NFT avatar enabler GoodGang has the blessing of Korean giants Kakao and Naver
Critics have long discredited non-fungible tokens as overpriced JPEGs sold by people who want to make a quick buck. NFT followers want to prove them wrong and show that these digital art certificates stored on the blockchain, a distributed and immutable database, have real use cases.
Their efforts often involve integrating NFTs into already widely adopted applications. Twitter, for example, now allows users to authenticate their NFT profiles for a fee so others know they’re spending a fortune on their Bored Apes rather than having right-clicked on a JPEG.
What if we made our NFT avatars speak? Kakao Investment, a subsidiary of South Korean messaging giant Kakao, recently invested $2 million in GoodGang Labs, which allows users to interact via animated avatars and soon NFTs, like this:
South Korean companies still seem to have a knack for how the new generation likes to interact in the virtual world. Naver, another internet conglomerate in the country and owner of the popular Messenger Line, introduced the metaverse platform Zepeto in 2018. The app has since attracted tens of millions of young people around the world to design virtual experiences and exchange digital objects.
In fact, Naver and Naver Z, the former’s subsidiary that runs Zepeto, have both invested in Singapore-based GoodGang in previously undisclosed financings.
The backing of two of Asia’s biggest social media companies shows that GoodGang could do something useful. Video calling via motion-tracked avatars isn’t a particularly new idea. A San Francisco startup called Hologram Labs raised funds last year from investors including Mike Shinoda to create a plug-in for Zoom and Google Meet so users could appear as their NFT alter egos.
But GoodGang’s strategy is slightly different. The startup operates a two-pronged approach. First, it runs a proprietary communications platform called Kiki Town, where users can interact as avatars, which may be the intellectual property of other platforms, such as Line Next and Zepeto.
Kiki Town animates avatars by having its AI model infer data from users’ webcams and microphones. It transmits only motion and voice – rather than video data – an approach, according to GoodGang co-founder Dookyung Ahn, “conserves valuable network resources but also improves privacy by reducing exposure of visual information personal”.
The method allows Kiki Town to use up to 1,000 times less data, especially when it comes to high-resolution 4K video, Ahn told TechCrunch.
The startup also powers other communication platforms with these functions via a SaaS API. This offer could be attractive for social apps that want to appeal to Gen Z users but don’t necessarily have the willingness or ability to build a new team dedicated to avatar animation.
GoodGang will soon allow users to interact via NFTs on a new platform called GoodHouse, which supports 2D and 3D assets from multiple blockchains.
The startup was founded by veterans of Facebook, Line, and augmented reality startup Seerslab. Its current investors include Kimgisa Lab and Planetarium.