The EU has bypassed web3 and unveiled a "web4 and virtual worlds strategy."
Tuesday's strategy announcement from the European Commission (EC) aims to create "web4 and virtual worlds reflecting EU values and principles."
Thierry Breton, commissioner for the bloc's internal market, said: “We will invest in the uptake and scale-up of new technologies, and give people the tools and the skills to safely and confidently use virtual worlds."
What is web4?
The EC defines web4 as the convergence of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, blockchain, virtual worlds and augmented reality. "Beyond the currently developing third generation of the internet, web3, the next generation, called web4, will allow an integration between digital and real objects and environments, and enhanced interactions between humans and machines," the bloc's executive said.
Enterprise use cases
The bloc's strategic plan aims to nurture local web4 businesses and be a global regulatory standard setter. The announcement included support for EU enterprises with a program called the Partnership on Virtual Worlds under Horizon Europe. The program is focused on fostering "an industrial and technological roadmap for virtual worlds.”
Public authority use cases
The statement also described two new web4 public authority initiatives: An immersive urban environment, called CitiVerse, used for city planning and management, and the European Virtual Human Twin, for modeling clinical decisions and personal treatment.
Other initiatives for helping public authorities make informed policy decisions include Destination Earth, and Local Digital Twins for smart communities. "The Web 4.0 and virtual worlds will bring benefits for health, contribute to the green transition and better anticipate natural disasters," Margrethe Vestager of Europe Fit for the Digital Age said.
Competition from the U.S. and China
The bloc is concerned that its domestic technology will be outpaced by developments in the U.S. and China. A report linked to the statement highlighted U.S. companies working on metaverse technology including Meta, Apple, Microsoft and Nvidia. It also pointed to developments in China, with Alibaba, Baidu, NetEase and Bytedance progressing their metaverse strategies.
“Contrary to these countries, in the EU there are no tech giants to lead the investment in the development of virtual worlds over the next decade. However, the EU is strong in research and innovation for middleware and software,” the report said.
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