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World

‘Metaverse’ is the future of tech, and Dubai does not want to be left behind

  • Dubai hopes the metaverse sector will contribute $4 billion to its economy by 2030
Updated 23 May, 2022
What is the metaverse?

The ‘metaverse’ is being touted as the future of tech – according to Bloomberg, the global metaverse revenue opportunity could approach a whopping $800 billion in 2024.

All the tech giants, from Facebook to Apple, are vying to get a piece of the action. Facebook has even renamed itself Meta, to show its commitment to the tech.

But when it comes to efforts of individual cities, Dubai appears to be leading the way.

The Dubai Metaverse Strategy aims to increase contribution of the metaverse sector to the city’s economy to $4 billion by 2030, and raise its contribution to Dubai’s GDP to 1%. It has plans to become a key player in the virtual world and is developing a regulatory and legislative framework for the sector. It’s also launched a customer happiness service centre in the metaverse, and its newly launched Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority has plans to set up a metaverse headquarters.

But first, what is the metaverse?

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the metaverse is “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it.” Some say being in the metaverse means interacting in cyberspace, while others say it is a 3D model of the internet.

One way of understanding it is that it’s a shared virtual space that exists online and is interactive, immersive and hyper-realistic. You can create an avatar and enter the metaverse using tech like augmented or virtual reality. A basic form of the metaverse is an online game like Fortnite or Roblox where users have an avatar that is used to engage with other players.

So what will people do in the metaverse? Almost anything they can do in real life - have virtual workspaces, buy land, host parties or attend concerts, for instance.

Of course there are downsides: Privacy experts believe the metaverse could be the ultimate surveillance tool, as it collects data on your eye-tracking movement, hand movements, and even the shape of the room in which you are sitting while accessing the metaverse. There are also questions about who will govern it and how content will be moderated.

How is Dubai embracing the metaverse?

Less than three months after the Facebook name-change, a signal to everyone that the metaverse was the way forward for tech, Dubai’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said it was going to launch the world's first metaverse customer happiness service centre.

The ministry hopes this will help “usher in a new era of digital reality and human-computer interaction in government health care services, by enhancing the integration of the real, virtual and digital world.”

Another key development is that Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), launched just a couple of months ago, announced it will establish a Metaverse HQ in ‘The Sandbox’ (a virtual world that uses ethereum crypto token SAND to enable transactions on its platform).

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Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum said VARA’s “presence in the metaverse marks the beginning of a new phase in the Dubai government's march for the future; one that will have a positive impact in the long run.”

The MetaHQ will serve as VARA’s primary channel to engage virtual asset service providers across the globe to initiate applications, share knowledge and experiences with consumers and peer regulators to raise awareness, enable safe adoption and drive global interoperability.

Mohamad Ibrahim, Regional Director at Exness, told Business Recorder that “in its effort to become a hub for the crypto industry and the technology sector as a whole, Dubai is leading the way through its visionary leadership and by adopting business friendly regulation but also by being proactive and present in the digital world.”

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He said VARA’s initiative shows that Dubai’s government bodies truly understand the potential of the metaverse could help attract more companies operating in the digital sector.

He added that since Dubai is in direct competition with other top-tier business destinations in terms of foreign investment and innovation, the move could encourage others trying to build a presence in the emerging digital space to follow VARA’s footsteps.

Earlier this month, Al Maktoum directed the formation of a higher committee to prepare the Dubai Metaverse Strategy to supervise all future technological developments in the emirate.

“We seek to transform Dubai into the world’s best city in the world to live, work, and invest. The constant development of government services is vital to achieve this goal and ensure Dubai maintains high levels of global competitiveness,” he said.

“We are committed to further enhance government operations in Dubai, so that we can provide the best possible environment for the economy to flourish and ensure the greatest quality of life for citizens and residents.”

To top it off, the city will be hosting Metacon at the Dubai World Trade Centre Arena on May 28 and 29 with a focus on gaming and entertainment in the metaverse. According to The National, this will be the first physical convention centred on the metaverse and will feature immersive experiences, talks and performances.

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