The capital city of Latvia has launched a state-supported initiative to develop its own Metaverse – becoming one of Europe's first and largest Metaverse projects, driving forward extended reality (XR) research, technology, and applications. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed among 22 industry partners committing to the initiative.
This comes after a study conducted by Cambridge Executive MBA students that found that Riga has the potential to become Europe's next successful Metacity. This is due to the existing connectivity infrastructure, innovators, partners, and political will identified throughout the study.
The memorandum's key aim is to develop a central authority on extended reality to coordinate the development of the virtual space. From this, all subsequent action will be derived – developing regulation for the platform, attracting funding, coordinating the development of the space itself, and more.
Latvia's key differentiating components in the EU's AR/VR ecosystem are heavily based on the already available infrastructure: for example, a strong cellular network and infrastructure, one of the fastest internet speeds in EU (5th), well-connected within the Baltics (airport, trains, cross-border 5G corridor etc.). Secondly is the ecosystem – a strong technical university with a vibrant student base, local technology companies that are geared towards wireless and AR/VR innovations, and a relatively small yet well-connected population to drive deployment and adoption.
“I congratulate us that, with our signatures, we have now expressed our willingness and readiness to be not just talkers, but also doers. Already this January, we will come together to discuss how we can create practical applications for the Metaverse. A safe and green future of the Metaverse will be Latvia's contribution to the world, and I look forward to it.” – Neils Kalniņš, 5G Techritory Program Director
Development of the Riga Metacity is expected not only to benefit the local community and government by attracting a share of the estimated $600B – $1500B USD market size by 2030 (according to multiple sources) but this regional initiative and development is also expected to guide and accelerate the EU's overall competitiveness.
The world is seeing the rise of various Metacity concepts, with Singapore being one of the most advanced. Currently, Europe's only other Metacity underway is CatVerse, the Catalonian Metaverse in Barcelona. However, it is only available to companies or organizations that share Catalonian interests or values. Most other developed Metacity concepts are outside of Europe, notably in Asia and the USA. As Europe struggles to establish itself as a leader in emerging tech, developing a MetaCity concept and the technologies surrounding it, it would be an opportunity to develop capabilities in Europe needed to maintain relevance and maintain high economic growth.
The Memorandum was signed at the 5G Techritory Forum, Europe's leading 5G platform for decision-maker congregation, networking, and joint action.
5G Techritory is organized by the Electronic Communications Office of Latvia, powered by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) and the European Regional Development Fund. Organized in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union, and strategic partners Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia, LMT, The Nordic Council of Ministers and The Nordic Council, and the Digital Accelerator of Latvia.