Sep 14, 2023
The metaverse, also known as the 3D internet, is a virtual, interactive, shared space that seamlessly connects with physical reality. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are in the early stages of harnessing the metaverse's potential to revolutionize various industries and unlock new economic avenues, with GCC economies taking center stage. The 3D internet has several use cases for businesses to leverage, including marketing, training, and increasing customer engagement. Industries from education to entertainment are all on the brink of disruption owing to the metaverse’s immersive technologies. The economic payoff of leveraging the metaverse in the MENA region is set to grow as more companies, government organizations, developers, and creators come together to build this immersive space. This blog will dive into the various ways in which the metaverse is reshaping industries and economies in MENA.
An emerging frontier
Technology-fueled innovations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are underway with initiatives like Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the UAE’s Vision 2071. In 2022, Dubai even launched its own metaverse strategy, aiming to position itself as a leading metaverse economy. The MENA region is currently in the nascent stages of embracing 3D internet technologies, with several countries recognizing its potential to reshape industries and create new economic opportunities. As digital adoption surges, the availability of digital infrastructure and growing internet connectivity are laying the groundwork for metaverse adoption across the region.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations stand to benefit significantly from the metaverse’s impact. The GGC nations are already capitalizing on the space, as evidenced by notable metaverse projects in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in Saudi Arabia (KSA), with KSA investing $1 billion in metaverse-related initiatives. By 2030, the metaverse could contribute approximately $15 billion to the economies of the GCC, with even more potential for the broader Middle East region.
Here are a few applications of the 3D internet across businesses and industries in MENA:
Marketing through the metaverse: The metaverse is an immersive and engaging platform to showcase a brand or company's products and services to potential clients. Estate Waves, a real estate firm in Egypt, utilizes 3D imaging and virtual reality to offer clients a detailed view of properties, making significant investments in virtual real estate projects. This approach allows potential buyers to virtually walk through the property before making a purchase decision.
Training using metaverse tools: Immersive technologies can enhance comprehension, retention, and engagement in learning and training. In collaboration with EON Reality, Morocco's Office of Vocational Training and Labour Promotion has integrated metaverse technologies into its training modules. This immersive education methodology allows learners to access virtual educational environments, enhancing their learning experience.
Customer engagement: Companies can launch3D internet–powered activations to increase customer engagement, drive interactions, and strengthen relationships throughout the purchase cycle. For instance, Emirates Airlines adopted metaverse technologies to give customers a virtual travel experience on their premium airline. Introducing this digital touchpoint allowed customers to experience economy, business, and first-class in a 3D virtual environment before booking seats. It also allowed them to tour the airport and make duty-free purchases, which could be delivered in the aircraft or at the residence.
The economic impact of metaverse innovations
The metaverse is not just a technological marvel; it's an economic catalyst, especially in MENA. As countries in this region embrace the 3D internet, they are witnessing a surge in economic opportunities and growth. A recent announcement about the Dubai Metaverse Strategy highlighted that technologies adjacent to leveraging the 3D internet, like virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), have played a pivotal role in the UAE's economic growth, generating 6,700 employment opportunities and injecting $500 million into the nation's economy. This growth aligns with Dubai's forward-thinking strategy, underscoring its ambitious goal to facilitate over 40,000 virtual employment positions by 2030.
Here are a few jobs and opportunities in metaverse-related industries:
Content creation: From designing virtual spaces to creating 3D digital art, the demand for content creators is skyrocketing. Digital artists, virtual architects, virtual clothing designers, and metaverse content strategists could be sought-after professions in the region.
Virtual events: With hybrid events picking up interest to reach audiences globally, the metaverse will become an immersive platform for hosting them. Virtual concerts, conferences, and exhibitions are built in 3D environments, creating opportunities for event organizers, tech support teams, and artists.
Virtual shopping: Virtual marketplaces where users can buy digital assets, virtual real estate, and even fashion for their avatars are booming. This new market has led to the rise of virtual entrepreneurs and businesses that operate solely within the 3D internet, contributing significantly to the digital economy.
