How Seoul is creating a metaverse for a smarter city

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The city of Seoul, South Korea, is planting the seeds for a metaverse ecosystem called “Metaverse Seoul” for all areas of its municipal administration. The effort combines digital twins, virtual reality (VR) and collaboration to improve city services as well as planning, administration and support for virtual tourism. 

At the MIT Future Compute Conference, Seoul smart city policy bureau CIO Jong-Soo Park elaborated on their vision and current progress. Today, users can create avatars and explore a virtual representation of the mayor’s office. 

The long-term vision is to add support for business development services, education and support for city services for filing complaints, inquiring about real estate and filing taxes. They are also hoping to operate the project as an open and free service for citizens.

Building on a connected city 

Seoul is already one of the world’s most connected cities, with over 95% of its ten million residents already connected to 4G or 5G services. In addition, the city government provides an extensive network of free Wi-Fi with over 100,00 access points. 

Park said they have three main goals with the project. First, they want to make it easier for citizens to connect with government services and each other. Additionally, they want to overcome the constraints of time, space and language. They want to explore new ways to improve user experience and satisfaction. 

The platform will help consolidate access to various city services. It will also make it easier to expand services that take advantage of 3D digital twins to improve access to local security footage, report fires and improve public infrastructure. For example, the S-Map service already provides a digital twin for urban planning, real-time fire monitoring and wind path analysis. A safety service called the Ansimi App connects users with Seoul police services, who can tap into local location data and camera feeds to speed investigations. 

They are approaching this project with a five-year plan to provide increasing capabilities around several key areas. A business services portal is already providing startups a place to showcase new business ideas and service. An educational portal brings together 34 campus towns to provide coaching, collaboration and networking opportunities. Virtual tourism services allow locals and international visitors to explore current attractions and historical recreations.  Down the road, they are working on the infrastructure to support large festivals and museum exhibits. 

Eventually, the project will also provide virtual coworking spaces to allow citizens to work remotely as if working in a real office. “We hope to one day have an AI-based public servant working in the metaverse office in close collaboration with others for public services,” said Park.

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