DUBAI: The company e&, formerly known as Etisalat Group, is the latest business to explore the metaverse, through the soft launch of its own virtual world, e& Universe, at technology exhibition GITEX in Dubai on Monday.
Emirati authorities have been making significant investments in the metaverse. Last month, for example, the UAE hosted the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, during which Omar Al-Olama, minister of state for artificial intelligence, digital economy and remote work applications, said the country is planning to launch a metric called the “gross metaverse product” to showcase the future ways in which the technology will contribute to the economy.
“We have a goal of making Dubai one of the leaders in the metaverse, globally,” he said.
Developed in partnership with technology company HTC, the virtual e& Universe is located on Mars — specifically “Arcadia Planitia,” which in the real world is a location considered the most suitable for potentially supporting life on the planet.
The choice of location is a “subtle nod to the UAE’s National Space Strategy” and the Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope Probe, “in line with the vision of the UAE leadership,” according to e&.
For the first time at GITEX, which began on Monday and continues until Friday, visitors are able to visit the e& stand at the exhibition through the metaverse using e& Universe. The company said this is only the first step and its future plans for the metaverse include giving customers the opportunity to buy digital assets and NFTs, watch virtual concerts and sporting events, and engage in other digital experiences.
Alongside e& Universe, the company is also providing two other virtual experiences: Metaverse Service and Etisalat by e&.
Metaverse Service, created in partnership with SK Telecom, allows visitors to use avatars to explore opportunities for social networking. They can visit a virtual e& NFT art exhibition that features works by international artists, for example, listen to Ok-pop music, hear poems, or enjoy a variety of entertainment shows through the platform’s virtual- and augmented-reality technologies.
After selecting one of the six locally designed avatars, visitors can travel through the metaverse in the virtual company of Emirati actor, producer, TV personality and social media influencer, Saoud Al-Kaabi as he shares his poetry and the experience of his first-ever presence in the metaverse.
Etisalat by e&, developed in collaboration with Huawei, is a virtual retail space in which visitors can explore the service’s business center. The virtual shopping experience is set within a 3D universe, enabled by an enhanced 5G live network that allows visitors to collaborate, navigate and communicate using Etisalat by e&’s products and services in real time using hand movements, headsets, feedback controllers or voice commands.
The company said it is still exploring the possibilities offered by the metaverse and “is working closely with its partners to develop it as the platform where audiences can interact in unique ways.”
In line with its “make possible” mission, e& said it will also continue to expand and innovate the digital services it provides for governments, businesses and individuals.
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