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Shaping Europe’s digital future

Virtual Worlds fit for people

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.

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.

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.

The European Commission have 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, pitfalls 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: Virtual worlds will help with faster and more accurate diagnosis as well as therapeutic treatments.
  • Education: These technologies can increase the efficiency of training at a lower cost and produce better results in areas such as soft skills training. Foreign language learning is another area 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 can also use virtual worlds to walk around virtual 3D buildings to gain a realistic impression of their buildings design and layout.
  • 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 detecting potential errors before switching on new features, thus reducing time and cost.

And just like the internet, all 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.

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 based off of four pillars:

  • Empowering people and reinforcing skills: The Commission will build an online pool of Virtual World specialists so citizens can access safe and trustworthy information.
  • Business: supporting a European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem – A new European Partnership that will bring together stakeholders to foster research and create a technical roadmap.
  • Government: supporting societal progress and virtual public services – Using virtual worlds to improve sectors such as healthcare and public services.
  • 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.


Virtual worlds citizens’ panel one year on!

It is nearly one year since the Citizens' panel on virtual worlds started. A feedback event with the citizens will take place on 1 February 2024 at 16:00-18:30.

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