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Metaverse education blossoms in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan

Educators in Asia are dipping their toes into the metaverse, the much-hyped virtual reality where humans can interact socially in cyberspace.



From South Korea to Taiwan, schools and other organizations are tapping the metaverse as a tool for instruction, experimenting with VR applications to bring teaching beyond the classroom and devise new ways of imparting knowledge and skill.

Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea is working to become a “metaversity” where classrooms are digitalized into the metaverse, offering training courses in cyberspace.

The university, known as POSTECH, serves 1,400 undergraduate and 2,100 graduate students who work with 450 faculty members and 650 researchers in fields like energy, materials, basic science, information communications technology and health.

“Virtual reality technology can be applied in fields that are difficult to access in reality, such as outer space and the nanoworld,” Moo Hwan Kim, the university’s president, told Nikkei Asia. “In the long run, it will be able to replace classes that require more hands-on experiences or training in dangerous environments.”

POSTECH said it invests $300,000 a year to buy equipment and develop educational programs for students and has pooled $500,000 to build classrooms that tap the metaverse.

In Japan, at N and S high schools, the largest online high schools in the country, over 6,000 students learn through VR headsets.

Director Riichiro Sono told Nikkei that the organization took to the metaverse to conduct lessons without physical constraints while providing an immersive environment for individual learning.

The schools surveyed the VR participants last year and found a satisfaction rate of 98.5%, he said, but noted that “it can take time for users to get accustomed to a VR environment” and that “the additional weight of a VR headset can be a deterrent” for some users.

N and S high schools in Japan took to the metaverse as it offered a platform to conduct lessons without being limited by physical constraints. Photo courtesy of N and S high schools.
N and S high schools in Japan took to the metaverse as it offered a platform to conduct lessons without being limited by physical constraints. Photo courtesy of N and S high schools.

Metaverse adoption in schools comes as some Asian countries work to raise the bar on digital expertise.

South Korea’s science ministry said last year that it plans to invest 223.7 billion won ($166 million) to foster a metaverse ecosystem, including developing a “Metaverse Academy” to train young experts in the field.

Likewise, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last year that his country would promote efforts to expand the use of various technologies, including the metaverse, to spur digital transformation in the public and private sectors.

Singapore has a national digital literacy program that aims to equip students with skills to navigate a digital society and take on jobs of the future.

Yet mass adoption of VR remains in doubt. U.S. tech giant Meta, which changed its name from Facebook in 2021 on the promise of the metaverse, has struggled to demonstrate the metaverse’s viability in the past year.

A 2022 global survey of executives from technology, media and telecommunications by KPMG International found only one-third of respondents saying their firms feel prepared with platforms to create applications for the metaverse.

Apart from formal education, the metaverse also has been used to help people develop a deeper understanding of situations that typically confront the less able in society.

The Syinlu Social Welfare Foundation, a nonprofit group in Taiwan that offers professional help for mentally or intellectually disabled children and their families, is using VR to raise awareness and help others learn more about people with autism.

Lydia Liu, the foundation’s director, told Nikkei that its use of the metaverse involves providing a first-person perspective via immersive digital environments to put the public in the shoes of those with autism, letting them experience what autistic individuals encounter in their daily lives.

“Our goal is to evoke empathy and help others understand the discomfort and inconvenience that autistic individuals may encounter,” Liu said.

Source: Nikkei Asia



Vietnam edtech firm Vuihoc bags $6m in TNB Aura-led round

Increased internet accessibility, coupled with ICT advancements and the rise in smartphone users, is driving the growth of online learning in the country.



Vietnam’s e-learning market is expected to hit US$3 billion in value by the end of the year.

In a bid to capitalize on this demand, local edtech firm Vuihoc has raised US$6 million in its series A funding round led by TNB Aura. The fresh funds will be used to improve the company’s product offerings and invest in AI to offer personalized learning experiences for students.

Founded by Lam Do and Thu Do in 2019, Vuihoc has amassed over 1.1 million users, primarily from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. The platform offers educational content, including video lectures and quizzes, and has an inventory of over half a million resources.

The firm also offers live classes that enable students to learn in private or in small groups and where they can get instant feedback.

“We believe that the support of technology will bring the best possible education to all students, especially those outside of big cities, giving them better opportunities for the future,” Do said in a statement.

Before its series A round, the company most recently raised US$2 million in a bridge round led by Bace Capital, an investment firm backed by Ant Group.

Source: Tech in Asia


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SPAC IPOs plummet in a pile of fire sales and bankruptcies

Numerous businesses in the electric vehicle industry that went public through mergers with “blank-check” companies have filed bankruptcies.



Lordstown Motors has filed for bankruptcy in the court of the state of Delaware, USA. This is one of the electric vehicle startups that chose to list shares on the stock exchange by merging with “blank-check” companies.

Currently, Lordstown Motors is almost out of cash, while accusing Foxconn of fraud by failing to fulfill a series of investment promises under the agreement to inject capital up to $170 million. Foxconn alleged that Lordstown violated the investment agreement by letting it share price fall below $1.

Founded in 2018 but in October 2020, this EV startup merged with a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) called DiamondPeak Holdings Corp. At the time, the transaction was valued at about $1.6 billion. Following in the footsteps of Lordstown Motors, the SPAC listing movement of electric vehicle startups has flourished as this listing promises quick access to capital.

