NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion-dollar futuristic city, will have a digital twin in the “metaverse,” allowing people to live, work and play in the megacity before it is even built, the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference heard on Wednesday.
Billed as the world’s most ambitious project, NEOM is a planned 16-borough city on the Red Sea coast in the northwestern Saudi province of Tabuk.
While the project is still years away from completion, Mansoor Hanif, the executive director of engineering in the technology and digital sector at NEOM, said future residents can get a glimpse of life in NEOM through a “digital twin” it is building in the metaverse.
The virtual world will be made lifelike using virtual reality and augmented reality.
In effect, FII heard, residents will be able to transport themselves into the NEOM metaverse and experience daily life as they would in the soon-to-be physical city.
“The metaverse should make humans feel more of a human,” he said.
Hanif also said, rather than be a smart city where often “systems are not talking to one another,” NEOM aims to be a “cognitive city” which aims to be make residents feel more connected to where they live and work.
“If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit smart cities are simply not smart enough today.”
Cognitive cities mean “understanding” its residents he said. “We need cities that understand you as a person and helps that person understand the city.”
“We don’t believe that the future is ‘mega-cities’ where the individual feels lost,” he said. “It should be ‘meta cities’ focused on individual experience.”
“But how do you build cognitive cities? We are converging modern technology, and we are powering the engine that is going to power cognitive cities.”
A huge part of NEOM, he said, will be robotics.
“We are investing heavily in robots,” he added. “We have big ambitions to drive human machine into action. We expect more than 10 percent of NEOM to be humanized robots.”
He continued, “We realize these technologies that will power real-time incredible immersive experiences which is what metaverse (is all about).”
“Cities of the future shouldn’t be about bigger or better. It is about living and designing a mixed reality world.”
“There is no platform that does that today.”
NEOM, he said, aims to be the first.
“Most metaverse are replicating existing cities. Or building on existing users, or they are designing imaginary cities in gaming world.”
With NEOM, the virtual metaverse will be based on a vision that is toon to be a physical reality, incorporating “iconic architecture”.
“We can live immersive in the city while we build it.”
The fifth edition of FII, Saudi Arabia’s annual investment forum, is taking place between October 26 to 28 this year in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh under the theme of ‘Invest in Humanity.’