The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) claimed last year that it would be the first large city to enter the metaverse. The aim is to establish a virtual communication ecosystem for all facets of the city government, now known as “Metaverse Seoul.” This would involve economic, cultural, tourist, educational, and civic service in three stages beginning this year.
On Wednesday, Seoul had a closed beta test run of the first stage of its metaverse project Metaverse Seoul. This “Introduction” phase will be followed by “Expansion” (2023 to 2024) and finally, “Settlement” (2025 to 2026).
The test run included a virtual recreation of Seoul City Hall and the Seoul Plaza, where people could engage in interactive activities and games. It also has a virtual counseling room where young people could meet and talk about their issues with mentors in the metaverse. Officials believe this will assuage worries about feeling awkward talking to a possible mentor in person.
About 3,200 users of Seoul Learn, the city’s online learning platform, had signed up to take part in the test run, along with professionals from the Seoul IT Tech Governance Group. Seoul will work on an improvement based on the suggestions made by these participants.
The first phase of Metaverse Seoul is anticipated to become live by the end of November. Following that, a multitude of facilities and services, like the “Virtual Mayor’s Office,” a “Seoul FinTech Lab,” Invest Seoul, and Seoul Campus Town,” would be gradually introduced. Through a designated “Virtual Tourist Zone,” the metaverse will also provide virtual copies of its well-known tourist sites, including Gwanghwamun Plaza, Deoksugung Palace, and Namdaemun Market. Visitors also could explore digital reconstructions of lost historical places like the Donuimun gate, which was razed during the Japanese colonial period.
As part of the city’s Seoul Vision 2030 plan, the South Korean capital has invested KRW 3.9 billion (approximately €2.8 billion) in the project. The mayor, Oh Se-hoon, stated that the project intends to make Seoul a city of coexistence, a worldwide leader, a secure city, and a future emotional city. Residents of Seoul will soon be able to don VR headsets to attend mass gathering events, speak with avatar authorities, and see authentically recreated landmarks.
Other initiatives that have been mentioned include the Seoul Lantern Festival, which will be hosted in the metaverse beginning in 2023 and will be accessible worldwide. The city also announced that it will utilize the platform to produce services for the socially disadvantaged, such as safety and convenience content for individuals with disabilities, and that it will expand the platform to all municipal government sectors to increase efficiency.
Seoul is only one of a rising number of towns globally exploring ways to use metaverse technology to manage public services better, engage residents, and increase participation with companies or downtown areas. Other cities in this growing list include Dubai and Santa Monica. In July, Dubai unveiled its own metaverse strategy, which seeks to become the city a global hub for the metaverse community and be one of the top ten metaverse economies in the world.
If used effectively, the metaverse offers a real chance to enhance municipal services and the quality of life for citizens. To accomplish this, urban authorities must be at the core of metaverse cities initiatives.