Catalonia launches first metaverse in Catalan to promote language and culture
"Very high possibility" new cryptocurrency will be developed for immersive world
Catalonia has launched the first metaverse in Catalan: CatVers, an open, immersive digital space developed by the Catalan Blockchain Center (CBCat), with support from the government and Barcelona Chamber of Commerce.
"A metaverse is," according to Quirze Salomó, CBCat president, a "3D virtual reality world where several digital technologies converge and you can have immersive experiences." Facebook's recent rebranding as Meta shows the importance big technology companies are placing on these immersive worlds, described as the next evolution of the internet.
From Monday afternoon, organizations have been able to hold meetings in the Catalan metaverse, with various activities expected to take place in the new digital space in the coming months, from art exhibitions in February to larger events such as festivals from March.
CatVers will be free for the first two months, after which CBCat plans to introduce "affordable" rates.
Speaking at the launch, Salomó said there is a "very high possibility" that a new cryptocurrency will be developed for the metaverse, in order to "monetize the assets" that can be produced there.
Catalan vice president, Jordi Puigneró, said that "the only way to protect the nation" is "to have a presence in these new environments." "Catalonia has always wanted to be at the cutting edge," he added.
Puigneró, who is also the digital policies minister, drew a parallel between the launch of the metaverse and the creation of the Catalan-language public television channel TV3 in the 1980s.
The project has an initial budget of €10,000 and €20,000, and the organizers hope that it will become "economically sustainable" quickly, saying it is a transformative sector that will change the internet as we know it.
There are plans to create a virtual university campus within CatVers later this year, to be used by Catalan universities. Organizers also hope to set up "decentralized governance" of the metaverse, so that it can be run by the groups that sign up.
Barcelona Chamber of Commerce president, Mònica Roca, said that the technologies that come together in metaverses "will transform the world". "The Catalan language and Catalan culture must be present in this technological revolution, we cannot be left out," she said.
Metaverse v Zoom
Metaverses will be commonplace in three years' time and universal in five years, according to Salomó.
While the virtual race is currently being led by big tech corporations such as Facebook, the CBCat head warned that governments and research organizations must be active too, not least to ensure that people's rights are protected.
Asked about the difference between these new immersive environments compared to holding a meeting on digital platforms such as Zoom, Salomó said that the potential for social interaction is much higher in virtual spaces. He also emphasized the cultural potential of CatVers, "the ability to go from one museum to another instantly," all from the comfort of your own home.