Early version of Seoul’s Metaverse revealed

September 01, 2022

by Sarah Wray

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has released a beta version of its “virtual municipal world”, Metaverse Seoul.

Seoul was the first city to outline Metaverse ambitions in November 2021, investing KRW 7 billion (US$5.2 million) this year. By 2026, the South Korean capital aims to have a metaverse environment for all administrative services, including business, education, culture and tourism.

The pilot will collect feedback from users to improve the experience and fix bugs before the official release of the first phase of service is scheduled for late November.

During the beta testing period, select users will be able to access Metaverse Seoul with a personal avatar and experience what Seoul calls the “realistic virtual spaces” of Seoul City Hall and Seoul Plaza.

Seoul Learn students can also meet with their mentors for virtual consultations. The online platform was launched by the Seoul Municipal Government to fill the education gap for disadvantaged students.

“Metaverse is evolving into different forms based on technology level and user demand. In particular, it is gaining traction as a new paradigm for post-COVID-19,” Park Jong-Soo, director-general of Seoul’s Smart City Policy Bureau, said last year.

He added: “SMG will pioneer a new continent called Metaverse Seoul, which will combine public demand and private technologies. For all ages to enjoy the benefits, we will work on Metaverse Seoul and make Seoul a smart, inclusive city.”

Cities and the Metaverse

Dubai and several Chinese cities have also announced Metaverse plans, but that’s unlikely to be a priority for most cities for now.

“There’s always these outlier cities that want to be considered pioneers, but a lot of cities are just starting to use social media, they have pretty bad websites,” Jonathan Reichental, former CIO of the City of Palo Alto and author of Smart cities for dummiessaid cities today earlier this year. “As public authorities, we don’t always do very well on some of the older technologies, let alone some of the newer technologies.”

However, Reichental sees potential for the future: “The Metaverse as an immersive virtual environment is extremely compelling and plays a major role in our cities,” he said.

There is no universally accepted definition of the metaverse yet, but it is seen as the next evolution of the internet, based on the integration of physical and digital experiences, and bringing together technologies such as gaming engines, digital twins, and virtual reality.

Do you believe the hype?

The concept has gained traction since Facebook changed its name to Meta last year and outlined plans to shift its focus to the Metaverse.

Some believe the Metaverse is just marketing hype, but a report released by the National League of Cities (NLC) earlier this year urged local governments to be early adopters of new technology and ideas.

Lena Geraghty, director of sustainability and innovation at the NLC, said cities today: “The metaverse is definitely the new buzzword in a long list of emerging technology buzzwords, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile for city leaders to familiarize themselves with what it could mean for their communities.

“The Metaverse has real potential to improve city services and the lives of residents if used well. For this to happen, city leaders need to be at the forefront of the conversation.”

The report highlighted potential use cases for cities, e.g. B. providing new ways of accessing public services, virtual tours, advanced digital twins and cultural events.

Geraghty said: “Emerging technologies will find their way into our cities, whether city leaders are involved or not. When cities are proactive in the conversation, they have an opportunity to avoid some of the potential risks and advocate for solutions that meet community needs.”

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