The hype and excitement that surrounds the potential of the metaverse was felt within the corridors of Dubai's Museum of the Future on Wednesday and Thursday.
But there was also a strong message from the 500 or so experts attending the inaugural Dubai Metaverse Assembly on the brave new world of Web 3.0 — and that was the need for regulation and preparation for what is to come.
There were fascinating glimpses of the future, such as the UAE Ministry of Economy's metaverse headquarters where people can hold meetings and even sign legal documents.
Elsewhere at a government level, Gabriel Abed, ambassador of Barbados to the UAE, said his country is aiming to set up an embassy in the metaverse.
The virtual facility will ensure diplomatic parity, future-proofing national services, international coverage, immersive experiences, resource efficiency and a broader reach, he said.
These high-level services will require responsible actions by users and stringent regulation from those hosting them in the metaverse.
“The speed of the change of the market is astounding, but the vision is being set from the top down,” said Keith Jordan, vice president of innovation at Mastercard.
“Regulators and policymakers can either follow the market or lead the market. One country is saying 5 per cent of GDP [gross domestic product] will be driven by the metaverse by 2030 … we need to think what needs to be regulated. We have to look 5-10 years out and start building the policy for that.”
Dubai is setting “the global standard for regulation” with the emirate having this year launched the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority as the central authority for the global virtual asset industry, Mr Jordan said.
“Innovation has to occur in a safe, regulated way. The next rate of change is going to be so fast.”
Another important point of discussion was how society will adapt to being both inside the metaverse and retaining the physical aspects of doing business.
Emirates airline's chief operating officer, Adel Al Redha, said the Dubai carrier will ensure it retains its “human touch” while also advancing its technological offering in the metaverse for customers.
“We need to maintain that human touch with our customers but at the same time you are looking for efficiency,” he said.
“I am there when you need me — not to stop the process or slow it down. Intervention from the human is as and when required. The metaverse provides us the chance to do that.”
Dubai is seeking to boost various sectors through the metaverse, including tourism. It plans to hold metaverse events and set up a task force to scale up its tourism potential and global outreach.
Education was another sector regularly referenced during the assembly.
Amin Al Zarouni, chief executive of Dubai-based metaverse start-up Bedu, gave an example of how the metaverse could and should benefit the youth.
He said he doesn't want his children to go through the same physics classes that he had.
“In the metaverse, you can target a much younger age with the way it is taught,” he said.
It could be that schoolchildren are assisted by devices such as a haptic glove, which is set to be introduced by Meta.
This will allow for experiences in the metaverse to be physically felt, such as playing the guitar or moving chess pieces.
Other future technologies shown off by the Facebook parent include a new VR headset due to be released this year, a language tool which will allow people to converse in the metaverse with instant translation and an AI algorithm that allows people to generate and import things using voice commands.