NFT avatar enabler GoodGang has the blessings of Korean giants Kakao and Naver
Image credit: GoodGang Labs
Critics have long discredited non-fungible tokens as overpriced JPEGs sold by people looking to make a quick buck. NFT believers want to prove them wrong and show that these digital art certificates stored on the blockchain, a distributed, immutable database, have real use cases.
Their efforts often involve integrating NFTs into applications already with mainstream adoption. Twitter, for example, now allows users to authenticate their NFT profiles for a fee, so others know they’re actually spending a fortune on their Bored Apes rather than having right-clicked a JPEG.
How about making the NFT avatars talk? Kakao Investment, a subsidiary of South Korean messaging giant Kakao, recently invested $2 million in GoodGang Labs, which enables users to interact through animated avatars and soon NFTs, like this:
South Korean companies always seem to have a knack for how the new generation likes to interact in the virtual world. Naver, another internet conglomerate from the country and owner of the popular messenger Line, introduced the metaverse platform Zepeto back in 2018. The app has since attracted tens of millions of young people around the world to design virtual experiences and trade digital items.
In fact, Naver and Naver Z, the former’s subsidiary that runs Zepeto, both invested in Singapore-based GoodGang in previously undisclosed funding.
Having the support of two of Asia’s biggest social networking companies shows that GoodGang might be doing something useful. Video calling through motion-tracked avatars is not a particularly new idea. A San Francisco startup called Hologram Labs raised money last year from investors including Mike Shinoda to build a plug-in for Zoom and Google Meet that lets users appear as their NFT alter ego.
But GoodGang’s strategy is a little different. The startup has a two-pronged approach. First, it runs a proprietary communication platform called Kiki Town, where users can interact as avatars, which may be intellectual property from other platforms, such as Line Next and Zepeto.
Kiki Town animates the avatars by letting the AI model infer data coming through users’ webcams and microphones. It only transmits motion and voice — rather than video data — an approach that, according to GoodGang’s co-founder Dookyung Ahn, “conserves valuable network resources but also improves privacy by reducing the exposure of personal visual information.”
The method allows Kiki Town to use up to 1,000 times less data, especially when considering high-resolution 4K videos, Ahn told TechCrunch.
The startup also operates other communication platforms with these functions through a SaaS API. This offering may appeal to social apps that want to attract Gen-Z users but don’t necessarily have the will or ability to build a new team dedicated to avatar animation.
GoodGang will soon allow users to interact through NFTs on a new platform called GoodHouse, which supports 2D and 3D resources from multiple blockchains.
The startup was founded by veterans from Facebook, Line and augmented reality startup Seerslab. Its existing investors include Kimgisa Lab and Planetarium.