The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) announced on Monday that it will be the first major city to enter the metaverse.
Tentatively named ‘Metaverse Seoul’, it aims to create a virtual communication ecosystem for all areas of its municipal administration. This would include the economic, cultural, tourist, educational and civic service, in three stages starting next year.
The Seoul Vision 2030 plan
The metaverse refers to a shared 3D virtual world in which all activities can take place using virtual and augmented reality equipment. These platforms have grown in popularity in recent years as people have shifted their activities online, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The South Korean capital has invested KRW 3.9 billion (about 2.8 billion euros) in the project, as part of the city’s mayor Oh Se-hoon’s Seoul Vision 2030 plan. Its goal is to make Seoul “a city of conviviality, a world leader, a safe city and a future emotional city,” the mayor said.
If this project becomes a reality, the citizens of Seoul will soon be able to put on their VR headsets to meet with city officials for virtual consultations. They will even be able to attend massive events.
Celebration in a New Dimension
When the traditional New Year’s Eve 2022 Bosingak Bell Tower bell rings, it will happen in real life (in real life), but also in the metaverse.
The SMG will consecutively provide various business support facilities and services, including Virtual Mayor’s Office, Seoul FinTech Lab, Invest Seoul, and Seoul Campus City, on its metaverse platform.
The city announced in a statement that in 2023 the SMG will open the “Metaverse 120 Center” (tentative name), a virtual public service center. The avatar’s civil servants in the metaverse will provide convenient consultation and civil service, which was only available through the civil service center at Seoul City Hall.
In addition, major tourist attractions in Seoul such as Gwanghwamun Square, Deoksugung Palace, and Namdaemun Market will be featured through the “Virtual Tourist Zone.”
As for the lost historical resources, such as the Donuimun Gate (one of the four minor city gates to the capital destroyed in 1915), they will be recreated in virtual space.
Starting in 2023, major Seoul festivals like the Seoul Lantern Festival will also take place in the metaverse for people around the world to enjoy.
The SMG will also develop services for socially vulnerable people, including safety and convenience content for people with disabilities using extended reality (XR).
Overcome temporal and spatial restrictions
Seoul’s transformation into a metaverse city is a new step in the evolution of smart cities.
According to the Quartz website, the city plans to use artificial intelligence to monitor its sewers and water disposal centers. “An AI chatbot serves as a public concierge, answering public questions and complaints related to everything from parking violations to COVID-19 protocols.”
This giant leap could lead to overcoming real-world constraints posed by temporal or spatial limitations and language barriers (among others) through the metaverse platform built with advanced technologies.
“Seoul will pioneer a new continent called ‘Seoul Metaverse’ by combining public demand with private technology,” concluded Park Jong-soo, Director General of Smart City Policy at the Seoul Metropolitan Government.