Welcome to a brave new virtual world of opportunities!

by Domenico Orlando - Data Protection Law consultant
| minutes read

Admittedly, the real world can feel limiting and uncomfortable at times. Especially when you’re stuck in traffic, inhaling polluted air and worrying about all the distance you still need to cover to get to your destination. In such difficult, stressful moments, the desire for a more comfortable reality can be quite strong. A recent technological trend is trying to intercept that all-too-human desire by offering you the opportunity to live in a parallel reality, albeit a virtual one.

Building upon the experience of video games, developers are working on either completely made-up, fictional environments (VR, virtual reality) or on mixed scenarios, where our tangible world blends with a fictional one (MR, mixed reality, or AR, augmented reality). A good example of the latter is the Pokémon GO app which allows cartoon characters to appear at the corners of an actual, existing street, for instance.

Virtual events

eXtended Reality (XR) is the umbrella term for technologies that enhance or replace our view of the real world. There have been numerous XR applications already. The online video game Fortnite, for instance, has hosted several digital concerts that players could attend in the form of an avatar. Inside the popular game environment, they could watch and listen to the avatar of their favourite rapper singing and performing on stage. In another example, brands have actively participated in a virtual fashion week recently.

The metaverse

Then there is the upcoming metaverse, or the next generation of the internet, one of the buzzwords of recent times. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, not only envisions a virtual reality branded version of his popular social media platform, but also changed its parent company’s legal name to Meta, reflects his clear intention to step into the metaverse game. Facebook’s metaverse should be available in Europe soon. It will combine the American giant’s immense database of social network profiles with a 3D virtual world, offering opportunities for entertainment, work and business.

Virtual real estate

Another interesting development concerns the buying and selling of virtual land. Certain platforms are already selling pieces of the virtual world for real money, offering businesses the opportunity to build e-shops in virtual reality. Needless to say, most companies don’t want to miss this occasion to get ahead of their competitors in the marketing arena.

Virtual offices

XR technology offers opportunities to public organisations and government institutions too. The mayor of Seoul, for instance, has invested in the creation of virtual municipality offices where citizens can do their paperwork and interact with the clerks’ avatars, but remotely. One can easily imagine this application finding its way into banks and the tertiary sector in general in the future.

This quick roundup should give you at least an idea of the dynamic nature and potential range of XR technology. Hopefully it has also shown to you that there is more than one good reason why virtual reality is attracting so much positive attention these days.

Of course, every new technology brings challenges as well as opportunities. Check out my next blog article to find out which legal pitfalls to avoid when using XR technology!

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