How the UAE is future-proofing by being a Metaverse champion
Ali Sajwani, General Manager – Operations at DAMAC and CEO of D-Labs shares his thoughts on the Metaverse with MECN
Far from being just an ethereal concept, the Metaverse has, for all intents and purposes, become a reality of our time. It forms an integral part of what we now call Web3.0, the latest iteration of the world wide web that features a virtual world linked to our physical reality.
In the Metaverse, the possibilities are almost endless, even more than what is considered ‘real’ in our two-dimensional world of space and time. Initially the domain of gamers, the Metaverse has broadened its boundaries to increasingly include other aspects of our lives – from dining and retail to fashion and real estate.
The future is here
As a sign that the Metaverse is a serious direction in which the world may be headed, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has directed the formation of a higher committee to prepare the Dubai Metaverse Strategy. The body has been tasked to lay the foundations for Dubai to be at the forefront of this future reality, today.
Quoting His Highness’ official statement, he said, “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.”
With such a focused and determined vision coming from the top echelons of the government, expect the Metaverse to become an even more palpable reality in the UAE sooner than later. Following Sheikh Mohammed’s lead, for example, Dubai Municipality has revealed plans to collaborate with the private sector to create One Human Reality, a futuristic, human-centered version of the city in the Metaverse.
Among the business sectors that is the first to benefit from the evolution of the Metaverse is the real estate industry. A MetaMetric Solutions report estimated that real estate sales on various Metaverse platforms reached just a little over $500mn last year. With its ever-growing popularity, sales of digital properties could reach a massive $1bn by the end of this year, the report further revealed.
Another first-to-the-Metaverse market pioneer is the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, which hosted the world’s first ever economic summit, Investopia Global Investment Summit, in the Metaverse. A Dubai-based restaurant recently launched a Metaverse operation, where customers can place their orders virtually, complete their transaction with digital payments, and enjoy their meal right in the comfort of their homes. A local fashion brand likewise expanded its operations into the Metaverse to sell luxurious power suits for women and will accept cryptocurrencies as payments.
Understanding the Metaverse
Global tech and consulting firm Gartner identifies the Metaverse as among the top emerging technology trends in 2022 that will have a significant impact on how we do business, or live our lives, in the years ahead. It will spur global spending on Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), technologies closely linked to the Metaverse, to about $73bn in 2024, up from just $12bn two years ago.
What makes the Metaverse a compelling proposition is that it helps create a reality that is experiential, a digital version that allows anyone to own virtual assets like land or a piece of clothing, or experience digital realities, such as the UAE wedding that took place in the Metaverse.
As with any new technology, there are concerns over the security of the Metaverse reality and possible intrusions into the privacy of not just businesses but of people as well. However, given that it is powered by blockchain technology, the platform offers a measure of security to some degree. Certainly, with the proliferation of sub-technologies that will exist in the Metaverse, it could open a floodgate of vital security and data privacy concerns. Yet, these challenges are not insurmountable, and can be resolved as the Metaverse unfolds.