problems that may arise in the future.
The Citizens Panel on Virtual Worlds consists of 150 EU citizens who will discuss pitfalls as well as opportunities during three-weekend session between February and April 2023. The sessions will be webstreamed. A report on the discussions will feed into an upcoming non-legislative initiative, planned before the summer of 2023.
The European Commission has already launched the Virtual and Augmented Reality Industrial coalition bringing together the industry and policy makers on 14 September 2022.
The Commission is defending European media and digital culture with policies that empower citizens and encourage media pluralism.
These days we can watch our favourite programmes not just on TV, but also online. These shows are subject to the rules of the single market.
The Commission is promoting a coherent approach on media policies, covering legislation on media services and the preservation of European cultural heritage.
Cultural heritage is evolving rapidly thanks to digital technologies. The momentum is now to preserve our cultural heritage and bring it to this digital decade.
The European Commission is adapting EU copyright rules to new consumer behaviours in a Europe which values its cultural diversity.
The European Union upholds media freedom and pluralism as pillars of modern democracy and enablers of free and open debate.