Crafting the Future Landscape of Virtual Worlds

In a convergence of academia, industry and EU institutions, the virtual event “Shaping the Next Generation of Virtual Worlds – Science for Policy event” orchestrated by JRC’s Digital Economy Unit, sparked discussions on the transformative power of virtual worlds. Isabelle Hupont presented insights from a recent report, sparking conversations across public sector, education and economic domains.

JRC Director General Stephen Quest stressed the need for proactive policymaking in navigating technological trends, using Virtual Worlds research as an example. Yvo Volman (DG CNECT) and Francesca Campolongo (JRC) highlighted the urgency of the Commission Strategy on Virtual Worlds, emphasising the need to steer technological transitions while upholding EU values. They also announced the imminent Centre for Advanced Study focused on Virtual Worlds research to inform policy making.

Cesare Dunken (DG GROW) showcased concrete industrial applications, citing Digital Twins in manufacturing and Virtual Reality in healthcare training as examples. These applications illustrate how technology can enhance performance and reduce costs for companies.

The event united voices advocating for a future intertwined with virtual worlds, emphasising the need for strategic policy frameworks and industrial applications. It showcased the transformative potential of these digital landscapes in shaping our collective future.

In a riveting session featuring eminent researchers Mel Slater and Mavi Sanchez-Vives, the expansive applications of virtual worlds reverberated across multiple disciplines, ranging from psychology and education to sociology and journalism. These two pioneers in Virtual Worlds studies provided a comprehensive overview of the profound impact of Virtual Reality (VR) on human perceptions and behaviours, unveiling a rich tapestry of past and ongoing research projects.

Their presentation showcased tangible examples that illustrated the transformative potential of VR:

  • Treating psychological conditions: VR applications for addressing post-traumatic stress disorders, fear of heights, paranoia and chronic pain.
  • Rehabilitation programs: utilising VR in prisoner rehabilitation to reduce violent behaviours.
  • Corporate training: leveraging VR for immersive training experiences within corporate environments.

The ensuing parallel sessions encapsulated crucial takeaways:

  • Enhanced learning experiences: advocating for virtual worlds to augment teaching and learning experiences, particularly in scenarios where real-life training proves either too costly or perilous, such as aviation or space safety training.
  • Developing soft skills: recognizing the importance of XR (Extended Reality) in nurturing soft skills alongside technical competencies, focusing on stress resistance and emergency response training.
  • Governance and private-public collaboration: for public administrations, delineating the roles of private entities and their collaboration with public authorities in governing virtual worlds.
  • Industry awareness: stressing the imperative of raising industry stakeholders’ awareness regarding the transformative prowess of Virtual Worlds technologies.

Source: AI Watch – European Commission