Future Voice Vol.2 AFEELA, APOKI, and the Company Bringing Real and Virtual Worlds Together, AFUN Interactive.
As we increasingly immerse ourselves in digital worlds, the lines between the real and the virtual are blurring. We recently talked with one pioneer blurring these lines, DK Kwon, CEO of the 3D rendering trailblazer, AFUN Interactive, and creator of South Korea’s prominent virtual artist, APOKI. His company has evolved from a real-time rendering 3DCG company to include virtual artist management.
Earlier this year, APOKI released her first single of 2023 and fifth overall, “Mood V5”, featuring Sony Honda Mobility’s AFEELA Prototype. Kwon came across the AFEELA at CES23 and felt inspired by the message of pursuing innovation through mobility and the car design, including the Media Bar*, so he approached Sony Honda Mobility.
*Media Bar: The Media Bar is an external display that allows mobility to interactively communicate with people. The vehicle can express itself by sharing various types of information with people around it. Even before getting on board, the interactive mobility experience begins.
APOKI is a bunny virtual artist from Seoul, Korea. She lives somewhere in space and interacts with us regular humans through the metaverse, collaborating with companies, performing, and posting across all forms of social media, where she has about five-million fans worldwide.
“Young people treat virtual characters like they’re human.”
The remarkable popularity of APOKI and other 3D virtual artists is due in part to cutting-edge real-time rendering technology. In the past, time-consuming 3D rendering prevented seamless interactions with virtual characters. However, with recent technological advancements, there’s no noticeable time lag between interacting with a virtual character and a human, thus providing more immersive and engaging experiences.
The Media Bar — delivering a swift and natural interactive interface — is another example of Kwon’s compatible interest in AFEELA. Media Bar communication will provide a more intimate relationship between people and mobility.
“In the beginning, we wanted an animal character…but I don’t think it matters how characters look.”
DK Kwon shares that his favorite character is Forky from “Toy Story 4*,” highlighting that it’s not just the visual appeal that makes these characters intriguing. Instead, the character’s distinctive personality and ability to captivate audiences — the dynamics and interactions it engages in within its world and with other characters — make it stand out.
* Toy Story is a registered trademark or trademark of Disney Enterprises, Inc. in the United States and other countries.
“So, if you think about entertainment…anything can become entertainment.”
Real-time rendering, while still in its early stages, has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with 3D content. Some benefits of real-time rendering include photorealistic graphics on consumer-grade hardware, immersive experiences for collaboration on real-world tasks, and efficiency. In AFEELA, content inside the car is still new territory, and here real-time rendering possibilities offer interesting areas of exploration.
“We’re trying to find the balance between technology and humanity…new technology means nothing after a year, so we’re focusing on humanity.”
DK Kwon, a technology specialist, continues to delve into the realm of entertainment, driven by a sense of curiosity and excitement. One aspect he particularly enjoys is engaging in real-time conversations with audiences during live-stream events. The spontaneity and unpredictability of these interactions keep audiences engaged; had everything been meticulously planned in advance, it would have resulted in indifference. APOKI’s popularity can be attributed to AFUN’s approach of sharing genuine interests and passions with viewers. This organic behavior creates a unique connection between the audience and content creators.
The underlying factor enabling this immersive experience is AFUN’s real-time 3D rendering technology that blurs the line between virtual reality and real life. However, AFUN’s appeal lies not solely within their technological advancements but in their human-centric approach.
Prioritizing genuine interaction over flashy technology alone has successfully created an entertainment platform that captivates audiences on multiple levels while fostering a sense of shared humanity among its users.
They create immersive, fascinating science fiction worlds with virtual and augmented reality, as well as games. With this technology and worldview, it’s no wonder AFEELA’s vision for the mobility’s future is just around the corner.
“…every time we release an album, our virtual character gets a little bit older… And at some point, we’re going to stop aging the virtual character.”
The concept of virtual artists aims to achieve a level of resemblance to human artists, while simultaneously embracing the allure of their lack of humanity. These virtual beings hold the appeal of being problem-free and offering an escape from reality.
DK Kwon provides insight into this phenomenon by highlighting the example of timeless 2D graphic characters in the virtual realm, who do not experience aging. There are popular characters that have never been created in 3D rendering. it is intriguing to contemplate how these newly emerging real-time popular figures will stand the test of time.
In another decade or two, we will have the opportunity to watch their movements and appearances unfold before our eyes. The prospects for these new real-time popular characters are captivating — it will be fascinating to witness both their evolution and enduring popularity in years to come.
“We’re already living in a virtual world.”
According to the Digital 2022 Global Overview Report, the average person in the US spends more than seven hours a day online. Of course, this time includes internet research, collaborative work, entertainment, etc, but we spend much more time online than ever. Now, most people interact more with people online than in person, from email and social media to community-based, messaging, and dating apps.
We meet social needs, play games, watch movies and TV, and shop more through our screens, experiencing the world in new and exciting ways. On social media, we create our own virtual worlds through personal profiles and in games through avatars, impacting our lives, our relationships, and society.
The AFEELA Prototype has evolved into a more interactive and humanistic entity, which is touched on in AFUN Interactive’s approach to creating virtual characters.
“We are just trying to emit good vibes.”
For DK Kwon, life is a journey of joy and exploration. It started with technology, and now he’s focusing on entertainment. In his words, “Entertainment is hard to predict.” But anyone with him can see that he brings good energy to the room, and AFUN Interactive will no doubt bring good energy to AFEELA. Naturally, typical online experiences will come seamlessly to life in the AFEELA Prototype’s mobile space.
– Editor’s Postscript
Throughout the interview, DK Kwon’s gentle demeanor left a profound impact. Despite being the CEO of a major tech company, he expressed his ongoing exploration of the realm of entertainment. Rather than adhering to predictability, Kwon values honest and open dialogue with his audience. This mindset is much like AFEELA’s and is emblematic of AFUN Interactive, which strives to strike a delicate balance between technology and humanity — a quality that undoubtedly contributes to APOKI’s allure as a virtual artist.
The audiences of virtual artist entertainment actively seek this blend of unpredictability and amusement. It serves as an escape from the complexities plaguing the real world and transports them into a realm brimming with endless possibilities — an enticing prospect indeed.
AFUN Interactive will bring quality content to travel-time entertainment through its strength in real-time 3DCG rendering. Imagine the possibilities of entertainment experiences, interacting and singing with famous virtual artists like APOKI in the car.
Expanding the space where engineers and creators can envision the future better than ever and creating contact points between creators and consumers embodies the AFEELA concept. Affinity (cooperation with people and coexistence with society) is a foundation uniting diverse types of knowledge.
With advancements in real-time rendering technology, both creators and consumers find themselves operating within an entirely different paradigm — one that deviates from meticulously planned content released over time. As AI technology continues to advance across society as a whole, we will keep a close watch on these serendipitous live moments born out of interactions with fans rather than relying solely on scheduled events or performances.
According to Mr. Kwon, the distinction between reality and virtual reality is nonexistent. If we consider this attitude a response to those who insist on separating the two, what would occur if we were to generate content under the assumption that no boundary exists? In the future, when riding in an AFEELA, it’s conceivable that we may find ourselves seamlessly interacting with virtual artists and even fellow fans from the same community as we embark on an impromptu journey towards our destinations.