EU leads in Web3 with metaverse, AI, and crypto strategies.

EU leads in Web3 with metaverse, AI, and crypto strategies.

The Growing Influence of the European Union in the Blockchain Industry

The European Union (EU) has been actively positioning itself as a leader in the rapidly expanding ecosystem of emerging technologies. With its comprehensive regulations on cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence (AI) systems, the EU is now setting its sights on the metaverse – a virtual reality space where people can interact with digital and real-world objects. The latest proposal by the European Commission estimates that the global market size for metaverse developments will exceed 800 billion euros by 2030. To prevent Big Tech from dominating this economically viable sector, the EU aims to take the lead in metaverse development while upholding its values of openness, security, trustworthiness, fairness, and inclusivity.

A European Vision of the Metaverse

The EU’s vision for the metaverse is centered around reflecting EU values and fundamental rights, as well as promoting openness and interoperability. The European Commission held European Citizens’ Panels in February and April of 2023, which focused on the metaverse. The input from 140 randomly selected EU citizens resulted in 23 recommendations that guided the EU’s strategy for the metaverse.

According to Margrethe Vestager, the vice president of the European Commission, the EU aims to have “people at the center” to shape the metaverse according to its principles. The EU’s strategy for the metaverse includes empowering and reinforcing skills in virtual worlds, supporting an EU Web4 on a business level, promoting societal progress and virtual public services, and shaping standards for open and interoperable virtual worlds.

But Wait, What is Web4?

The European Commission’s mention of Web4 in its metaverse strategy sparked curiosity among users. Web4 is distinguished from Web3 by its integration with the real world. While Web3 is still in development, characterized by openness, decentralization, and user empowerment, Web4 goes a step further by allowing integration between digital and real objects and environments. An example of Web4 in action is the introduction of smart cities with the right underlying infrastructure. The EU is already investing in initiatives like Destination Earth and Local Digital Twins for smart communities, as well as the European Digital Twin of the Ocean. These initiatives leverage advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things to seamlessly blend the physical and digital worlds.

EU Regulations in Place

While there are currently no specific metaverse regulations drafted by the EU, various existing regulations will have an impact. For instance, the recently signed Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulations provide a comprehensive set of rules for the crypto industry. Additionally, the EU AI Act, passed by the European Parliament, introduces regulations for the AI industry, aiming to ensure transparency and accountability in AI-generated content.

The EU’s proactive approach to regulating emerging technologies aims to prevent Big Tech companies from dominating the metaverse and AI sectors. The EU emphasizes the importance of open technologies driving virtual worlds, as opposed to being controlled by a few major players. This stands in contrast to Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), Microsoft, Apple, and Google, which are all working on their own versions of the metaverse and AI tools.

While Meta Platforms has faced financial setbacks in its metaverse division, Microsoft made a significant move by acquiring Activision Blizzard for $69 billion in 2022. Apple, on the other hand, released the Vision Pro virtual reality goggles, positioning them as spatial computing devices rather than explicitly targeting the metaverse.

The EU’s regulations and initiatives in the blockchain industry demonstrate its commitment to shaping the future of emerging technologies. By establishing clear frameworks and promoting values such as openness and inclusivity, the EU aims to create a thriving metaverse ecosystem that benefits individuals and society as a whole.

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