UAE’s latest bet on tech: a sector in a virtual world – Tech

UAE's latest bet on tech: a sector in the metaverse


The Metaverse is an online world where users will finally be able to play, work and learn.

DUBAI (AFP) – Already home to the world’s tallest skyscraper, the United Arab Emirates has launched a daring mission to Mars and now hopes to be a pioneer in the depths of the metaverse.

In a project launched by Dubai’s gleaming Museum of the Future, it announced that the UAE Ministry of Economy is opening stores in the immersive virtual world that is taking shape.

Those who don virtual-reality glasses or use other means to venture out in them will find a department that can do business with companies and even be prepared to sign bilateral agreements with foreign governments, officials said.

The UAE’s economy minister acknowledged that the Metaverse is an online world where users will eventually be able to play, work and study, although it is still in a “beta” phase.

Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri speaks at the inaugural Dubai Metaverse Congress, which takes place at the museum with its innovative ring decorated with Arabic calligraphy, which flanks the city’s main thoroughfare.

Representatives of tech giants joined entrepreneurs and developers to explore the potential of the virtual world, a network of digital spaces designed to serve as an extension of the physical world.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen investment, we’ve seen companies move in, as the (visa) system has changed … we’ve seen talent come in,” Al Marri told AFP.

“We train our employees to really immerse themselves in the virtual world, use the virtual world and interact with the upcoming Gen Z,” he added.

The UAE, which has a history of bold projects including the 830-meter (2,723-foot) Burj Khalifa, hopes the virtual world will add $4 billion to annual GDP and add 40,000 jobs to its workforce by 2030.

To become one of the world’s top ten metaverse economies, Dubai hopes to attract 1,000 companies focused on blockchain and related technologies by relaxing visa rules for freelancers, entrepreneurs and creatives.

Al Marri added that “Covid has really accelerated” the trend as the coronavirus pandemic pushes more people into the online world.

“We think the metaverse is a phase technology” that could take 10 to 20 years to emerge, he said. “Covid-19 really immersed us so quickly and accelerated the use of the metaverse.”

– Virtual Mars Journey –

Unlike Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s oil-rich capital, crude oil accounts for only 5% of Dubai’s economy, which has turned to commerce, tourism, real estate and new technologies.

The UAE has introduced a law governing virtual assets and a cryptocurrency regulator, while welcoming major cryptocurrency exchanges.

One of the UAE’s early private sector metaverse projects is called 2117, named after Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s dream of colonizing Mars a century later.

Metaverse users can now purchase tickets to join a virtual shuttle bus carrying settlers to the Red Planet.

“Many of us won’t live long enough to witness this mission in person,” said Amin Al Zarouni, founder of the Bedu startup behind the virtual journey to Mars.

“We will try to replicate this experience in the metaverse.”

Until now, the use of the Metaverse has been a niche market, and even its architects say that widespread adoption is still years away. How it will develop is unknown.

Meta, which owns Facebook and other social media giants, said research by Analysis Group showed that virtual worlds could add $360 billion to the GDP of the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey over 10 years if the growth pattern of mobile technology is followed.

“We also know that when policy supports innovation, it accelerates the adoption of new technologies,” the company said when asked about the prospect of Dubai becoming the center of the metaverse.

“If we look at the context of Dubai, there is already a clear strategy and goal to accelerate the adoption of the metaverse and investment in the building blocks of the metaverse.”

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