Immersing myself in virtual / augmented reality in South Korea
As I sat back on my fight home and relax with a glass of wine, I have no short than 11 hours to reflect on my past seven days in South Korea.
My mission and objective to visit South Korea were to explore the world of tech, virtual reality and augmented reality, and I’ve done just that.
I had the great pleasure of visiting a fantastic co-working space in Gangnam; the super-high-tech building was created by Hyundai, the motor car company and aimed at start-ups, which if you’re a start-up in South Korea is probably centred around tech.
The building was the epitome of what a co-working space should be. Open bright spaces in communal areas where you can share experiences with lunch, yoga room and massage chairs on every floor for when you’re feeling stressed, creating a start-up is usually stressful, right?
What’s unique in this co-working space is the multitude of spaces that are used for more specific work, a testing lab for testing apps on every phone going, 3D printing studio and photography studio. All these facilities are available to the residents at no extra charge.
Humbled to attend the ROK-UK Creative Industries Forum 2017 I had the chance to discuss how the Korean and UK government are promoting inter-country activities in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. We had Korean and UK representatives who engaged in open discussion how to better collaborate. One thing was apparent that Korea does a fantastic job at creating technology and have some huge companies making this happen, LG, Samsung. The latter alone makes up 20% of the countries GDP.
With all this technology coming out of Korea, we discussed how the UK takes a different approach with technology, in that we implement technology with a method and with substance. We’re not ones to use technology for technologies sake. This was an area that both parties agreed the UK can help on, that we talk about technology with emotions and meaning.
I feel both countries can learn a lot from each other, Korea is great at producing technology, when travelling to my hotel I was astounded by the amount tech I saw. iPads in coffee bars are a regular thing; I think McDonald’s have just started doing this in the UK. Samsung OLED Curved TV’s line the train stations like huge adverts for the company and access to doors/rooms anywhere requires a fingerprint or key code. I didn’t use a key the entire time I was there.
In South Korea, the government invests an enormous amount of money and energy to advance in Virtual and augmented reality, and this isn’t just for the large tech companies. This money is the start-ups that are using the VR/AR tech or even creating their own. I visited an amazing facility aimed at just that, part private; part government owned the building in the media district, south of Seoul was the epitome of tech.
I saw VR simulators that enable you to run through a forest, roller coaster simulators that do a real good job at making you feel like you’re on a real rollercoaster, I lasted 4 seconds out of a 30-second ride.
A company was experimenting with 3D sound, in a room of as many speakers as you could fit they were experimenting with how to create a sound that can come from any direction. A demo in the rain forest enabled you to look in any direction and for you to hear the sound of rain, complete with VR headset.
In a purpose built studio that enables the capture body movement, I saw a demo of The Martian movie being created in VR. Trackers were capturing every movement of an actor moving around the room, and on the screen, her body represented in virtual reality, to the amazement of the person viewing in a space buggy.
Towards the end of the week, I had the pleasure of visiting LG’s headquarters in South Seoul, reminiscence of a maximum security compound you weren’t allowed to take phones, memory sticks or even laptops without prior approval. I met with LG’s head of mobile software and talked about LG’s work in the mobile phone market and their recent 360 Camera and HMD devices.
My entire time in South Korea has been filled with so much tech, that it feels nice to sit on this flight right now and feel almost disconnected. In a country where the 5G network is being trailed, wi-fi and phone signal are available everywhere, even the underground it’s quite an amazing country that’s so far ahead they’re always looking for the next and best piece of tech.
In the last few days, I was able to travel to the countryside, where in the UK you would struggle to get a good signal, I was able to get a great connection, and this was far from anywhere.
I’ve learnt a lot about how VR/AR can be applied to everyday situations, what I can see about South Korea is that technology is ingrained in everything that happens there, its a way of life to have the best phone/tablet. This is a country where mobile phone adoption is over 100%.
The UK can learn a lot, ensuring tech isn’t just used for tech sake and being certain that when tech is applied that it is utilised for a reason other than being cool.
We’re a country of storytellers and applying this to technology is important to be able to make an actual difference when using tech to solve everyday problems. Otherwise, we will become a place where tech is used for tech sake.