Metaverse

South Korea has witnessed a surge in metaverse-focused companies, with 109 scale-ups and hundreds of start-ups dedicated to the metaverse industry. The country’s scale-up density ratio surpasses that of Silicon Valley and the UK, attracting substantial domestic and overseas investment. This rapid growth of the metaverse industry presents a unique opportunity for South Korea, particularly in the context of smart cities.

The combination of the metaverse and smart cities in South Korea presents a captivating integration with numerous compelling advantages.

The Metaverse

The term ‘Metaverse’ refers to a virtual reality space or a collective virtual shared space that encompasses a combination of physical reality and virtual reality. It has gained prominence as a transformative platform accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Metaverse is an immersive, three-dimensional world sought to succeed the two-dimensional internet that we know today. Compared to the internet, the metaverse will, however, interact with the real world.  

It is worth noting that the concept of the Metaverse is still evolving, and there is no universally agreed-upon definition. Different individuals and organizations may have their own interpretations and visions for what the Metaverse could be. The potential of the Metaverse extends beyond the limited description provided, and it encompasses a vast range of possibilities, including enhanced virtual reality experiences, artificial intelligence integration, advanced simulations, and more.

 

Regarding smart cities, the metaverse provides a dynamic and immersive platform that enables urban planners to visualize the potential outcomes of their decisions before implementing them in the real world. By incorporating real-time data, such as population density, transportation patterns, energy consumption, and environmental factors, planners can gain a comprehensive understanding of a city’s dynamics and optimize their designs accordingly.

Why is this interesting?

Innovative Urban Planning: South Korea is leveraging the metaverse to revolutionize urban planning. The use of the Metaverse in global urban planning brings transformative possibilities and enhances efficiency by streamlining the decision-making process, reducing the need for costly physical prototypes and lengthy trial-and-error methods. Moreover, it involves creating virtual replicas of cities and integrating real-time data, enabling simulations of various scenarios and informed decision-making. This advancement enhances not only efficiency and sustainability, but also livability by allowing urban planners to evaluate the impacts of changes before implementation. By leveraging the Metaverse, cities can optimize transportation, energy usage, and environmental factors, leading to more resilient and desirable urban environments worldwide.

Enhanced Citizen Engagement: The integration of the metaverse and smart cities in South Korea encourages active citizen participation and engagement. Through virtual experiences and interactive platforms, residents can explore virtual city environments, access information, and contribute to urban decision-making processes. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership and empowers citizens to shape the development of their cities.

Personalized Smart Services: South Korea is utilizing the metaverse to deliver personalized smart city services to its residents. By combining virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and data analytics, individuals can access customized assistance and recommendations for transportation, healthcare, education, and government services. This tailored approach enhances convenience, efficiency, and the overall quality of life for citizens.

Data Visualization and Analysis: South Korea recognizes the power of data in smart city planning and decision-making. By integrating the metaverse with smart city data, decision-makers gain access to immersive visualizations and analyses of complex urban data. This enables them to extract meaningful insights, identify patterns, and formulate evidence-based policies for efficient resource allocation and sustainable urban development.

Technological Advancements: South Korea’s advanced technology sector plays a crucial role in driving the integration of the metaverse and smart cities. The country’s tech giants, such as LG Electronics and Samsung, are leading the way in metaverse-related patent applications, showcasing Korea’s technological prowess. These advancements contribute to the development of innovative solutions and infrastructure that underpin the metaverse-smart city synergy.

By capitalizing on these initiatives and advancements, South Korea is at the forefront of utilizing the metaverse in smart city development. The combination of virtual experiences, data integration, personalized services, and citizen engagement holds tremendous potential for creating sustainable, interconnected, and people-centric cities.

How Far Are we?

