By 2030, nearly 700 cities worldwide will implement some form of metaverse infrastructure, according to a recent report by global technology intelligence firm ABI Research.
This deployment of metaverse will often be an extension of existing urban digital twin platforms and solutions, ushering in a new era of digital interaction and engagement within urban settings.
While the concept of the metaverse has garnered significant attention and hype, especially in the realm of entertainment and virtual reality, its application in urban contexts offers practical and value-generating use cases. These applications span a wide range, including seamless citizen interaction with eGovernment services, virtual tourism experiences, intelligent infrastructure design, urban planning and development, and the empowerment and enhancement of urban workforces.
Dominique Bonte, Vice President of Verticals & End Markets at ABI Research, highlights the significance of the urban metaverse in complex urban environments. These environments present challenges in terms of design, maintenance, exploration, and engagement. The metaverse can help address these challenges by providing innovative solutions and immersive experiences.
City governments stand to gain numerous benefits from the implementation of urban metaverse infrastructure. These include enhanced citizen engagement and participation, thereby earning political capital. Moreover, they can achieve significant cost savings through smarter and more effective urban infrastructure design, operations, and maintenance. The urban metaverse will also play a pivotal role in helping cities become more environmentally sustainable and achieve net-zero goals.
Several early urban metaverse case studies and examples have already emerged, demonstrating the potential of this technology:
Metaverse Seoul: Offering government services such as tax assistance, 3D environments, user-based avatars, virtual multi-office communication tools, urban gaming, and virtual tour programs.
Tampere Metaverse Vision 2040: Focusing on urban development and planning, workforce management, citizen well-being, equality, education, healthcare, climate actions, sustainability, urban governance, and virtual city exploration.
Rome Advanced District (ROAD) project: Development of new energy supply chains, energy district modeling, and collaboration with organizations like Eni, Acea, Autostrade per l’Italia, Bridgestone, Cisco, Gruppo FS, and NextChem.
Maxar Technologies (SYNTH3D): Creating digital twins that enable seamless simulation, visualization, and augmented/virtual reality experiences using hyper-realistic satellite imagery-based 3D environments for smart cities.
Urban metaverse technologies are at the core of this transformation. They revolve around generating immersive 3D experiences by combining digital twins, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), extended reality (XR), avatars, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and mobile devices.
The urban metaverse ecosystem is expected to be dominated by urban digital and virtual twin providers like Dassault Systèmes, Siradel (Engie), Greehill, and Autodesk, in conjunction with mainstream XR hardware and software metaverse vendors, including NVIDIA, Google, Microsoft (HoloLens 2), Magic Leap (Magic Leap 2), HTC (XR Elite), Apple (Vision Pro), and Meta (Quest 3).