The metaverse is on track to become an $800 billion industry by 2024, with tech titans like Microsoft and Facebook are considering it their biggest bet. This is because they assure that people will want to spend more time in virtual worlds that exist only online.
City leaders are now venturing into this frontier in search of use cases that go beyond gaming and fantasy. A growing number of cities are experimenting with new ways to engage residents through immersive experiences such as the metaverse, virtual reality, and simulated cities known as “digital twins”.
What the pioneers are discovering is that virtual worlds can have very real-world implications for how cities are led, problems are solved, and residents are served.
According to a recent report by the National League of Cities: “Because the metaverse is still being defined, there are infinite opportunities as to how it may benefit cities… As technology advances, city leaders will have an exciting opportunity to shape how the metaverse emerges”.
4 Metaverse 3D City Projects to Watch
The growing interest in the metaverse and its tools, such as blockchain, 3D visualization, AI, and VR/AR, represents the greatest opportunity for smart cities. Thanks to all of this, city leaders can truly leverage digital twins for transforming life and urban infrastructure. The following are the pioneer cities jumping to the VR:
When it launched Virtual Singapore in 2014, Singapore was one of the first cities to embrace digital twinning.
This was thanks to Vizzio Technologies, a company with an impressive list of government clients in the ASEAN region, that is headquartered in Singapore. They are using patented technology to create hyper-realistic city twins by leveraging satellite technology and AI.
Parallelly, Millennium Hotels, and Resorts, based in Singapore, announced a metaverse hotel version of their M Social brand in Decentraland.
Singapore’s inclusion on this list is due to more than just private sector activity. A few of Singapore’s fantastic universities are also getting in on the act. The Singapore University of Social Sciences may have the world’s first set of courses and a metaverse lab.
Dubai has been working for a few years to become a major regional and global hub in blockchain along with Miami and Singapore. When Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) launched its VARA MetaHQ in May of this year, it became the first government to enter the metaverse.
But not stopping there, Dubai recently announced an ambitious metaverse strategy that includes attracting 1,000 metaverse-related companies and creating more than 40,000 new jobs by 2030.
In addition, a new metaverse accelerator has recently opened in Dubai, and the city is home to an increasing number of blockchain venture funds.
Shanghai announced a 5-year plan to design its metaverse 3D City for public and private interests at the end of 2021. Furthermore, the government recently announced its intention to grow the local metaverse industry to $52 billion by 2025.
They will also be adding 10 globally leading enterprises and 100 new metaverse companies to the local ecosystem. This was followed by the announcement of a new $1.5 billion fund to aid in the development of the metaverse.
Seoul’s mayor announced the launch of Metaverse Seoul in November 2021, a decade-long ambition to be a world leader in generating metaverse technologies to transform city life.
The goal is to have “citizens meet with avatar officials to deal with civic complaints and consultations, which are currently handled only by visiting municipal offices” by 2023.
The project aims to support the private sector and even provide a 3D city digital twin for virtual tourism for Koreans and foreigners alike.
Uses for 3D Cities in the Metaverse
As local leaders consider this future, big opportunities arise to engage with people who otherwise won’t attend council meetings or read planning documents. Even more, for people that just don’t have the time to go to government offices to make the paperwork or want to visit new cities without leaving their homes.
Not only could cities involve more residents in decision-making in this manner, but technology may also enable citizens to provide more valuable feedback.
That’s what New Rochelle, New York, officials are thinking about as they integrate virtual reality into the pre-development public engagement process.
They’re focusing on a problem: when city leaders or developers propose new construction, residents struggle to visualize what the changes will look like based on drawings. As a result, they provide less effective feedback than they could.
One early application was in the city’s plans to convert a six-lane highway into a network of “complete streets” and build a linear park similar to New York City’s High Line.
To gather feedback, city officials have attended public events and allowed residents to wear a virtual-reality headset that allows them to stand in the middle of the redesigned space.
Around 250 residents took part. They provided specific feedback on how the highway transformation can make room for live events and cultural activations while still accommodating some vehicular traffic.
In Wellington, New Zealand, city leaders believe that a digital twin can help residents engage in difficult decisions related to climate change.
Policymakers and the general public can both use a computer or tablet to access digital twin technology. It is especially powerful because it can be updated in real-time as the real environment changes.
It can also use historical data to show what the city used to look like or project how the city of the future will look under various scenarios.
Wellington believes that this technology will be useful in assisting residents and policymakers alike in understanding the effects of rising sea levels and more extreme weather events.
The city plans to significantly expand its existing digital twin to assist residents in better understanding and responding to a sometimes distant-feeling crisis.
By 2030, you will be able to apply for new travel documents or permits from the comfort of your couch in Seoul. Virtual city officials will respond to your requests.
Even though there are unlikely to be any borders in the metaverse, Barbados has become the world’s first country to open a digital embassy in Decentraland’s metaverse.
The island state intends to acquire its representation in the metaverse so that people can easily visit the embassy for any issues they need to deal with or just to take a walk around the building.
Metaverse cities are likely to have infrastructure similar to that found in real cities. We will need to interact with the environment and with one another, so 3D city projects will include hotels, stores, and other amenities.
M Social, the world’s first virtual hotel, is one of the businesses that has already appeared in the metaverse. This hotel is part of the Millennium Hotels brand, which is based in Singapore. Users can gather in the lobby of the hotel for interactive meetings, events, and other special occasions.
Stores in the metaverse, on the other hand, are more than a reality, thanks to the advancement of NFT and metaverse economics. Furthermore, 3D city stores will be like any other city in the future, a great place to hang out and buy something.
H&M, for example, has opened the world’s first metaverse retail store. It looks like a real H&M store, and users can buy clothes there. Nonetheless, the clothing is only digital, but in the future, stores will most likely provide you with both a digital and a physical version of your purchase.
Perhaps the best part is that metaverse stores will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The metaverse is the internet’s next evolution, focusing on the integration of physical and digital experiences. While the private sector has made the most progress in creating the metaverse, governments are beginning to engage with this new technology.
As technology advances, city leaders will have an exciting opportunity to influence how the metaverse develops. The first step is to stay informed, proactive, and curious about how to engage with it.