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NFT avatar enabler Gudgang is blessed by Korean giants Kakao and Naver

Critics have long maligned non-fungible tokens as selling JPEGs by those looking to make a quick buck. NFT believers want to prove them wrong and show that these certificates of digital art stored on the distributed, immutable database blockchain have real use cases.

Their efforts often involve integrating NFTs into applications that have already seen mainstream adoption. Twitter, for example, now lets users authenticate their NFT profiles for a fee so others know they spent a fortune on their bored apps instead of actually right-clicking JPEGs.

How about bringing your NFT avatars into the limelight? Kakao Investments, a subsidiary of South Korean messaging giant Kakao, recently invested $2 million in GoodGang Labs, which enables users to interact via animated avatars and soon NFTs, such as:

It seems South Korean companies have always been adept at how the new generation prefers 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 millions of young people around the world to design virtual experiences and trade digital goods.

In fact, both Naver and Naver Z, the former’s subsidiary that runs Zepeto, invested in Singapore-based Goodgang in a previously undisclosed round of funding.

Having the backing of two of Asia’s biggest social networking companies shows that GoodGang can do something useful. Video calling via motion-tracked avatars isn’t a particularly new idea. A San Francisco startup called Hologram Labs raised money last year from investors including Mike Shinoda to build plug-ins for Zoom and Google Meet so users can appear as their NFT alter egos.

But Gudgang’s strategy is a bit different. The startup operates a two-pronged approach. First, it runs a proprietary communication platform called Kiki Town, where users can interact in the form of avatars, which may be intellectual property from other platforms such as LineNext and Zepto.

Kiki Town animates avatars by having its AI model infer data from users’ webcams and mics. According to GoodGang co-founder Dookyung Ahn, it transmits only motion and voice — rather than video data — an approach that “conserves valuable network resources, but also enhances privacy by reducing the exposure of personal visual information.” “

Ahn told TechCrunch that this method allows Kiki Town to use up to 1,000 times less data, especially when high-resolution 4K video is considered.

The startup also operates other communication platforms along with these functions through SaaS APIs. The offering could be attractive to social apps that want to attract Gen-Z users, but don’t necessarily have the desire 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 CersLab. Its current investors include Kimgisa Lab and Planetarium.

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