November 19, 2022

KOTRA Silicon Valley Forum Presents Benefits and Risks of the Metaverse

Under the theme of "The Metaverse is Yours," the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) in Silicon Valley, a non-profit agency operated by the South Korean government that serves as one of the 127 overseas KOTRA branches worldwide, held its annual convention, K-Global @ Silicon Valley 2022, from Nov. 7th-8th in Santa Clara, Calif. The event started with an information and communications technology (ICT) forum focused on innovation which included discussions about the metaverse and its four key aspects of content, platforms, networks, and devices. After welcoming remarks from Korean dignitaries, the event featured the following keynote speakers:
  • Shilpa Kolhatkar, who serves as Global Head of AI Nations Business Development at NVIDIA, talked about how the metaverse is the next evolution of the internet, the home to connected virtual worlds and digital twins, and a place for real work as well as play. She said NVIDIA's platforms provide enterprises the ability to develop physically accurate, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled, virtual simulations that are synchronized with the real world. Ms. Kolhatkar also noted that digital twins are transforming industries and scientific discovery, as well as enabling developers, researchers, and enterprises who use them to design, simulate, and optimize products, equipment, and processes in real-time, before ever going to production.
  • Heesuk "Ricky" Kang, Head of Business at Naver Z, discussed how his company's ZEPETO Studio platform features 68 million Studio items sales created by over 2.3 million creators to 300 million users worldwide. Mr. Kang said ZEPETO, which is the fastest growing avatar platform in Asia, is popular among Gen Zs who express themselves while meeting, collaborating, and creating with others.
  • Jason Mayes, Head of Business, Lead Web ML & AL Developer Advocate at Google, focused his presentation on TensorFlow.js, a library for machine learning (ML) in JavaScript. He explained how TensorFlow makes it easy for beginners and experts to create machine learning models for desktop, mobile, web, and cloud. Mr. Mayes added that data can be the most important factor in the success of a user's ML endeavors and TensorFlow offers multiple data tools to help consolidate, clean and preprocess data at scale. I appreciate his assertion that TensorFlow empowers "machine learning for everyone."

The next segment of the ICT Forum focused on a panel discussion. Shawn Flynn, Principal of Global Capital Markets and host of "The Silicon Valley Podcast," moderated an insightful discussion featuring Pouneh Kaufman, Group Project Manager at Microsoft, Ray Wu, Managing Partner at Alumni Ventures, and Sean Jun, Product Manager at XL8. Key points from the moderated session included:
  • The metaverse is an evolution, not a revolution. And it is one that businesses should not ignore.
  • The metaverse may profoundly change how businesses and consumers interact with products, services and each other (i.e., enriching the customer experience and introducing virtual products).
  • The metaverse will help support sustainability efforts by saving both time and resources used to travel to attend meetings, lectures, and social gatherings (I expect the use of the metaverse will help companies achieve their environment, social, and governance goals).
  • The metaverse allows the ability to collect new data on customers.
  • The metaverse will have profound benefits in various sectors including education, healthcare, and e-commerce.

Image Credit: KOTRA Silicon Valley
The panel, however, presented a number of risks associated with the metaverse which will require new strategies and methods to build trust. What is more, as with Web 2.0 (the current internet), users of Web 3.0 will need to contend with cyberbullying and harassment issues, as well as identity theft, unauthorized data collection by corporations, and cybersecurity threats from malicious actors.

Lastly, the event featured an expo featuring metaverse and AI-related small- and medium-sized enterprises from Korea that showcased their products, services, and technology. While you can view a listing containing all of the exhibiting companies here, below are a few that I found of particular interest: 

  • Corevalue Ltd. is developing a service that can help everyone manage their health conveniently and easily. Accordingly, a smart camera and telehealth app were developed and the Dr. Clobo brand was launched in August 2020. Its healthcare camera can take detailed pictures of the mouth, ears and nose, and based on this, non-face-to-face medical consultation and health management.
  • Grebt developed a bloodless-based diabetes measurement sensor and diabetes measurement device that eliminates the fear of blood sampling and the pain of blood collection. Its urine glucose meter measures the concentration of glucose in urine and reacts blood glucose in urine. It consists of a strip, a disposable consumable that generates an electrochemical signal.
  • NdotLight is the developer of NdotCAD, a 3D/AR/VR content design tool which allows any users including non-professionals to express and share their imagination in 3D with ease. The company has lowered the hurdle for 3D content creation by making intricate 3D design process easy with increased usability while maximizing output quality by applying advanced technologies. With their 3D engine, they serve enterprise clients also by providing customizable solution to meet any B2B needs.

As we transition into the post-pandemic era, the K-Global @ Silicon Valley event provided a good opportunity to explore the future of the metaverse, AI, and other ICTs. What benefits and risks do you think the metaverse will bring to consumers and businesses alike?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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