Exploring the Virtual Frontier

By Nur Zarina Othman, New Straits Times

A homegrown company believes the future lies in the metaverse

The past two years have seen a tremendous shift in the virtual frontier. Virtual environments, once a unique experience, are becoming a norm in today’s lifestyle.

For Virtualtech Frontier, a company that provides end-to-end solutions and consultancy in all things virtual, this is only the beginning.

Virtualtech Frontier, also known as VTF, was founded by quartet Jason Low, Kendrick Tan, Othniel Naga and Eugene Ng. Even though the company is new, they themselves have been in partnership for more than seven years, working together to pioneer metaverses for all occasions.

Virtual Branding

Besides advancing next-generation technology for Web 3.0 and the metaverse, VTF also develops gamification and engagement-driven virtual events.

“We are at the very beginning of this new paradigm of experiencing the Internet in such a different way,” says Low, who is VTF chief executive officer. And the fast-growing virtual reality industry is making it easier for companies and brands to connect deeply with customers by helping them create engaging virtual 3D environments.

Low says the new approach may pose a challenge to some brands as it would be tough to imagine how they could or should participate. “This is where we, VTF, come in — to bridge the gap, to help create highly engaged communities that add value to both brands and consumers.”

“Brands are very excited about this space and want to be first movers in capturing new audiences in the metaverse. It is a fantastic opportunity to solidify their position as forward-thinkers while nurturing stronger bonds with new and existing customers,” says Low, who holds a masterʼs degree in computer science in interactive media from Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka.

Since its inception early last year, VTF has worked with an impressive number of clients and partnered with more than 100 brands, including Google, Visa, Petronas and Mercedes Benz, to create experiences for more than 100,000 users in virtual environments.

How it Works

Tan, who is the chief operating officer, says more brands are starting to realise that active and intrinsically motivated communities are a new way of marketing, and that 3D events may open doors for users to have a glimpse of what the metaverse can offer.

“In a virtual world, anything is possible, which also opens up a fascinating gamut of possibilities to play with, and for brands to up-level the experiences they can provide.”

For example, Tan says a sneaker brand may build a community of fans in the metaverse. But how can this be done?

“The brand could host sessions with its shoe designer, ask the community to vote on the next feature it should include in new products, and potentially sell the shoes both in physical form and a virtual version that avatars could wear.”

From the users’ point of view, Tan says interactions in the virtual world are the same as in the real world.

“They (can) also engage in a game within the brand’s virtual space that allows them to win special items, which may translate into real-life swag. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Decision-making in the virtual world is stimulated by the same factors that exist in the real world, too. Engagement is still key.

“People in the metaverse make decisions just as they would in the physical world, activating the same neural pathways in the brain that create memorable experiences in real life. Through purposeful use of depth, perspective, audio and interactions in the metaverse, virtual experiences are able to capture attention and trigger emotional responses that increase engagement and retention,” says Tan.

A Proven Concept

Last year, VTF organised Data Asia 2021, a week-long virtual exhibition curated to help small- and medium-scale enterprise owners discover the right digitalisation tools for their business in an interactive virtual environment.

VTF described the virtual tech expo as an ambitious project. It was designed to push back the boundaries of how online exhibitions and conferences are viewed, combining keynote speeches, forums and webinars with activities like a lucky draw and treasure hunt.

The company said the event attracted visitors from across Asia.

Fifty-two per cent of attendees were from the service industry and 11 per cent from the retail industry.

The virtual expo also gathered participants from the education, information technology, healthcare and finance sectors.

The exhibition featured digital solution providers, such as Visa, Easystore, EasyParcel and Exabytes and it was conducted entirely in the virtual space with a unique role-playing game (RPG)-like experience to heighten user engagement.

The event garnered visitor traffic of more than 35,000, with 1.5 million impressions generated over the seven days — proving that by incorporating innovative virtual features, virtual solutions can transform the events industry.

Next Endeavor

Recently, VTF announced that it is being backed by venture capital firm 500 Global, through its regional arm 500 Southeast Asia, which has more than US$2.7 billion in assets and is backing 2,600 companies in 81 countries across multiple sectors, from Internet to consumer retail and deep technology.

500 Southeast Asia associate director Amanda Cham says that it is in the company’s culture to support businesses that seek to take new technology to the mainstream and that the firm has invested in Web3 companies, such as Animoca Brands in 2014, Solana Labs in 2018, and Axie Infinity creator Sky Mavis in 2019.

“We believe that VTF is building a next-generation infrastructure for the Internet, and it’s companies like these that can change how we experience the web,” says Cham.

Currently championing virtual environments, non-fungible tokens and game development, VTF is venturing further, widening its vision to create a high-utility metaverse platform. And the investment from 500 Global will go towards team expansion to serve its long list of customers.

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