Rīga reveals it has aspirations to be a 'Metacity'

The capital city of Latvia has announced a state-supported initiative to develop its own 'Metaverse' as a 'Metacity' – yes, it's that ubiquitous 'meta' prefix again – in the process becoming "one of Europe's first and largest Metaverse projects, driving forward extended reality (XR) research, technology, and applications." 

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to that effect has been signed among 22 industry partners committing to the initiative.

In answer to the question of exactly a 'Metacity' is, ths following answer is provided:

"Metacity is a smart partnership working to create a new virtual space that breaks down virtual and physical boundaries, without losing physical contact with each other, prioritizing the human as an individual, creating a complex environment accessible to anyone, at any time."

The aim in a nutshell is "To become a leader in Europe in the development and implementation of extended-reality solutions."

"A strong topical authority will be created, which is able to provide the required level of expertise and partnership in related matters and will promote targeted and effective development of the extended reality (XR) field by planning and implementing new projects, creating a legal framework for new operating models and solutions, developing human resources and infrastructure solutions, as well as ensuring targeted financing planning and attraction," it is stated in a presentation on the 'Metacity'.

No mention is made of any financial commitments, but a few suggested deadlines are mentioned beyond a statement that "[about] 10 years is the time to bring the hype to the end user."

It is envisaged that by November 2023 the project will have "submitted at least one project application for further development of the initiative" and that "by the end of 2027" Latvia will be "the most competitive place for trials of extended reality (XR) solutions in Europe."

The meta-announcement comes after a study conducted by Cambridge Executive MBA students that found that Rīga has the potential to become Europe's next successful Metacity 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," says a press release about the MoU.

“I congratulate us [sic] 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,” enthused Neils Kalniņš, 5G Techritory Program Director.

The world is seeing the rise of various 'Metacity' concepts, with Singapore being one of the most advanced. Currently, Europe's only other Metacity work in progress is CatVerse, which sounds like a feline TikTok channel but is in fact 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.

The Memorandum was signed at the 5G Techritory Forum in Rīga. It is a conference organized by the Electronic Communications Office of Latvia, with the support of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) and the European Regional Development Fund. 

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