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Seoul becomes first major city to join the metaverse

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NEWS… BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
Facebook bet big on the metaverse by changing its name to Meta and now Seoul has become the first city to buy in on the hype.
Seoul is the first local government in Korea to develop a comprehensive long-term plan for a metaverse. The city plans to establish a platform for ‘contactless communication’ by the end of 2022.
‘The fourth industrial revolution, and the explosion of the “untact” culture during corona, demand a change in the way we deliver public service by building a Metaverse Seoul platform,’ said the virtual avatar of Mayor Oh Se-hoon, during a September announcement.
The project is a part of Mayor Oh’s 10-year plan to position Seoul as a global hub for emerging technology. The metaverse project is estimated to cost nearly $34 million over five years.
The project has been tentatively named ‘Metaverse Seoul’ with the objective of creating a metaverse ecosystem for its municipal administration in three stages from next year.
A metaverse is a shared virtual space where we all may be living, working, playing and interacting with one another via virtual and augmented reality devices.
So far the metaverse is limited to virtual gaming platforms but companies like Meta are planning to incorporate it into our lives just like they did with social media. Since the pandemic sped up the use of virtual meeting spaces for work and leisure, plans for a metaverse doesn’t seem so far fetched.
Seoul is set to kick things off this New Year’s Eve with the traditional Bosingak bell-ringing ceremony being held on the metaverse platform.
‘In 2023, the SMG will open “Metaverse 120 Center”, a virtual public service centre staffed by the avatars of public officials,’  said a news bulletin from the government. Consultations and civil services, which was available only at Seoul City Hall will now be shifted to the metaverse.
The city also wants to provide business support facilities on its metaverse platform like a Virtual Mayor’s Office, Seoul FinTech Lab, Invest Seoul and Seoul Campus Town.
Seoul’s tourism is also in for a major overhaul with the introduction of a ‘Virtual Tourist Zone’. Starting in 2023, tourists can visit Seoul’s leading festivals virtually in the metaverse.
The virtual tourists will also be able to visit major tourist attractions like the Gwanghwamun Plaza, Deoksugung Palace and Namdaemun Market in the virtual space.
Seoul’s five-year plan for the metaverse will focus on the following areas: economic, educational, cultural and tourism, communication, urban development, administrative, and infrastructure.
The South Korean government has spent the past two decades developing Songdo, a smart city. Seoul is also in the process of developing its own currency, the S-coin.
According to plans, residents of ‘Metaverse Seoul’ would be able to make reservations for city-run facilities, ride city tour buses, visit re-creations of destroyed historical sites, file administrative complaints with city bureaucrats and more.
Residents would also be able to visit cultural heritage sites throughout the city by accessing the metaverse on their cell phones.
Seoul’s metaverse is slated to be completed by 2026 and could roll out in phases starting next year. It would first be available on smartphones and eventually, augmented reality tools, such as goggles and controllers, may be used.
Seoul wants to expand the metaverse to include all areas of its municipal administration and thereby increase the efficiency of government officials by overcoming physical limitations and language barriers to provide public services.
The ambitious plan has glaring concerns like accessibility for older residents, potential security breaches and the high cost.
Just buying the headsets needed to enter this metaverse will cost at least $300 as reported by Quartz.

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Metaverse Crypto Index Fund Launched by Matthew Ball, Multicoin, and Bitwise – Decrypt

