Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, gave the welcome address at the assembly Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The inaugural two-day Dubai Metaverse Assembly opened on Wednesday at the Museum of the Future with a call to place people at the heart of virtual world.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, graced the event and tweeted: “More than 500 global experts are in Dubai to design the future of the metaverse and explore its potential applications. Dubai remains a global hub for testing and developing future technologies.”

“We are constantly working to foster the development of technological tools and applications to raise the community’s quality of life. In the coming years, the metaverse will shape a new digital future for humanity and Dubai will consolidate its status as a testbed for innovation in this emerging technology,” he added.

“Through the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, we aim to provide a global platform for the metaverse community to discuss new opportunities emerging from this new technology and promote knowledge-sharing and partnerships between entrepreneurs and innovators. We also look forward to discussing how the metaverse can generate solutions for some of the world’s most critical challenges."

During the event, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed met with top officials from around the globe and visited activations installed by the event’s partners to showcase real experiences from the metaverse.

He attended a keynote speech delivered by Omar Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications.

Earlier in the day, Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, gave the welcome address and said embracing the metaverse is about creating a digital environment that is safe for humans and to do this, “humans should be put at the heart of it”.

Metaverse is an online, 3D, virtual universe connecting users in all aspects of their lives. Like the internet, it connects multiple platforms through a single browser. The metaverse is not yet fully in existence but it is dubbed as the future iteration of the internet that will allow users to work, meet, game, and socialise in these 3D virtual spaces.

Metaverse is still at its nascent stage and many do not understand how it will develop or how it can change the world. For starters, one can think of online network games where players from around the world play the same game together as a simple example of the metaverse.

‘Adaptation is a must’

Belhoul described the metaverse as a “quantum transformation” and said adaptation to this evolving technology is a must. “There will be many challenges,” he noted, adding: “We must focus more on the opportunities. We cannot take for granted this growing digital economy.”

DFF CEO Khalfan
Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, gave the welcome address Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

From an economic perspective, Belhoul pointed out metaverse has a great potential as it will contribute up to $5 trillion to the global economy by 2030 and will infiltrate every sector in the coming years, with the market opportunity estimated at over $1 trillion in yearly revenues.

Belhoul also underscored the world today is mostly driven by technology and this shift has been more pronounced during the pandemic. “Humans have always adapted to changes and transformation. Collaboration is the key to understanding the challenges and exploring the possibilities of the metaverse,” he added.

He continued: “To an extent, the metaverse is still uncharted territory and we are yet to fully understand it. Through the metaverse, we can transcend a multitude of boundaries. We are gaining a space for social interactions with people and the world around us, and technically we can reach people from different corners of the world through a sub-reality.”

Dubai at the epicentre

The Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), meanwhile, said: “Dubai is slated to be at the epicentre of Metaverse’s inevitable Big Bang.”

“More than 1,000 companies operating in fields such as blockchain and NFTs have their headquarters in Dubai. The emirate’s innovation ecosystem, founded on a supportive regulatory and legislative framework as well as a robust digital infrastructure, is a magnet for talent, experts, and pioneers from around the world,” DFF explained.

DFF added: “Dubai has all the vital ingredients for enabling a vibrant ecosystem and foundation upon which the Metaverse can build. Dubai’s attractiveness as a place to live and work means the emirate offers companies a large pool of skilled, talented professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds and with experience and knowledge from a variety of markets.”

DFF also noted the UAE has the world’s fastest mobile broadband connection speed and is the only Arab country among the top 10 most digitally competitive countries. The country is also ranked first globally in the Global Entrepreneurship Index 2022.

Metaverse strategy

Dubai has set a strong foundation for the metaverse to thrive, by investing in infrastructure, education and technology. In particular, the Dubai Metaverse Strategy is an ambitious project that seeks to place Dubai among the top 10 metaverse economies globally and the first in the region. The strategy seeks to support as many as 40,000 additional virtual jobs and generate up to $4 billion for the city’s GDP by 2030.

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According to DFF, the jobs will mostly be in fields such as augmented and virtual reality “that will transform the emirate into a global capital for advanced technologies, primarily artificial intelligence and Web 3.0.”