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Emergence of AI, AR and VR in Saudi Arabia

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) recently have been the talk of the town in technological world and they are the technologies of near future. Every tech enthusiast around the world is looking for the application of these technologies. The market capitalization of these technologies is now in trillion dollars and expected to increase exponentially.

These technologies are shaping the world and helping in achieving Industrial Revolution 4.0. In the presence of these technologies virtual world is not far away from virtual reality. Technologies that we saw in many science fiction movies are very close to becoming realities.

Like other big economies, Saudi Arabia is also planning to invest big in AI, AR and VR.  Saudi Arabia is the second largest oil producer in the world and 18th largest economy in the world. But as we all know due to the alarming level of global warming, the world at large is shifting its focus from petroleum to other renewable energy sources.

Many countries around the world are planning to generate all its energy from green sources like hydel, tidal, solar, wind and other carbon free resources.  Saudi Arabia’s economy relies very heavily on it’s oil reserves and most of the revenue comes from petroleum export. With the bleak future of petroleum industry it’s a matter of concern for Saudi Arabia due to the lowering demands of oil in international market. If this happens Saudi Arabia’s GDP will post negative growth rates in the years to come. So for reducing their dependencies on oil export, Saudi Arabia is seriously investing in other avenues like renewable energy, religious tourism, industrial estates, foreign ventures and more importantly on emerging technologies related to IT, AR and VR.

Forthcoming technologies always require a heavy initial investment and for Saudi Arabia it is not a problem. Saudi Arabia has number of billionaires and millionaires to invest in emerging technologies. Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030 is evidence of all this which focuses on being less dependent on oil exports and shift focus towards other technological ventures.

Saudi Vision 2030 is a vision to be less dependent on country’s current economic model and instead invest heavily in public sectors, quality of life, emerging technologies, education, women empowerment etc. Vision 2030 has set very ambitious goals to transform the Kingdom. Saudis want to change their perception in the world that they are a strict Muslim country living on old age.

For the purpose Saudi Arabia is doing lots of legislative reforms in their laws in order to achieve all the goals of Vision 2030. All ideas and visions of Vision 2030 have been floated by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, which is in line to be the next King of the Kingdom. For years Saudi Arabia has been criticized for being one of largest economy in the world, but still not par with modern laws, lifestyle, education, modern technologies, women empowerment etc.

So in order to address all these short comings Prince Muhammad Bin Salman prepared vision 2030 and sets very ambitious goals to transform the perception of Saudi Arabia around the world. For Vision 2030 digital plans Saudi Arabia is willing to invest 135 billion dollars in the next 10 years.

An international startup Magic Leap secured a whooping 461 million dollar funding from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign investment arm in 2018. Magic Leap released the AR headset just like Microsoft Hololens, it can run AR applications.

Dolf Technologies is one of the pioneer companies that is working in the latest technologies in the Kingdom. It provides content development AR and VR services in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Dolf technologies also provides services related to Industry 4.0 solutions which include AI, AR, IOT(Internet of Things)and ML(Machine learning).

Digital Signal is an AI startup working on facial recognition and has so far secured 85 million dollars funding from Saudi Arabian oil giants Aramco.

Popular social media platform Snapchat is a product of company Snap, it has secured 250 million dollars funding from Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Snapchat was one of the first social media platforms that used AI.

Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing service company in the world, it is eager to introduce self driving cars and it is leading in the research partnering with other big companies like Toyota. Uber has secured one of the biggest tech funding from Saudi Arabia that is 11 billion dollars from Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. Self driving car uses AI to drive the car by computer without any human intervention and it is going to be one of the big things in the near future.

Lyft is also a leading ride hailing service company and it is also working on self driving car projects. Lyft secured funding of 5 billion dollars from Saudi Arabian Kingdom Holding. All these big investments are signs of big technological future of Saudi Arabia in accordance to the Kingdom Vision 2030.

Hajj is an important Islamic Ritual. Every year Saudi Arabia hosts around 2 million pilgrims from around the world to perform the Islamic Ritual. Hosting and managing 2 million people is not an easy task. For time being most of the large number of pilgrims are accommodated in tents and for their transportation large transportation infrastructure is made. Medical Infrastructure has also been made to facilitate the pilgrims. It is not easy to manage such a large crowd. In 2015 in one particular incident 2400 people lost their lives due to the stampede in Mina. To address the safety concerns and other issues faced by the pilgrims who come to perform Hajj, Saudi Federation for Cyber Security and Drones decided to hold hackathon named “Hajj Hackhaton” in 2018. The event took place in Jeddah, nearly 3000 participants with females in attendance from around the world and booked the name in Guinness World Record for holding large number participants hackathon. Participants were given task to come up with the technological solution to address the safety concerns during the Hajj.

Apple’s Steve Wozniak acted as a judge along with Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales. Against all odds winner of the competition came out to be an all female Saudi Arabian Team, they designed an offline App called “Tarjuman” meaning translation and also secured initial funding of around 500,000 dollars with 15 percent shares as a prize. This app with help of image recognition converts the Arabic written on sign board to native language of the Hajj performer. This app according to the winner will help in avoiding Stampede. App also includes QR scanner which will read QR code on the sign board and then play the voice message. This app is an AI marvel which uses image recognition. So it is evident apart from men, females are looking to take part in the technological development of the Kingdom. As part of their Vision 2030 Kingdom wants to make Hajj Smarter and increase the number of Hajj performers up to 15 times by using AI and Iot. In 2019 Saudi Arabia as a pilot project issued smart cards to 2500 pilgrims to track their health and location. Saudi Arabia is planning that in future if any pilgrim falls ill it may be attended by robot physicians. So if all goes out well Hajj will become safer and smarter by 2030 with an increase in revenues up to 15 times more.

Saudi Arabia in accordance to their Vision 2030 is also planning to invest very heavily in entertainment industry. It will include building entertainment city which will include theme parks, auditoriums and number of advance high quality cinemas. Before this it was a complete blackout in entertainment industry in the country but since the emergence of the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, he has lifted the ban on entertainment industry. Entertainment industry will make full use of AR and VR applications like advance entertainment industry around the world.

AI, AR and VR are expensive technologies although they are getting cheaper year by year. But for Saudi Arabia it is not a problem because of the per capita income which is 39000 dollars per year.

Saudi population has the purchasing power to try these technologies. Literacy rate is also up to 90 percent in the Kingdom which will also help in the promotion of these technologies in the country because you have to be a literate for using these technologies.


Vision 2030 illustrates a new picture of Saudi Arabic that being the strict Islamic Country, it wants to transform into a moderate developed nation. Saudi Arabia is also planning to diversify its economy by gradually decreasing their dependence on oil and achieving economic development through other means such as Religious Tourism, Entertainment, new emerging technologies etc.

Saudi Arabia in accordance to their Vision 2030 wants to revolutionize the Saudi Arabia by investing heavily in technologies like AI, AR and VR. Saudi Arabia has already invested in various project related to these technologies and is very keen to apply these technologies in the Kingdom. By 2030 Saudi Arabia will become smarter and will boast their economy which will not rely on oil export.

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