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Saudi Arabia’s new city NEOM will be designed on the metaverse

NEOM is a city that will be built near the Red Sea. It is a new city that will be redefine what a ‘city’ looks like. With its futuristic design to the revolutionary ideas behind every aspect of the city it will truly be one of a kind.

NEOM is being shaped in the metaverse. [T]he vast, $500 billion “country within a country” currently under development in Saudi Arabia.

The zone’s Tech & Digital offshoot today announced XVRS, a “cognitive digital twin metaverse” that will enable visitors to have a simultaneous presence at NEOM both physically and virtually, as an avatar or hologram. The platform, announced at the LEAP technology event in Riyadh, will also have a marketplace for crypto and NFTs.

So far, so metaverse. But one unique feature of XVRS is that it will offer a virtual representation of NEOM—and help inform its construction with real bricks and mortar.

Think of it as like crowd-sourcing the design of an entire city: virtual visitors could, for example, customize the color schemes of apartments, which could then be replicated as the interiors of the finished buildings. Or if enough people buy apartments in a virtual building, the decision could be made to build it for real.

“One experience model that we talked about is actually informing the construction of NEOM before an asset is built,” says Joseph Bradley, chief executive of the NEOM Tech & Digital Company. “[This could] allow folks to interact with designs that are not yet completed.”

Tech companies are racing to launch virtual worlds, with digital land development firm Republic Realm having tracked more than 180 metaverse projects already under development. Facebook, notably, last year rebranded as Meta and launched its Horizon Worlds game; plots of virtual land have sold for millions of dollars in Decentraland and The Sandbox.

But NEOM is building “the first metaverse that actually is a metaverse,” in that it will truly bring together the physical and digital worlds, says Bradley. XVRS could, for example, allow a virtual visitor from the US to experience a hike through the mountainous areas of NEOM—all without leaving their armchair. Or an artist could post an NFT in a virtual space—which would then also appear on the wall of a real physical apartment.

“The whole purpose of NEOM is to be this collaborative, inclusive, human-centric place for people to interact,” says Bradley. “It’s not really [about] megacities anymore—it’s meta cities.”