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There's a wide array of crypto builders working to bring the metaverse to life, whether it's via platforms, tools, assets, or infrastructure. Now one of the leading voices around the metaverse has launched an index fund focused on crypto assets tied to the next-generation internet.
Today, writer and venture capitalist Matthew Ball announced a partnership with Multicoin Capital and Bitwise Asset Management to launch the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index. Bitwise has also made an associated fund available to qualified purchasers.
"We developed the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index Fund because, prior to today, there was no easy, expert, and methodologically diversified way for investors to have broad-based exposure to bona fide metaverse-focused crypto assets," Ball told Decrypt.
"To this end, the Index doesn't exist to time Event A or Market Conditions B. It exists so that investors can participate in what we believe is a multi-trillion dollar transformation, which will unfold over the coming decade," he continued. "If blockchain is relevant to the future of the metaverse, and our approach is sound, we believe the opportunity is significant—today, tomorrow, next month, and so forth."
The index will feature up to 40 crypto assets chosen by the partners, but a list of included assets was not provided to Decrypt by the time of publication. Bitwise's associated fund is available to qualified purchasers with a $100,000 minimum investment.
Ball described the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index as a "rules-driven index that combines the best of institutional indexing approaches with special adaptations to the crypto and metaverse spaces. That includes various risk screens, such as analyzing liquidity, developer activity, tech and regulatory risk, and "relevancy to the metaverse," said Ball.
"The ultimate goal is to curate the crypto assets that will be outsized contributors to the creation and success of an open metaverse," he added.
The metaverse refers to a future version of the internet that many believe will be built on blockchain technology. It's expected to be a more immersive and interactive experience that people navigate via 3D avatars and use for work, play, shopping, and socializing. It may also use NFT assets for user-owned items like avatars, apparel, and virtual land.
Ethereum-based games like Decentraland and The Sandbox are seen as early examples of the metaverse.
Facebook also showcased its own vision for the space and even rebranded its parent company to Meta last fall. However, it's not entirely clear whether Facebook's plan is for an open platform that is interoperable with others.
Ball is a leading writer on the metaverse whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Economist, and Bloomberg. His book, "The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything," is due out from W.W. Norton in July.
He's also a managing partner at EpyllionCo, which has invested in crypto startups such as Dapper Labs and Mirror, as well as a venture partner at Makers Fund. Ball is also behind the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF, which focuses on metaverse-centric stocks and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.
"Our objective was the creation of a diversified, balanced, and expertly-designed crypto Metaverse Index," explained Multicoin Capital co-founder and managing partner, Kyle Samani.
"This required a similarly capable team," he continued. "Matthew Ball is the definitive thought-leader in metaverse strategy and investing. We specialize in crypto assets and are one of the preeminent crypto investment firms. And Bitwise Asset Management is the proven leader in crypto indexes and index funds."

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Meta's losses show the metaverse's costly risk – Insider Intelligence

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Facebook parent Meta launches startup accelerator with India’s IT ministry in metaverse push – TechCrunch

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Meta Platforms is looking at India’s burgeoning startup ecosystem as it bolsters its bet on the metaverse. The social juggernaut has partnered with the Indian IT Ministry’s startup hub to launch an accelerator in the country to broaden innovation in emerging technologies, including augmented reality and virtual reality, officials said Tuesday.
MeitY Startup Hub and Meta’s effort, called XR Startup Program, will work with 40 early-stage startups and help them in research and development and developing workable products and services. Each startup will also receive a grant of over $25,000, the American giant said.
The program, supported by Meta’s $50 million XR Programs and Research Fund, will initially hand pick 80 startups to attend a bootcamp. It will also help startups with finding customers, inking relationships and raising funds, Meta said.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said the program is especially aimed at helping encourage technology innovation in smaller cities and towns.
The XR Startup Program is the latest of Meta’s growing participation in the South Asian market’s upskilling efforts. The firm, whose Facebook and WhatsApp services identify India as their largest market by users, partnered with Central Board of Secondary Education, a government body that oversees education in private and public schools in the country, to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.
The program — to be implemented by four Indian institutions, including IIT Delhi — will also host a “grand challenge” for innovation in categories including education, healthcare, entertainment, agritech, climate action, sustainability and tourism, the American giant said.
“India will play a pivotal role in defining future technologies. Decisions and investments made here in India now shape global discussions on how technology can deliver more economic opportunity and better outcomes for people. It is critical that we help to create an ecosystem that will enable India’s tech startups and innovators to build the foundations of the metaverse,” said Joel Kaplan, VP of Global Policy at Meta, in a statement.
Meta’s interest with working with startups in India is also not newly found. The company has backed three startups in the country, including social commerce platform Meesho and online education group Unacademy.
3 views: Is the metaverse for work or play?

“India’s rapid tech adoption combined with a vast pool of tech talent puts the country in a vantage position for shaping the future of the internet,” said Ajit Mohan, VP and MD of Facebook India, in a statement.
“For this future to be equitable, it will require active participation from all stakeholders, including developers, businesses, creators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs. We are excited to collaborate with MeitY Startup Hub and hope that the XR Startup Program will act as a catalyst to unlock the use of immersive technology across sectors like education, healthcare, agritech and tourism, not only in India but across the globe.”

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