April 18, 2023

Metaverse Highlights: Week of April 18, 2023

This week, we highlight a range of jurisdictions responding to the metaverse in very different ways. 

The British government just announced the formation of the Department of Science, Innovation, and Technology, which will advance the country's metaverse and web3 strategy. In France, the Ministry of the Economy wants to stop dominance by international internet giants in the metaverse and is launching a public consultation to find ways to do so. In Arizona, Governor Katie Hobbs has vetoed legislation that would have stopped local authorities from imposing taxes on individuals and businesses running blockchain nodes. And in Utah, Governor Spencer Cox this week signed a bill requiring the state’s Division of Technology Services to launch a pilot program for digitally verifiable credentials that use blockchain technology. 

These developments correspond to a variety of attitudes among regulators. Some are enthusiastic, others afraid, and most in between. Jurisdictions that best position themselves and build public-private alliances will attract talent and investments, those who do not risk falling behind.

The bottom line: Artificial intelligence (AI) and the metaverse are not just the talk of the tech world but the talk of the world at large. “There is this intersection between AI as a technique,” said Gartner director analyst Tuong Nguyen, “and the metaverse as an evolutionary state or era of the internet.” How will the two evolve together? He said AI would act as an interface, facilitating interaction with a system, whether by voice, text, or other input. It can also be used to identify locations based on visual cues..

The bottom line: The combination of AI and the metaverse has unlocked a new era of business growth and innovation. In the gaming industry, AI is being used to create more realistic and dynamic virtual worlds. Minecraft and Second Life are already using AI to generate environments and characters that are more lifelike than ever before. This allows players to immerse themselves in a virtual world that feels almost as real as the physical one.

The bottom line: The U.K.'s newly formed Department of Science, Innovation and Technology will advance the country's metaverse and web3 strategy, an individual familiar with the matter not authorized to speak publicly told CoinDesk. The new tech department, set up in February, will lead the charge in this work. The department’s work will not focus on specific technologies like blockchain and virtual reality. Still, it will instead look at potential economic growth opportunities, investment, and business models associated with concepts including the metaverse and web3, along with implications for regulation, according to the source.

The bottom line: France has thrown its hat in the ring for metaverse development following the launch of a public consultation to guide its future activities in the sector. The country’s Directorate General for Enterprise announced the start of the metaverse consultation on April 11, which it says will give companies, associations, research fellows, and ordinary citizens a chance to play a role. According to the statement, the consultation will form the bedrock of France’s future incursions into virtual worlds.

The bottom line: According to a consultation published Tuesday, the French Economy Ministry wants to stop dominance by international internet giants in the metaverse. The government of Emmanuel Macron is seeking views on policy issues including privacy, health, and environmental risks of virtual worlds as it seeks to create what it calls "digital sovereignty" for Europe - a frequent code for having homegrown alternatives to U.S. companies such as Meta Platforms. The goal is to "propose an alternative to the virtual online worlds put forward by international giants today."

The bottom line: The metaverse “does not intend to dehumanize education. Far from it, we are rehumanizing education. I think in many years to come, we will look back and say, ‘My God, do you remember that? We used to sit on desks looking at pieces of paper’ and ‘people will say, that’s so dehumanizing’,” Nick Clegg, former UK deputy prime minister and current Head of Global Affairs and Communications at Meta tells Efe in an exclusive interview.

The bottom line: 81% of healthcare executives are now considering metaverse healthcare development services for building innovative healthcare solutions accessible worldwide. The global market for metaverse in healthcare is projected to grow at a CAGR of 35.28% and is expected to reach a valuation of $54.47 billion by 2030. The increasing utilization of AR and VR platforms for performing complicated surgical processes with higher flexibility and precision is expected to boost overall market growth.

The bottom line: Inspired by success in 2022 and an impressive list of designers who attended that year’s Metaverse Fashion Week, Decentraland held another event this year from March 28–31. The week’s theme, “Future Heritage,” aimed to connect the next generation of creators with traditional fashion designers. Yet attendees immediately faced a problem this year: Neither an iPhone nor an iPad Pro could be used to enter Decentraland. Moreover, the event’s Mac app didn’t work. On the first day, there was such an influx of users that it was impossible to even visit the locations, and many users didn’t even see the Dundas show.

The bottom line: Dozens of advocacy organizations and children’s safety experts are calling on Meta Platforms Inc. to terminate its plans to allow minors into its new virtual reality world. Meta plans to invite teenagers and young adults to join its metaverse app, Horizon Worlds, in the coming months. But the groups and experts that signed the letter sent to Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg on Friday arguing that minors will face harassment and privacy violations on the virtual reality app, which is only in its early stages.

The bottom line: Katie Hobbs, the governor of the American state of Arizona, has vetoed legislation that would have largely stopped local authorities from imposing taxes on individuals and businesses running blockchain nodes. In an April 12 decision, Governor Hobbs issued a veto to Arizona Bill 1236, first introduced in January. The legislation aimed to revise sections of statutes pertaining to blockchain technology, largely reducing or eliminating regulation and taxation of node operators at the state level.

The bottom line: Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill requiring the state’s Division of Technology Services to launch a pilot program for digitally verifiable credentials that use blockchain technology. The bill, HB 470, requires the agency to provide recommendations to government entities on how to issue a digital ID or other record through distributed-ledger technology.

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