Seoul is soon going to tread in the territory of metaverse, making it the first major city government to do so. With this, the South Korean capital will make a variety of public services and cultural events available in the metaverse, a virtual reality-based immersive internet.
This model of governance will enable the residents in the South Korean capital to carry out daily activities like filing a civil complaint or visiting a historical place with just a pair of virtual reality goggles, Quartz reported.
Metaverse uses 3D virtual reality on its platform and people interact with each other using avatars of themselves.
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Seoul's metaverse platform is expected to be ready by the end of 2022 and will be fully operational in 2026.
According to reports, the project costs about $3.3 million and is part of mayor Oh Se-hoon's 10-year plan for the city as he aims to raise the city's 'global competitiveness and improve social mobility. South Korea is aiming to utilise digital and AI tools to improve healthcare, central infrastructure, and the economy.
Seoul's metaverse will be able to host functions like a virtual mayor's office, as well as spaces serving the business sector; a fintech incubator; and a public investment organization. Seoul's announcement to shift to metaverse form comes weeks after Facebook rebranded itself to Meta and announced its shift to the virtual reality-based model.
South Korea is being seen as a key player in the field if metaverse even as other nations are yet to explore the possibilities of VR taking over everyday technology. This is mainly because of its strong gaming industry, the fourth largest in the world, which heavily depends on virtual reality.
South Korea has been trying to explore and experiment with metaverse beyond the gaming world as well. The Diplomat cites the example of Naver Z Corporation's Zepeto which the leading metaverse platform in South Korea. 90% of its 200 million global users are from South Korea. Zepeto has used social gatherings as well as shopping. Nike, Gucci, and Ralph Lauren have even opened up virtual stores within Zepeto.
The immensely popular K-pop industry, too, has invested in the metaverse platforms to launch their new songs or just to engage with their fans, like Black Pink does on Zepeto.
In May 2021, South Korea's Ministry of Science and ICT created a "metaverse alliance" to coordinate and facilitate the development of virtual and augmented reality platforms. According to reports, 500 firms, including Samsung, Hyundai Motors, are on board with the government for the alliance. The government has also pledged to give nearly $26 million in 2022 for the development of virtual and augmented reality platforms.
Experts suggest that metaverse may eventually become the way how we work, learn and socialise. VR and AR would eventually move beyond their current 'niche uses' and instead, become everyday technology.
Even though 'metaverse' has become a raging term lately, it was first used in 1992 in Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash. It described an 'exploitative, corporatised, hierarchical virtual space'.