October 26, 2022

"Metaverse: France's roadmap is taking shape."

A report submitted to the government provides guidelines for the development of the metaverse in France. Ten proposals have been submitted to Rima Abdul Malak, Minister of Culture, and Jean-Noël Barrot, Minister Delegate for Digital Affairs.
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With a potential worth of 5 trillion dollars by 2030, the metaverse market is whetting the appetite of tech companies and governments worldwide. Faced with what some observers present as the 'future of the Internet,' France does not want to miss out.

In this context, Bercy and the Ministry of Culture had wished to carry out an exploratory mission on metaverse development last February. This was conducted by Camille François, a researcher at Columbia University, Adrien Basdevant, a lawyer specialized in new technologies law and a member of the National Digital Council, and Rémi Ronfard, a researcher at Inria.

France is "well positioned in immersive technologies".

The trio presented their findings on October 24 in a report submitted to Rima Abdul Malak, Minister of Culture, and Jean-Noël Barrot, Minister Delegate for Digital Transition and Telecommunications. The three authors believe that the sector should not be reduced to Meta alone, which has wholeheartedly embraced the metaverse to improve its image and find a new growth engine as it becomes increasingly challenging to attract new users to Facebook and Instagram.

Instead of looking towards the American giants, the document submitted to the government notes that France has a role to play because it is 'well positioned in immersive technologies' with 'many strengths to highlight', as evidenced by the successes of major entities like Ubisoft, Dassault Systèmes, or Ledger, as well as the multiple acquisitions of innovative start-ups by American groups (Pixyz by Unity, Clay AIR by Qualcomm, Sketchfab by Epic, NextMind by Snapchat...).

Rima Abdul Malak, Minister of Culture, and Jean-Noël Barrot, Minister Delegate for Digital Transition and Telecommunications, received the exploratory report on metaverse development on October 24, 2022, conducted by Camille François, a researcher at Columbia University. ©Twitter — Jean-Noël Barrot

Adapting the DSA and DMA for the metaverse, and more

However, the report argues against fixating on the emergence of a 'European Google of the metaverse.' 'It appears strategic to protect, support, and encourage leaders in technological components that may be more modest but essential to building the metaverse of tomorrow,' write the authors of the exploratory mission. In this context, they advocate for 'France and the major French players in the digital immersion sector, as well as in research on these topics, to actively participate in discussions regarding the interoperability of immersion technologies.'

The report also highlights the importance of adapting new European regulations, such as the DSA (Digital Services Act) and DMA (Digital Markets Act), and upcoming acts like the Data Act and AI Act, to the metaverse. Because while 'the various regulatory frameworks targeting the digital realm in general and social networks in particular provide essential guidelines for organizing platform accountability, personal data protection, and managing sociotechnical risks,' the exploratory mission believes there is an 'urgent need to invest in more specific and precise considerations; otherwise, the delay in regulating social networks will also occur for the metaverse.'

Ten proposals to shape the French strategy

Based on this analysis, Camille François, Adrien Basdevant, and Rémi Ronfard have formulated ten proposals to outline the French strategy aimed at supporting the development of the metaverse. Here they are:

  • Seize the opportunity of organizing the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris to gather French metaverse stakeholders around concrete projects, particularly in the areas of culture, highlighting the territory, and heritage.
  • Re-engage in technical standards negotiation bodies to ensure that France and major French stakeholders actively participate in discussions on the interoperability of immersion technologies.
  • Encourage the public authorities to bring forth common and essential services enabling the emergence of a plurality of interoperable metaverses.
  • Develop a rigorous analysis of metaverse value chains to best guide strategic investment areas and mitigate risks of sovereignty loss or value leakage.
  • Utiliser la commande publique pour répondre aux objectifs de souveraineté culturelle et technologique en soutenant des attelages hybrides entre structures françaises technologiques et institutions culturelles.
  • Initiate the adaptation of European texts (GDPR, DSA, and DMA) to metaverse challenges starting now.
  • Invest in tools and techniques for analyzing the metaverse and transactions occurring within it, enabling both the detection of infractions to trace back to the perpetrators and tax collection.
  • Support interdisciplinary research initiatives to simultaneously develop experimental metaverses guided by societal needs (culture, health, education, environment) and the means to assess their socio-technical risks through empirical studies.
  • Establish a research and coordination institute, following the model of IRCAM, that would serve as both a computer research laboratory dedicated to immersive arts, a hub for coordination between researchers and artists for the creation of innovative immersive works in the metaverse, and an expertise center for all relevant cultural institutions.
  • Explore eco-friendly solutions and develop a system to measure the environmental impact of metaverse infrastructures.


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