From education to entertainment
Some prime industries the metaverse is transforming in the MENA regions include:
The metaverse is redefining the boundaries of traditional education. No longer confined to four walls, the virtual realm offers opportunities for students to attend lectures within 3D classrooms or other virtually created environments, learn from avatars powered by artificial intelligence, and engage in real-time discussions or collaborate on projects with their avatars. Imagine a virtual history class where students can explore historical sites in 3D, from the ancient pyramids of Egypt to the historical ruins of Petra in Jordan. This immersive approach makes learning history more engaging and provides a deeper understanding of cultural and historical contexts. For instance, in MENA, Qatar University is set to enter the 3D inernet by offering students and professors a digital twin of the campus to attend lectures synchronously from anywhere.
Traditional forms of entertainment, such as movies and concerts, are now being transformed into interactive experiences through the 3D internet. Imagine attending a virtual concert where you can watch your favorite artists perform and interact with them, dance alongside virtual avatars, and view the show from various perspectives and angles. Similarly, movies in the metaverse can be more than passive viewing experiences. Viewers can step into the storyline, make decisions influencing the plot, and immerse themselves in the cinematic world. This level of interactivity and immersion elevates entertainment to new heights, offering personalized experiences tailored to individual preferences.
Urban planners can use the metaverse to create digital twins of cities or urban projects to optimize traffic, waste, and utility management processes. Saudi Arabia's NEOM, a megacity development project with a budget of $500 billion, has incorporated metaverse elements to enhance its construction processes. Using a digital twin of the city called ‘XVRS’ aids in collaboration between architects, engineers, and designers, offering a tailored experience for real estate clients.
The 3D internet is poised to revolutionize the healthcare industry by offering virtual medical consultations, therapy sessions, and surgical simulations, benefiting particularly those living in remote areas or with limited mobility. Furthermore, medical students can practice surgeries in a risk-free 3D virtual environment, honing their skills before performing on actual patients. Therapy sessions can also be conducted in the metaverse, providing patients with a safe space to discuss their concerns and receive treatment. The potential of the metaverse in healthcare is vast, promising improved patient care, enhanced medical training, and increased accessibility to medical services. For instance, the UAE’s healthcare provider, the Thumbay Group, is building a presence in the metaverse using VR and AR to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of patient care, where they can virtually tour facilities and book consultations.
Metaverse expansion in MENA
The MENA region is witnessing significant investments in VR and AR technologies that are often used to access the 3D internet, with investments expected to reach $6 billion by 2025, according to a report by Gartner. This growing interest in immersive technologies is evident in the education, healthcare, tourism, and entertainment industries. For instance, Bloomberg estimates that the total value of the metaverse will reach nearly $800 billion worldwide by 2024. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are actively participating in this growth. In Saudi Arabia, the metaverse is estimated to contribute nearly $38.1 billion in additional GDP annually by 2035, as published by FastCompany. In the UAE, that figure could reach $16.7 billion in additional GDP per year.
Collaborations between companies, government organizations, developers, and creators are pivotal in driving the growth of the 3D internet in the MENA region, as each party brings its own expertise. For instance, a partnership between Meta and Arte D’Egypte, a platform that curates exhibitions, helped bring to life an international art event at the Pyramids of Giza using several AR filters at key points throughout the exhibition. Similarly, Alserkal Avenue in Dubai launched a VR experience by collaborating with galleries and artists to create an immersive 360-degree viewing experience of their collections in the metaverse.
Ultimately, the expansion of metaverse initiatives in MENA will depend on the region’s extent of investments, rate of adoption of emerging technologies, and strategic partnerships to drive further growth.
The metaverse, characterized as the 3D internet, is emerging as a transformative force in the MENA region, potentially reshaping industries and boosting economic growth. The region’s acceleration in digital adoption, infrastructure, and internet connectivity are becoming conducive to integrating the 3D internet. The GCC nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are at the forefront of this evolution, with significant metaverse projects and strategies forecast to drive economic growth in the next few years. Real-world business applications of the metaverse are growing, including marketing, training, and customer engagement, showcasing the technology's tangible benefits across the MENA region. However, the overall success of the region’s metaverse strategy will be driven by wise investments, technology adoption, and innovative collaborations.
Are you an individual, organization, or government body looking to enhance your operations through digitalization? We can help you build, scale, and monetize your project in the metaverse. Get in touch with us!
Sep 14, 2023
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