(Evropská komise)
Evropská unie  |  11.07.2023 15:00:00

EU initiative on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds: A head start in the next technological transition - Questions and Answers

What is the purpose of the initiative on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds?

The Commission is launching a new initiative to propose its vision and strategic actions on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds for the European Union. It is crucial that this technological transition reflects EU values and principles and fundamental rights from the onset. The strategy aims to ensure that European citizens can safely and confident use virtual worlds and European businesses can develop world-leading applications. Web 4.0 should be driven by open technologies and standards that ensure interoperability between platforms and networks, and freedom of choice for users.

What is Web 4.0?

Web 4.0 is the expected fourth generation of the World Wide Web. Using advanced artificial and ambient intelligence, the internet of things, trusted blockchain transactions, virtual worlds and XR capabilities, digital and real objects and environments will be fully integrated and communicating with each other, enabling truly intuitive, immersive experiences, seamlessly blending the physical and digital worlds.

What are virtual reality and virtual worlds?

Virtual reality is an immersive technology that allows users to interact with virtual objects and other users in virtual worlds. The virtual worlds are persistent, they continue to function even if you do not interact with them. They are in 3D, immersive environments, which make it possible to blend physical and digital worlds in real time, for a variety of purposes such as designing, making simulations, collaborating, learning, socialising, making transactions or providing entertainment.

Why is the Commission launching a new initiative on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds?

We are at the onset of a major technological transition, Web 4.0. Virtual worlds are an important enabler of Web 4.0 that can significantly revolutionise the daily lives of people and open a wide range of opportunities in many business and industrial ecosystems. The European Commission wants to make sure that EU society, businesses and public bodies are prepared to grasp the new opportunities, but also address the challenges that come along.

The EU can make a head start in Web 4.0. It has a solid foundation, thanks to its single market, its industrial base, its rich and diverse culture and creative content, its innovative spirit in core technologies, its excellent research and education, and its ground-breaking digital regulatory framework.

How does this strategy on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds relate to other policies in the digital domain?

The strategy is in line with the objectives of the Digital Decade policy programme and builds on three of its cardinal points: skills, business, and government. The fourth cardinal point, infrastructures, is addressed by the Commission's connectivity package and its wider policies on digital infrastructure, high-performance computing, cloud and edge. The strategy also addresses global governance of Web 4.0 and virtual worlds, as a specific strand of actions. Moreover, the Citizens' Panel built on the European Declaration of Rights and Principles to develop a vision and guiding principles.

What opportunities are there in future virtual worlds?

Virtual worlds hold significant opportunities, for industrial and societal domains. In manufacturing, virtual twins help test and optimise production processes, making them more efficient and sustainable. In the cultural and creative industry, virtual worlds offer new ways to create, promote and distribute European content and engage with audiences.

The number of use cases for such technologies is vast, stemming across all product manufacturing sectors including simulated machines, factories, transport, networks, and other complex systems.

Another example is the possibility to use accurate 3D models to simulate effects of global warming in order to find better and more energy-efficient solutions.

One of important opportunities in virtual worlds is education and training, in particular in the medical field, for scenarios such as an emergency situation, or surgeries simulations, lowering the risks of surgical complications and better accuracy of diagnosis. Virtual classrooms will enable students and teachers to visualise abstract subjects or simulate scientific experiments without taking any risks.

What are the challenges with Web 4.0 and virtual worlds?

The Communication highlights several challenges affecting people, businesses and public services. These include awareness, access to trustworthy information, digital skills, user acceptance and trust in new technologies, as well as broader challenges related to fundamental rights. Businesses are impacted by different types of challenges such as the fragmentation of the ecosystem and access to finance.

Therefore, the Communication puts forward 10 clusters of actions to address the challenges while creating opportunities for people, businesses and public services.

How can the EU protect its citizens?

The EU has a strong regulatory framework that applies to several aspects linked to the development of virtual worlds and Web 4.0.

In relation to the protection and enforcement of the rights of individuals and companies in the digital world, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act introduce a comprehensive system of accountability for providers of platforms and search engines and for providers of core platform services respectively. This regulation applies also to virtual worlds and web 4.0.

The General Data Protection Regulation safeguards the processing of personal data, and EU consumer law, in particular the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, protects against manipulating consumers' online choices and transactions. The newly adopted Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) Regulation covers crypto-assets not regulated by existing financial services legislation. All those regulations will be very important in the context of emerging virtual worlds.

What are the actions proposed by the European Commission?

The European Commission proposes 10 actions in the Communication on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds, from developing a Virtual worlds Toolbox for citizens to launching a European partnership under Horizon Europe and supporting a public flagship for smart and sustainable cities and communities (the “Citiverse”).

For More Information

Press release - Towards the next technological transition: Commission presents EU strategy to lead on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds

Factsheet on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds

Factsheet: How to develop desirable and fair virtual worlds? The citizens' perspective

Communication: An EU initiative on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds

Citizens' report from the European citizens' panel on virtual worlds

Staff working document: information, insights and market trends on web 4.0 and virtual worlds

News announcement (Joint Research Centre) - Next generation virtual worlds: opportunities, challenges, and policy implications

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