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Seoul is the first city to join the metaverse (and this is what can already be done)

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Author | Jaime Ramos

The South Korean capital, Seoul, has resolved some of the questions concerning the potential of the metaverse. Its Metaverse Seoul project has been launched and it offers a glimpse into the future of how and in what way smart cities will use this tool.

In January 2023, the general public was able to access the Metaverse Seoul project for the first time via various digital platforms. Coinciding with the launch, the city's mayor, Oh Se-hoon, welcomed it like a governor opening a new and promising public office:

"It will be an important communication tool for citizens in the new normal. It is an inclusive administrative service that everyone can take advantage of without any time and space obstacles."

Metaverse Seoul: what is it?

Metaverse Seoul defines itself as a virtual multi-office with countless services yet to be discovered. With an initial budget of $33 million, in the months prior to its launch, up to 3,000 residents of Seoul tested the Beta version, which already replicated some of the city's physical points, such as the city council or Seoul Square.

The project is split into three phases. In this initial phase, users are able to explore the city using avatars and ask questions about taxes or receive advice in different areas. Services are arranged in seven areas: economic, educational, communication, cultural, urban development, administrative, and tax sectors.

The next two phases will be completed in 2026 and more services are expected to be introduced, including the possibility of citizens combining virtual and augmented reality to interact with the urban infrastructure.

The Seoul Vision 2030 plan and the role of the metaverse

Metaverse Seoul 2

The decision to enter the metaverse was not just a random choice, but because it is one of the resources with the greatest potential within an ambitious plan christened as Seoul Vision 2030. The strategy aims to achieve political and administrative harmony, and was established after more than 100 sessions in which 122 individuals from diverse fields took part.

These discussions and deliberations served to establish the urban policy guidelines until 2030, with four areas of action based on inclusivity,economic leadership, resilience and safety, its technological identity.

The development of Metaverse Seoul falls within these plans. Apart from the original local motivation, it also forms part of the national R&D efforts. It is impossible to ignore the fact that South Korea has invested over $170 million in developing its "metaverse alliance", which includes the academic world and major multinational companies, such as Hyundai or SK Telecom. The latter also launched its own metaverse in 2021, Ifland. At the end of 2022, it had accumulated a user base of over 12.8 million in 49 countries.

Seoul, Smart City of 2022

Given the foregoing, it comes as no surprise that Seoul received the Smart City 2022 award at the World Smart City Awards. Because the macro-city has taken action, introducing innovations which, only a short while ago, were simply theoretical proposals.

Metaverse Seoul 3

A significant part of Seoul's commitment to innovation stems from what it learned with the pandemic. The city's authorities have wanted to focus on the health sector, with leading technologies to alleviate the effects of bad air quality or the development of a smart and digital health system, which includes monitoring tools based on advanced telecommunication and information systems.

We are yet to see how Metaverse Seoul will develop and, above all, what new uses will emerge in a future with various levels of urban reality.

Images | Freepik/lifestylememory, Government of Seoul, Smart City Expo

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