Tuesday 9 May 2023

KDDI Launched their Metaverse and Web3 Service called αU (Alpha–U)

On March 7, 2023, KDDI launched  αU (Alpha–U), a metaverse and Web3 service, and introduced to its customers a new world where anyone can become a creator and to support the new generation of users who effortlessly move between the real and virtual worlds. The name αU comes from the Greek letter alpha (α), which symbolizes the beginning of something new, and the letter U, which stands for user. This reflects KDDI's goal of creating a new digital world that is accessible to everyone and that offers new opportunities for interaction and engagement.

αU is designed to be a comprehensive platform that offers a wide range of features and services for the Web3 era, including the metaverse, live streaming, and virtual shopping. Users can create their own avatars, their own virtual communities, explore virtual worlds, participate in a range of games and activities and interact with other users in real-time. The platform also offers a range of tools for content creators, including the ability to create and sell digital items and experiences.

This service eliminates the boundary between the real and virtual worlds, allowing users to enjoy everyday experiences such as attending live music performances, enjoying art, having conversations with friends, and shopping―anytime, anywhere. By collaborating with domestic and international partners, KDDI will provide support introducing Japanese creators and content to the world. Their aim is to build a creator economy in which creators can produce value and be compensated for their work. 

One of the key features of αU is its integration with Web3 technologies, which are designed to provide a more decentralized and transparent digital environment. The platform uses the Ethereum blockchain to enable secure transactions and to create a digital economy that is controlled by users rather than centralized authorities.

KDDI in partnership with Geometry Ogilvy Japan, had previously launched Virtual Shibuya, an urban-linked metaverse, in May 2020, and Digital Twin Shibuya, which links real and virtual spaces, in October 2022 as part of its continuous initiatives to expand urban experiences by utilizing 5G communications and AR/MR technologies.

Yasushi Arikawa, senior creative director, creative head of experience at Geometry Ogilvy Japan, explains that the initial version of the project was already under way before Covid hit, but it accelerated the need to create a virtual space as the city locked down;

“Having discussed the feasibility of implementing the experience in the real city, we then pivoted, and in May 2020 ‘Virtual Shibuya’ was born, a virtual platform that would itself reinvent the city of Shibuya. The city was locked down, and for those who could not go out ‘Virtual Shibuya,’ easily accessible with a smartphone, was immediately accepted as a new entertainment experience. The highly successful launch event attracted more than 53,000 visitors." 

"In October 2020, after the second and third waves of Covid, we hosted ‘Virtual Shibuya Halloween’ in a safe and secure virtual space to discourage people from visiting the huge ‘Halloween in Shibuya’ event that usually attracts one million visitors a year and represents Shibuya Ward. Several programs were held, including Trick or Treat content with digital incentives, avatar contests, talk shows and music concerts, which were successful in attracting more than 410,000 visitors.”

Mr Arikawa elaborates:  

For the past three years, Virtual Shibuya has offered this new form of entertainment enabled by technology, such as live music performances from artists, talk shows featuring anime and manga characters, and other urban-linked experiences that are anchored in a virtual space. 

αU will evolve this from a traditional public space for experience to a space for communication.

Geometry Ogilvy Japan, also created a virtually produced film to showcase aU. This 30-second clip which showcases four artistic illustrations made by GenZ artist Mayu Yukishita, The AI and a virtual singer tell a story about the concept of “Already, one world” that blends the real and virtual worlds, takes us beyond the “uncanny valley” to an emotionally charged story

KDDI is also working in collaboration with Google Cloud on αU. Google Cloud’s Immersive Stream for XR product creates high-definition virtual entertainment experiences. Immersive Stream for XR allows users to engage in an immersive, interactive, and photorealistic experience, without downloading an app so they can immediately engage with content on any device.

The implementation of these technologies will promote further collaboration between KDDI and Google's technical teams in the future. Their aim is to create use cases that lead to innovation and new consumption and experience behaviors, such as the realization of the Metaverse Web3 service "αU”, a world where anyone can become a creator and leverages content distribution on platforms like YouTube.

The launch of αU is a significant milestone for KDDI and for the wider metaverse and Web3 community. The platform offers a range of innovative features and experiences, and it has the potential to become a major player in the growing digital economy. As the platform evolves and expands, we can expect to see new and exciting applications emerge, and we can look forward to a future where the digital and physical worlds are more closely connected than ever before.

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