The world is seeing the rise of various Metacity concepts.
Singapore is currently one of the most advanced. United Arab Emirates’ Sharjahverse recently became the first government-backed Metacity available to the public. Santa Monica, California was the first Metacity in the USA.
There are many more, mainly in Asia and the USA. In th meantime, Europe has been struggling to establish itself as a leader in emerging tech, developing the Metacity concept and the technologies surrounding it.
Thus far, the only European Metacity was CatVerse, the Catalonian Metaverse in Barcelona. Launched in the beginning of 2022, it’s available to companies or organizations that share Catalonian interests or values.
And now there’s Riga – the Latvia’s capital city that has recently revealed its aspirations to be the next successful European Metacity. During the 5G Techritory forum in Riga, 22 partners signed a memorandum, committing to this initiative.
A group of Cambridge Executive MBA students conducted a study and 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 study found that Latvia is well positioned in the AR/VR/MR space, as it is home to various AR/VR businesses – LighSpace Technologies and Exonicus, to name a few. This, coupled with some of Europe’s leading connectivity indicators, offers a fruitful foundation for AR/VR Metacity applications.
Latvia’s key differentiating components in the EU’s AR/VR ecosystem are heavily based on the already available infrastructure. It has a strong cellular network and infrastructure, one of the fastest internet speeds in EU (5th), and it’s well-connected within the Baltics (airport, trains, cross-border 5G corridor etc.).
Additional benefit 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.
And atop of all that, Riga is already home to strong innovators. It is home to seven 5G testbeds, various smart city innovations such as smart intersection lights created by LMT, and more. The Cambridge EMBA study claims that this ecosystem in its current state and willingness to collaborate is well poised to make strides in the Riga Metacity development project.
Ok, but who needs Metacities in the first place?
The metaverse technology could be a way for cities to improve their services, boost local businesses, and activate citizens. By developing Metacities and technologies to make them a reality, cities strive to maintain relevance and boost their economic growth.
For example, the 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 but this regional initiative and development is also expected to guide and accelerate the EU’s overall competitiveness.
Because the promise is this: cities where it will be possible to simulate different processes in the Metaverse will become more efficient. For example, businesses will be able to use “the immersive virtual environment to improve industrial processes, to improve engineering processes, […] to simulate advanced manufacturing processes,” noted Guillaume Lebrun,
Global Connectivity Policy at Meta, on the stage of the 5G Techritory forum.
In other words, Metacities have the potential to help governments, city administrations, enterprises and other stakeholders to save time and money, as well as improve the quality of services and the quality of products. The more Metacities the EU will launch, the more efficient this region could become. And at the end of the day, everyone would benefit.
Crafting the future
While signing a memorandum is undoubtely a crucial step for Riga towards becoming a Metacity, there’s likely a long way ahead until we see this initiative come to life.
My general hope is that Latvian Metacity builders and enthusiasts will learn from all the good and not so good practices of Metacities’ ancestors around the globe and craft a marvelous example for other European cities to follow.
After all, it has all the prerequisites.