South Korea is a strong player in Metaverse technology development. The government has formed the ‘Metaverse Alliance’ to foster cooperation, provide financial support, and has outlined a comprehensive strategy to become a leading metaverse market. Popular metaverses like ‘Ifland’ have gained millions of users. In line with their commitment, the government plans to invest USD 465 million in the metaverse this year and a total of 2.2 billion USD by 2025, as announced by the Ministry of Science and ICT.

At city level, Gwangju Metropolitan City in South Korea and Seoul, the capital of the country, are at the forefront of harnessing the potential of the metaverse. Gwangju is actively nurturing a new metaverse convergence industry, while Seoul is leading the way with its Metaverse Seoul project. Gwangju has unveiled its vision of becoming an ‘AI-Metaverse Convergence City,’ partnering with 24 institutions and companies to create a collaborative ecosystem. Similarly, Seoul’s Metaverse Seoul project, launched with a USD 33 million budget, allows residents to explore a virtual city and access various services across different sectors. It aligns with Seoul’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to achieve political harmony and economic leadership through innovative urban policies.

Corporate: Companies like Samsung and SK Telecom are actively involved in the Metaverse Alliance.

Academia: South Korea’s substantial investments in metaverse research and development further demonstrate its commitment to shaping the future of smart city development. Two large universities in Seoul, KAIST and Sogang University are particularly involved with their Metaverse Convergence Graduate School Support project that is dedicated to knowledge sharing and R&D.

TechPlomacy perspectives: The metaverse is expanding the virtual world as we know it, introducing complex 3D virtual immersive universes as well as integrating features from the real world into the virtual.

The metaverse, as a technology, encompasses multiple applications: in industry is offers digital twins of the physical world, and the ability for build buildings, train systems and educate worker in the virtual long before the first stone for a new factory is laid, a new sewer system is in place or a doctor performs surgery on a real person – as also seen in South Korea. For businesses, the metaverse will offer new opportunities for gathering virtually or offering products and services in a virtual world, be it therapy, classroom teaching or retail. For social inclusion, the metaverse offers new ways to improve mental health, expand therapy and give new opportunities for people living with disabilities or mobility challenges. For entertainment, its possibilities seem almost endless, providing new ways for fans to go to concerts, friends to connect or games to be played. The metaverse – across industry and entertainment – is still at an early stage and has not yet reached critical mass.

As with most emerging technologies, it is difficult to predict how the metaverse will scale and grow, but what can be said is that it is expected to have a significant impact on society in terms of how we interact with each other socially and professionally, and for industry providing new opportunities for testing and modelling the real world in a virtual setting first. The enormous commercial, economic and social potential of the technology is balanced against what experts predict as significant risks and challenges that exist in traditional online spaces – such as content moderation, ads, monetization, user safety, privacy and access – and how they potentially will migrate to new virtual spaces. This is why it is key for policy-makers to already now start reflecting on how to maximize the potentials and manage potential risks, and why governments globally are drafting early versions of regulatory frameworks to harness the potentials, while mitigating risks, especially with regards to consumer-use and protection of children and youth. 

In the EU, the Commission is currently preparing a new initiative on virtual worlds, which will outline Europe’s vision in line with European digital rights and principles. It will focus on how to address societal challenges, foster innovation for business and pave the way for Web 4.0. [1]

Contact information

Please reach out to Natali Warda, natwar@um.dk for any inquires. We, at ICDK Seoul, offer our advisory services to both corporates, SMEs and academic partners looking to dive further into the area of Metaverse and smart city development.

We are connecting Danish companies and R&D stakeholders with the Korean ecosystem around metaverse. Furthermore, the centre has an upcoming Smart-City Innovation Camp that aims to foster connections between Danish companies, research and development stakeholders, and the vibrant Korean smart city ecosystem.

Let’s connect

Please reach out to Josefine Lange Strandgaard  josstr@um.dk for any inquiries. We, at ICDK Silicon Valley, offer our services to both corporates, SME’s and academic partners looking to dive further into the area of carbon removal.

Sources

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