The European Commission has recently unveiled an ambitious plan to make Europe a global leader in extended reality (XR) and Web 4.0.
As part of this strategy, the Commission forecasts the creation of as many as 860,000 jobs in Europe’s XR industry by 2025. This projection comes amidst a larger trend of significant employment impact, with an estimated 1.2 million to 2.4 million additional jobs anticipated in connected sectors.
A new era of the internet
Web 4.0 represents the next significant leap forward in the evolution of the internet, converging the physical and digital worlds in real-time virtual environments. Extended reality, a term encompassing virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), is expected to be a vital driver of this technological transition.
Although much of the innovation around the metaverse currently occurs in the United States, China, and South Korea, the European Commission seeks to increase Europe’s competitive standing. The AR/VR market in Europe primarily centers around gaming, media, and entertainment, but the Commission sees vast potential for expansion into other sectors, including retail, healthcare, defense, and manufacturing.
Pioneering use cases in extended reality
The potential applications of extended reality and the metaverse are diverse and far-reaching. They range from training surgeons in virtual environments for complex medical procedures to utilizing digital twins to preserve cultural heritage buildings. In an increasingly digitized world, even solutions to global challenges like climate change could be aided by using 3D models.
“Europe throws its hat in the ring to become a world leader in Web 4.0 and virtual worlds.” said Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market. As part of its initiative, the Commission has proposed a series of actions to ensure Europe’s leadership in this field.
Europe throws its hat in the ring to become a world leader in Web 4.0 and virtual worlds.
The new internet will impact the way people live together, bringing many benefits.
And we need to have people at the centre and shape it according to our EU digital rights and principles. pic.twitter.com/rc0R3qUm0y
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) July 11, 2023
These include attracting top-tier talent, fostering an innovation-friendly legal framework, developing global standards for interoperable metaverses, and implementing regulatory sandboxes to test cutting-edge ideas.
Digital decade: The strategy pillars
According to their recent release, the European Commission’s strategy aligns with the 2030 objectives of the Digital Decade policy program. Key pillars include fostering skills and talent in virtual world specialists, bolstering the European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem, supporting virtual public services, and advocating for open and globally interoperable standards.
Fostering skills and talent
By the end of 2023, the Commission plans to promote guiding principles for virtual worlds, provide guidance for the general public through a ‘Citizen toolbox,’ and establish a talent pipeline with member states. Special emphasis will be placed on skills development, particularly for women, girls, and digital content creators.
Bolstering the European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem
To address fragmentation and scale up excellence, the Commission has proposed a candidate Partnership on Virtual Worlds under Horizon Europe, which could commence as early as 2025. This partnership aims to foster research excellence and develop a roadmap for the evolution of virtual worlds.
Supporting virtual public services
The Commission is launching two public flagships: “CitiVerse,” a virtual urban environment for city planning, and a European Virtual Human Twin to aid in clinical decisions and personal treatment.
Advocating for open and globally interoperable standards
The Commission promises to engage with global internet governance stakeholders and promote Web 4.0 standards that align with the EU’s vision and values, ensuring that a few prominent players will not dominate the future digital landscape.
As the European Commission steps forward to embrace the potential of extended reality and Web 4.0, the future of digital innovation in Europe is on the brink of a significant transformation.