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Metaverse adoption in the UAE shows potential across various use cases

(L-R) Leila Hoteit, Managing Director & Senior Partner, BCG, Tibor Mérey, Managing Director & Partner, BCG Vienna & Tibor Mérey, Managing Director & Partner, BCG Vienna.

According to a new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in collaboration with Meta, there is ample ground in the UAE to leverage ten use cases such as telehealth; digital twins; augmented tourism; live augmented events; virtual and augmented shopping, and virtual assets; and more. Recognising the key role that the UAE’s advanced market could play in expanding its metaverse participation, the report looks at relevant use cases and considerations to unlock their potential.

The UAE is rapidly fostering its metaverse ecosystem. Launched in the second half of 2022, Dubai Metaverse Strategy aims to turn Dubai into one the world’s top 10 metaverse economies as it strives to act as a global hub for the metaverse community. Earlier this year, the city hosted the Dubai Metaverse Assembly which brought together more than 300 global experts, policymakers, thought leaders, and decision-makers to identify the best ways to leverage opportunities in the metaverse spanning government, and industries. Overall, the strategy aims to promote Dubai’s ambitions to multiply its blockchain presence and support more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030.

“The UAE is a leader in readiness for metaverse adoption across all key enablers, with some gaps to address, particularly cost of connectivity. Technology is critical but is just one piece of this broader ecosystem required to unlock the metaverse and will fall under key pillars: reliable and accessible infrastructure, cheaper and better technology, user base adoption, content creation, a functioning economy, and – foundational to it all – regulation”, said Leila Hoteit, Managing Director & Senior Partner, BCG.

Based on market size, growth potential, and government focus, the report, titled “Creating a New Reality: The Metaverse in MENAT,” examines the ten most relevant use cases in the UAE. These include virtual collaboration, digital skilling/training; enhanced education, telehealth; digital twins; augmented tourism; live augmented events; gaming; virtual and augmented shopping, and virtual assets.

“Along with others, we’re building the metaverse to be something that billions can benefit from. We are investing in establishing an ecosystem for the metaverse and supporting programs and research focused on making the metaverse accessible to more people. This is why we are collaborating and working across industry, the public sector, academia and civil society, from this early stage, with companies such as BCG. Through a collaborative approach, we are working on principles and expectations to guide these new technologies as they are built and identifying areas where we can help advance the ecosystem. Together we are ensuring that the enthusiasm for the potential of these technologies is accompanied by a rigorous focus on developing them collaboratively and responsibly”, said Joelle Awwad, Head of Public Policy Programs at Meta in the Middle East North Africa and Turkey.

The applications of early metaverse platforms are already moving beyond the gaming experience, expanding rapidly into other high-impact sectors like healthcare training, education, and tourism. In the long term, several types of enablers must be in place for the metaverse to develop and function further, each one building on the previous and generating momentum that advances the entire system.

The Potential of Metaverse

Business leaders, technologists and investors foresee enormous economic potential in the metaverse. As with many aspects of the metaverse, precise figures vary widely depending on the source. BCG estimates a total global metaverse market opportunity to reach up to $400 billion by 2025. Most of this will be in the virtual-asset economy, predicted to rise from $90 billion in 2021 to $150-$300 billion in 2025, with VR/AR/MR ($47 billion), cloud ($28 billion), and network ($19 billion) related products and services comprising the rest of the metaverse market. Beyond revenue upside, the metaverse promises a range of exciting benefits for all types of users as well as the technology companies supporting the back end.

To develop initial use cases, leaders need to understand that these generally fall into three main categories: customer experiences, employee experiences, and industry/operational support.  Technology, media, and telecom companies will benefit directly by providing technological enablers, such as 5G, next-generation Wi-Fi or broadband networks, and new operating systems, app stores, and platforms to foster more content creation.

VR preparedness and up-skilling

According to the report, the metaverse lies at the intersection of three emerging technologies. The first is M-Worlds, which, in the BCG analysis, refers to immersive systems or platforms used for purposes including gaming, social interaction, and work. The second is Extended Reality (XR), which encompasses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR); and the expanding use of Web3 assets enabled by blockchain.

Virtual reality is a cost-effective, low-risk way to train people in industries like healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and the military, where large-scale training demands extensive time, resources, and coordination. VR simulation training is used by astronauts, healthcare workers and pilots to prepare for high-stakes, low frequency, events using simulations.

For example, Takeleap’s (UAE) immersive VR simulations enable medical students to refine their skills in a no-risk environment by practicing procedures on virtual patients, deepening their understanding of human anatomy.

Real World Risks in a Virtual Realm

The metaverse presents a number of considerations that must be proactively and collaboratively addressed through responsible regulation and policy.

Specific considerations should be examined collaboratively by lawmakers, academics, developers, and companies building for the metaverse to include privacy of personal data and potential for misuse; cybersecurity and cybercrime including virtual identity theft, deepfakes, and data breaches/attacks; magnified impact of cyber harassment and bullying in AR/VR; clarity about property rights and various jurisdictions, e.g., of digital representations; and more.

Tibor Mérey, Managing Director & Partner, BCG Vienna, said: “We are still in the early stages, but experience has taught us that major technological developments must be carefully anticipated and responsibly deployed to be our tools, not our masters. With bold new metaverse applications and content coming onstream every day, now is the time for the UAE to take stock of the opportunities, considerations, required capabilities and policy implications – and proactively map its path forward”.

“The UAE ranks 30th in Trust, which is high for the region. However, with 44% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) reporting no digital presence, it is clear that some gaps remain, particularly for enterprise metaverse users”, concluded Hoteit.

Learn more about the regional findings here.

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