As key players converge on Wednesday (Sep. 28) for the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is making a bid to claim the title of world metaverse capital at a time when the concept is gaining popularity across the globe.
The two-day event will host representatives from some of the biggest players in the space, including Meta, Binance, The Sandbox and Decentraland, as well as a number of international corporations with an auxiliary interest in the burgeoning metaverse economy, such as Accenture, Mastercard and Boston Consulting Group.
The conference comes right off the back of another event in the city — Metavision — which saw some of Dubai’s top officials meet with private sector stakeholders to discuss everything from cryptocurrency to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), experiential commerce, how governments should prepare for the metaverse and the blending of the physical and digital worlds.
In his remarks, Marwan Alzarouni, CEO at Dubai Blockchain Center, told the Metavision audience that “whoever controls the metaverse will control the world,” an indication of just how high the stakes are perceived to be by those in the industry.
Alongside expected advocates like Alzarouni, Dubai’s leaders are also betting big on the potential of metaverse technology, even as immersive virtual realities are being blamed for the emerging phenomenon of “cybersickness.”
At the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE’s Minister of Economy, told delegates that the Emirati government is taking a proactive stance in positioning the city as a global hub for the metaverse economy in line with the Dubai Metaverse Strategy published in July.
During a panel discussion on Wednesday, Al Marri also announced that the Ministry of Economy is set to open additional metaverse government offices, saying, “We have one physical location in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi and we are setting up the third in the metaverse.”
As part of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, the UAE government intends to build on Dubai’s existing blockchain ecosystem and continue to attract Web3 and metaverse companies to the city, which also has ambitions to support more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030.
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Built around the pillars of extended reality, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality and digital twin technology, the strategy is broad enough in scope to include technologies that are currently in their infancy as well as ones that have already proven their commercial value.
Certainly in the retail space, Dubai, and the UAE in general, are at the forefront of delivering innovative shopping experiences that deploy AR and VR technology.
Earlier this year, the Abu Dhabi-based payment technology firm Magnati launched MetaV, a virtual reality solution for eCommerce that allows retailers to create their own virtual environments for a more immersive customer experience.
Promising to bridge traditional payment rails with the consumer technology of the future, Magnati is positioning itself to be UAE merchants’ preferred partner as they make their first forays into the metaverse.
Metaverse Virtual Real Estate
As the appetite for metaverse retail grows, virtual and augmented shopping is being extended beyond the realm of consumer goods, too.
For example, while speaking at the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac and CEO of D-Labs, discussed the opportunities the metaverse presents to the real estate sector.
Damac, one of the largest property developers in the UAE, has already rolled out 3D virtual tours for its properties around the world. D-Labs, on the other hand, represents a $100 million metaverse investment by the Damac group which will see the firm build out its metaverse offering and cement its presence in the metaverse real estate market.
Earlier this month, Animoca Brands also announced that it will be launching the “Dubaiverse” on its popular metaverse platform The Sandbox.
It will be the second virtual twin city built within the Sandbox ecosystem after the Hong Kong “Mega City,” creating a designated plot of virtual real estate for Dubai firms to open up their own metaverse locations and host virtual events.
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