How Seoul is creating a metaverse for a smarter city

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

At the MIT Future Compute conference, CIO Jong-Soo Park of the Seoul Smart City Policy Office explained his current vision and 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 to city services for filing complaints, property surveys and tax returns. They also hope to be able to operate the project as an open and free service for citizens.

Building a connected city

Seoul is already one of the most connected cities in the world, with more than 95% of its ten million inhabitants already connected to 4G or 5G services. In addition, the city council provides an extensive free Wi-Fi network with more than 100,000 hotspots.

Park said they had three main goals with the project. First, they want to make it easier for citizens to get in touch with government services and with each other. In addition, they want to overcome time, space and language limitations. They want to explore new ways to improve user experience and satisfaction.

The platform will consolidate access to the city’s various services. It will also facilitate the expansion of services that take advantage of 3D digital twins to improve access to local safety images, 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 security service called Ansimi App connects users to the Seoul Police Department, who can use local location data and camera feeds to speed up investigations.

They approach this project with a five-year plan to deliver growing capabilities in several key areas. A business services portal already provides startups with a place to showcase new business ideas and services. An educational portal brings together 34 campus cities to provide coaching, collaboration and networking opportunities. Virtual tourism services allow local and international visitors to explore current attractions and historic recreations. Beyond that, they are working on infrastructure to support major festivals and museum exhibits.

Ultimately, the project will also provide virtual coworking spaces, allowing citizens to work remotely as if they were working in a real office. “We hope one day to have an AI-powered official in the metaverse office who works closely with others for public services,” Park said.

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