“Bitter fruits” of the EV industry

Other EV manufacturers such as Lucid, Nikola, Fisker, and Canoo have also conducted IPOs through SPAC. At the present time, the majority of these companies are trading at or below their valuations.

Lordstown is an example. The automaker was valued at $1.6 billion at the time of the merger, but in less than 24 months, the company’s value dropped to $69 million.

In July 2021, Lucid Motors merged with Churchill Capital Corp. to list on Nasdaq. The deal was initially valued at around $24 billion and became one of the largest SPAC deals at the time. After the merger, shares of Lucid Motors traded at $7.16. Market capitalization fell more than 30%, to $16.3 billion as of July 13, 2023.

Nikola was also in a similar situation. In June 2020, the hydrogen and electric vehicle maker merged with VectoIQ Acquisition Corp. to conduct transactions on Nasdaq. After the merger, Nikola is valued at about $3.3 billion.

However, after the transaction, the electric car company faced accusations of fraud, causing the company’s share price to plummet and investor confidence to decline. By July 13, 2023, Nikola’s stock price dropped to $1.38, with a market capitalization of $985 million. The company has lost almost 70% of its value.

Emerging on Wall Street since 2020, the form of listing shares through SPAC is being seen as an alternative to the traditional IPO. Favorable market conditions such as low interest rates and high liquidity make investors pay special attention to this type of listing.

SPAC IPOs plummet

Over the years, many companies have chosen to IPO through “blank-check” companies. The US stock market used to record more than 600 registrations for listing under this form, so the quality of appraisal during the consolidation process of companies was seriously reduced. As a result, investors suffer losses and are negatively impacted.

This type of IPO is falling out of favor and decreasing in popularity. According to Statista’s data, in 2020 there are 248 companies conducting IPO through SPAC in the US. This number increased to 613 the following year, by 2022, the market will only have 86 listed companies in this form. In the first 5 months of 2023, only 14 companies chose to list through SPAC.

In addition to the electric car companies mentioned above, many merger companies failed. Some SPAC mergers did not meet expectations, leading to poor performance of post-merger groups. Since then, investors’ confidence in the quality of startups has weakened.

SPACs are also regularly scrutinized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, focusing on issues such as incomplete disclosures, potential conflicts of interest, and misleading statements. The market went down and the SPAC was affected by the overall decline of the market as well as the change in investor attitudes.

In fact, many businesses in the US have suffered from failure when choosing to list through SPAC. It is even harder for foreign businesses to want to go this route. The question is “Is the method of initial public offering by merging with another enterprise suitable for an emerging market like Vietnam?”

Admittedly IPO through SPAC also has certain advantages, as this is the shortest path for private enterprises to become public companies to attract investors who are looking for investment opportunities at an early stage.

However, as mentioned above, SPAC companies are often criticized for not disclosing sufficient information, potential conflicts of interest, and poor post-merger performance. To maintain investor protection and market integrity, regulators such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission have increased their oversight of SPACs.

By careful assessment, emerging companies can minimize risks and maximize the benefits of SPAC mergers. Thorough investigation, use of skilled consultants, and strict adherence to regulatory compliance are all necessary for a successful and mutually beneficial merger.

In addition, the listed company needs to determine whether the investment strategy of the SPAC company is in line with its long-term goals and growth plans, ensuring that the merger will provide the right resources, knowledge, and market access.

Listed companies also need to explore strategies for obtaining additional financing beyond SPAC mergers to address possible acquisition deficits. Engaging with institutional investors, and venture capital firms, or researching debt financing options will help fill any funding shortfalls.

* Sam Van is Senior Vice President and Head of Advisory Services at Freedom US Markets. He used to work for New York Stock Exchange as Former Director of International Listing Dept.


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Mobile phone, QR code payments soar in popularity

Electronic and cashless payments saw significant increases in Vietnam in the first half of this year, with internet transactions growing by 76% in volume and 1.79% in value.



Mobile phone payments also surged by 65% in volume and 77% in value while QR code transactions rose by 152% and 301%, respectively. Meanwhile, transactions made through ATMs decreased by 4% in volume and 6% in value.

The Government has issued the National Digital Transformation Programme till 2025 with a vision to 2030. The State Bank has also released a digital transformation plan of the banking industry till 2025 with a vision to 2030. This provides an opportunity for banks to renovate their business models, improve financial services, and adapt to the changing landscape by offering diverse products and services that meet customer needs.

At the “Finovate Innovation Day: When Innovation Meets Sustainability” workshop organised by the National Innovation Centre and JobHopin, Deputy Chairman and Secretary General of the Vietnam Banks Association Nguyen Quoc Hung revealed that 96 banks and credit institutions in Vietnam are actively building digital transformation strategies. Moreover, 92% of the banks have developed internet and mobile apps to improve their services.

He added that these figures reflect a strong trend towards electronic payments. Banks and payment intermediaries are connected in real-time transactions, with an average daily value reaching approximately 900,000 trillion VND (40 billion USD), encompassing over 8 million transactions per day.

Additionally, over 70% of adults in Vietnam have a bank account through digital channels. The cost-to-revenue ratio for banks has decreased by around 30%, resulting in significant cost savings.

According to a 2023 survey on digital transformation by DBS financial services group, Vietnam ranks second among the 10 Southeast Asian countries in the degree of digital transformation for enhancing customer experience and engagement in the financial sector, behind only Singapore.

Source: Nhân Dân


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