LG Electronics: Part 1 – Innovation in the Metaverse with Dr. Sokwoo Rhee

Markus Levin - XYO (23)

LG Electronics: Part 1 – Innovation in the Metaverse with Dr. Sokwoo Rhee

At The Metaverse Insider, we had the pleasure of interviewing a respective Senior VP of Innovation at LG Electronics – Sokwoo Rhee. He leads the North American Innovation Center, LG Nova, located in Silicon Valley. LG Nova is focused on generating new businesses for LG Electronics, a company that is valued at $70 billion and known for manufacturing appliances and TVs. Dr. Rhee’s responsibility is to develop new businesses or partner with existing ones in domains that promise future growth, such as healthcare, the Metaverse, and clean tech.  

The Metaverse presents a promising platform for innovation and growth, and LG Electronics’ interest in this domain is a testament to the company’s recognition of its potential. Through collaborations with other businesses in this field or developing new Metaverse-related ventures, LG Electronics could capitalize on the unique features of the Metaverse to introduce new products and services that cater to its customers’ needs. This is truly an exciting time.  

Innovation is the heart of Metaverse adoption  

“Innovation, for me, is creating something new that is useful, and that is meaningful for the world – and for the people in the world. So, when I talk about it, what kind of new businesses can we create that have not existed before? That is the innovation that we do in LG Electronics.” 

It is clear that without innovation, there would be no development in what we have deemed to be the ‘Metaverse’. This may seem obvious – however, with the current state of the industry, this is more difficult than many presume. As it turns out, shaping the future of the internet is not an easy feat:  

“Metaverse is a buzzword as we all know, and a lot of folks are talking about the glasses, AR/VR, and the content that goes on to that and so on. So, a lot of the innovation has happened, or is happening on the device side.”  

While there has been a lot of innovation happening on the hardware side, LG Nova’s focus is more on the services, platforms, and software side of the Metaverse – emphasizing the importance of infrastructure over initial experience. This has been a mistake many companies have made in the past, thus why the concept of the Metaverse has been tarnished in recent times. Experiences are bound to be underwhelming if there is not a solid infrastructure to support them: 

“The market for devices will not be led by the hardware, it’s going to be led by the service that’s going to go on top of it.” 

LG Nova is interested in creating tangible services that can be used in everyday life – the market for devices will be led by the value that they can bring to people’s lives through these services. To achieve this goal, LG Nova is looking at vertical markets in the Metaverse. Such an example includes industrial training applications:  

“There’s a huge training market. So, if you are a corporation that manufactures anything, when you have a new employee or technician, you’ve got to train them. The best way to do that is to bring them to the factory and let them play with the components and all that is very expensive.” 

By using virtual worlds in the Metaverse, corporations can train employees to a level of proficiency before they are brought to the actual workspace, thereby reducing training costs. This is often an overlooked application of the Metaverse – and we are very excited to see it unfold. 

What is the initial market for the Metaverse? 

It is clear that under many circumstances, the gaming market is the most prolific at face value; it is the most obvious market for Metaverse applications and has been the reason for many individuals becoming interested in the space:  

“The gaming market is probably the largest as of right now.”  

As an LG representative, Dr. Rhee suggests that they need to explore the next market beyond gaming; there are many players in the gaming market – making it exceptionally saturated. There will be a lot of potential applications in industries, and companies are beginning to realize this.  

With the sheer scale of the industrial market, it is of no surprise that LG has chosen to focus on this; industrial training, factory training, and job reskilling are all possible use cases of the Metaverse – proving new opportunities for people to transition into new jobs.  

The largest barrier to user adoption  

To the average user, immersive technology is often regarded as the ‘crown jewel’ of the Metaverse; this is how people believe the Metaverse to be experienced in all its glory. Concerning applications like gamified experiences, it is clear that this will be the case – to a certain extent. However, without the infrastructure to support viable experiences, VR will simply not fly.  

Innovation often begins with hardware and new applications can emerge once the hardware ecosystem is established. Dr cited the example of the PC: 

When Steve Jobs created the Apple computer, I don’t think he envisioned [for us] to have Facebook or Google on top of it.”  

Dr. Rhee emphasized the importance of having a “killer app” such as email or spreadsheet for a new technology to be widely adopted. Without such an application, it can be difficult to achieve broad distribution. While these applications may not always be planned, it is important to put effort into discovering and searching for new services. This type of work can be high-risk, and high reward, but it is a primary focus point for LG Nova.  

Furthermore, Dr. Rhee believes that familiarity with new technologies is crucial for user adoption, and this is especially true for the Metaverse. However, the biggest barrier at this point is the headsets that are needed to experience it. He explains that when you are wearing VR glasses, the idea is to be immersed in a new world, but for many people, it may feel like they are being blocked from the real world.  

This concept of replacing reality with a virtual reality is foreign to many people and is different from looking at a TV screen or a PC. We can acknowledge that it is difficult for users to get used to the idea of being blinded from the real world – having it replaced, in part, with a virtual one: 

“It’s going to take a while for everyone to get to that point. It is happening; more and more people are getting used to it, mostly because of the gaming applications, but I think it will take a while.” 

It is evident that Dr. Rhee and his team are the heart and soul of innovation for Metaverse initiatives at LG. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will explore LG Nova’s impressive trajectory within the space. 

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