RIYADH: Having people living physically in NEOM won't be necessary for Saudi Arabia’s futuristic $500 billion giga-project to generate money. The developers of NEOM have another revolutionary idea: a metaverse network blending the digital world with the physical environment.
In what would be a new approach to combine the mega-city with the meta-city, NEOM is targeting people abroad to experience its XVRS, a digital twin of NEOM accessible to all for a charge.
Joseph Bradley, the executive in charge of digital development NEOM described XVRS as “the world’s truly first metaverse platform.”
“Because we are building NEOM from scratch, we can provide unique experiences that actually blend the two worlds together,” Bradley said in an interview with Arab News as he is attending the LEAP event in Riyadh.
“No one else in the world can do this,” he said.
Bradley, the CEO of NEOM's subsidiary Tech & Digital, said XVRS had three main engines. The first one allows people to create digital versions of physical assets.
Secondly, “it has an integrated, mixed reality engine. That means I can show up as a hologram and show up there physically, and vice versa,” he said.
The third feature it has is a marketplace, allowing people to buy and sell digital content.
In a statement, Bradley stated that “the future will be defined not by megacities, but by cognitive meta cities. It is a vision focused on experiences rather than scale, XVRS puts human needs at its core.”
NEOM Tech & Digital is planning to invest up to $1 billion in 2021 to advance the project's technology plans. However, it is also focusing on how to create income with products such as XVRS.
Bradley said the project is now attracting local and international investment and will soon in a position to export its technology across the world.
Bradley added: “Bringing investors and bringing revenue to Saudi, that is the whole vision behind 2030 and we are super excited to do that.”
He said: “We have several real estate developments, several cities that would like to be able to take their existing cities and create a digital version to allow people to interact with it.”
Last year it was revealed that tech giant Oracle would be the first tenant of a new hyperscale data center in NEOM.
Bradley also reiterated his view that NEOM will be a leading component of the Kingdom’s ambitions to diversify its exports away from fossil fuels.
Bradley said: “The vision is to export technology,”
If you do not get any data, you cannot create value. It is very simple. No trust means no data. No data means no value
Joseph Bradley, CEO of NEOM Tech & Digital
NEOM's data privacy solution
Bradley added that NEOM will have cutting edge safeguards to allay increasing concerns about the so-called “data privacy paradox”, whereby users of tech, primarily on social media, have their personal information appropriated and used without their full knowledge.
Bradley said: “Around 80 percent of people are concerned about sharing their data. They are sharing more and more and more of the information knowingly or unknowingly.”
He added: “If you think about an iceberg, the tip of the iceberg, when you go to the average [website], I won't name the site, but people go to this very well-known site and they believe when they hit consent that they're selling they're sharing information. What they don't know is they just shared it below the iceberg with 400 other sites.”
The solution will be NEOM’s pioneering end-to-end consent management platform, called M3LD, part of a $1 billion investment by the city in AI-based products.
M3LD is set to be released during the first quarter of 2023, according to a statement by NEOM Tech and Digital.
The platform will give consumers control over the use of their personal data and reward them accordingly, while simultaneously adding value to data controllers, or third parties, who wish to use the data.
Bradley said: “We have not run from this problem. We're addressing it head on. “
He emphasized the importance of building trust with consumers.
“If you do not get any data, you cannot create value. It is very simple. No trust means no data. No data means no value.”