Welcome to Cambodia’s metaverse

Kiripost's tech writer Bun Tharum talks to Cambodia’s metaverse expert, Heng Chulsa, who advises that the earlier you jump on the metaverse train, the more advantages you have over competitors.
LASTMILE WORKS Cambodia's Country Manager Heng Chulsa (photo supplied)
LASTMILE WORKS Cambodia's Country Manager Heng Chulsa (photo supplied)

A virtual reality Cambodia is coming to you, whether you resist it or not.

What does metaverse mean for your business?

Basically, the metaverse is a world of interconnected virtual communities where people can interact, work and play, with endless possibilities. Instead of just watching live videos of your favorite influencers selling their products on your computer screen, you would instead use a virtual reality (VR) headset, or augmented reality (AR) glasses, or smartphones to walk into your favorite shops or mega-mall virtually.

Meet Heng Chulsa

Heng Chulsa is the Country Manager of Lastmile Works Cambodia, the nation’s first VR tech development company with its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, as well as a development office in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City. Based in Phnom Penh, he leads a team of VR and creative developers to work on projects for real estate clients in Japan and Southeast Asia.

Metaverse development team at LASTMILE WORKS Cambodia
Metaverse development team at LASTMILE WORKS Cambodia

In this email conversation, Chulsa told Kiripost that Lastmile Works’s VR technology is slated to transform the current business landscape and industry. He also sees the opportunity that his company can develop extended reality (XR) technology to preserve Cambodia’s cultural assets, such as Khmer traditions, culture, and architecture.

Tharum: Metaverse is quite new. When do you think it will gain popularity here? A few years from now or sooner?

Chulsa: In fact, the concept of metaverse is not new. It has been available for a long time in the game industry, or what we called online gaming, where everyone joins to play at the same time (eg: Warcraft or World of Warcraft, now League of Legend, Mobile Legend and such). The same idea is just innovated more into utilizing VR since this will give users a more immersive experience than before.

VR gaming has been growing rapidly due to lower priced hardware and faster internet speeds. Because there are many developers for different platforms and OS, so the term metaverse was coined to make sure everyone can join regardless of their devices, OS platform and such.

This same concept is already portrayed in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One. For our country, it will become very, very popular soon; maybe around the end of 2022 or early 2023 since the devices (Glasses) from Apple, Google, Facebook and more are being tested and competing against one another. The price might be around $250 or $500 for pro models by then. Currently, the Oculus Quest 2 (VR headset) is around $350.

Our country has a population of around 17 million and mobile phone users are around 25 million, plus our internet coverage and speeds are getting better. This means middle-income families will be able to get devices as these glasses will replace phones in many ways and soon will make the phone obsolete because it will be able to do what phones can do, and much more when 5G is fully deployed.

Tharum: How do you think this new technology metaverse will transform Cambodia and its businesses landscape?

Chulsa: Covid-19 and its variants have turned the wheel of the Earth's economy by 180 degrees flat. This is a wake-up call, not just for Cambodia but for the rest of the world to embrace a new form of economy (e-commerce) and social connection/communication. China was severely hit but then stood up with a stronger economy.

Many of the business sectors in our countries came to a halt, staff were laid-off, restaurants went bankrupt and much more because we are still slow in catching up with the world, even though the government has done a very, very good job to prevent the disaster; much better than other countries in the region and some parts of the world.

Real estate is one of major sector in Cambodia. Construction is mushrooming in almost every part of Cambodia, it fell flat amid the covid pandemic, while other countries, like Japan and Europe, saw sales still go on, although slower than before. Why? because they changed their business medium by using technology.

In our country, sales staff will cold-call clients to come and visit showrooms or soft and grand openings of a construction site. This was impossible amid Covid, so staff were laid off.

With VR or the metaverse, other players can still sell their properties while their staff still have jobs to do within the metaverse. The same houses/condos were put into the metaverse while clients and sales agents can meet inside that house in the metaverse world just like in real world, but this can be done from anywhere at any time as long as you have internet connection; and it is also accessible through phones, computer and VR headset.

Imagine, if we put our Angkor Wat and other historical sites into the metaverse. Our tourism industry would not have faced such a severe problem because tourists can come to visit but in a digital world where everything can happen in real time with a tour guide.

Many events, such as Digital Cambodia where Koh Pich is their main hub for the event, came to a halt. However, they could still can go on if they do the same in the metaverse. Then companies can join and do the same as in real world scenarios but this time they can do it from their offices with each staff responsible for each social network (one staff for Facebook, one for LinkedIn etc). Then visitors can join the event digitally from around the world.

There are more possibilities that the metaverse can help Cambodia in education, industry, robotics, the medical sector and more.

https://comony.net/en (our metaverse)

Tharum: What category of businesses are your clients?

Chulsa: Currently, our clients are real estate developers, mostly in Japan, Cambodia and some other countries. However, we are now expanding our services to tourism, education and more segments in industry sectors.

Tharum: What’s the estimated value of this market?

Chulsa: The current estimated value as of 2022 is around $12 billion and is expected to rise up to $74 billion by 2024. Because of this estimation, leaders in industries such as gaming, retail, arts, healthcare, entertainment, and blockchains are flocking to determine their positions as critical as soon as possible in this emerging ecosystem. They are HP, Dell, Razer, Epic Game, Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook, HP, Lenovo, Apple, Logitech and more.

Tharum: Why should businesses move to metaverse? If not, what are the disadvantages?

Chulsa: Currently, we are heavily using 4G and 5G bit, so our main medium for communication, network and business is either phone or computers through. Much like in the past, people woke up to get newspaper for social events, business and world developments. We are doing the same with our phones. From waking up to sleep, our phone is like our shadow for our various tasks. Soon when those glasses are widely available, you don’t need the phone anymore because you can see things in your real like much digital ghost.

You can touch and interact with your friends and network at the same time, regardless of location and time. This means the world is getting closer and tasks can be done faster than before.

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Imagine, you go to an empty land where a big factory is planned. You put your glasses on and send a link to your partners or investors overseas or in other part of the world. They put the glasses on, then you can discuss and talk about this project in real time, seeing your future factory in detail right on the spot; the color, size, process and more, without having to travel thousands of miles to a presentation on flat 2D paper with CAD design or checking 3D CAD on the computer.

For those business owners who do not catch up with this new trend, their businesses will have a hard time sooner or later. Just look simply at Motordob and Tuk Tuk services in Cambodia, which are hard hit by the technology of PassApp, Uber and such. Most Tuk Tuk drivers decided to follow the trend but the mean has changed from big rickshaws pulled forward by two-wheel motorbikes to simple cute three-wheel vehicles. This is just one example in thousands of other businesses that will be badly impacted if they are not willing to adapt.

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