Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, Korea.
Jun Michael Park for TIME

Seoul is considered one of the world’s leading “smart” cities, and now is the first city government to integrate with the Metaverse, earmarking $3.3 million of South Korea’s $187 million investment for the development of a virtual communication ecosystem tentatively called Metaverse Seoul. The Seoul Municipal Government launched it with a virtual New Year’s Eve event and is rolling out programs for residents throughout the year, with the expectation that Metaverse Seoul will be developed by December. It is also working toward launching a Virtual Tourist Zone, which will allow registered users with VR headsets to view the city’s top attractions, such as the Deoksugung Palace, Gwanghwamun Plaza, and Namdaemun Market.

Any visitor will see the city’s technological features right away. Incheon International Airport is set to become one of the world’s smartest and greenest, equipped with state-of-the-art self-driving shuttle buses, automated immigration processing, and disinfecting robots. Additionally, Korean Air has signed an agreement to procure hydrogen fuel to support Airbus’ development of zero-­emission commercial aircraft by 2035.

Seoul’s public-­transportation system is also a global leader in innovation. Recent developments include the installation of air-quality-­improvement devices in each passenger car, free mobile-­phone chargers, and enhanced unlimited wi-fi service using Samsung’s 5G mmWave. Hyundai Motor Group recently announced it will pilot a RoboRide, the first car-hailing service with autonomous driving vehicles, in Gangnam in Seoul, with plans to add more than 300 by 2026.

For staying in the city of the future, the Ambassador Seoul—A Pullman Hotel reopened with six refurbished restaurants, including the King’s, the first hotel buffet in Korea. In smart hospitality tech, Lotte Hotel World upgraded its contactless services with delivery robots and rooms with AI-­guided speakers to provide guests amenities and concierge services, as well as Molekule air purifiers for suite guests.

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