Korean mobile carriers pair emerging technology with education

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Korean mobile carriers pair emerging technology with education

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From left: Model poses with LG U+ augmented reality library, model promotes KT’s TV English course in cooperation with U.S. Scholastic, screenshot of LG U+ mobile app for children. [LG U+, KT]

Local mobile carriers are working to marry emerging technology with education, allowing consumers to read Harry Potter books in augmented reality (AR), listen to artificial intelligence (AI) platforms explain math problems and watch scientific theories unfold with virtual reality (VR).

LG U+ launched an AR English content app, the U+ Children’s Life Library, on Friday. The app contains 110 English books that can be read using AR technology.

The company said it partnered with 24 international children’s book publishers, including Penguin Random House, Oxford University Press and Britain’s Dorling Kindersley, and plans to increase its number of offerings to 280 books by this year.

The virtual library is a sequel to U+TV Kids’ Land 2.0, an educational app launched in 2018 that targets pre-school internet protocol TV (IPTV) viewers. Its exclusive content was well received by parents, since LG U+ partnered with existing educational content developers such as YBM, Hansol Education, Wecaning and Papago, Naver’s AI translation app.

SK Telecom is focusing on partnerships with start-up companies to develop its educational content. The mobile carrier has announced it will launch an upgraded version of its AI-based VR English learning service Speakit with the start-up Marvrus.

The app assesses the level of the user’s English ability and provides VR simulations of 100 different day-to-day situations, such as visiting an immigration office or attending business meetings.

SK Telecom also works with Masspresso, a start-up that developed a mobile math tutor app named QandA. Users take a picture of math problems, and the QandA app uses image recognition technology to provide solutions.

KT says it is also strengthening its English as a second language (ESL) content for IPTV viewers. The company recently added 580 English audiobooks to its existing archive of 3,018 children’s audiobooks read out loud by KT’s in-house AI platform, GiGa Genie. It also sealed a partnership with Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter series.

The two companies are cooperating to develop an English curriculum exclusively for Olleh TV viewers, combining AR technology with AI.

KT provides content for adult ESL learners with Yanadoo, a local ESL start-up. It offers English conversation phrases every hour on its AI speakers.

For Korea’s telecom companies, education is a lucrative business.

LG U+ says its IPTV network’s subscriptions grew significantly after launching Kids’ Land 2.0, boosting the company’s profits in the already-saturated smartphone and IPTV market. According to its in-house survey of 750 households, 47 percent of respondents said they have subscribed to LG’s IPTV for its education contents. The company also said it’s been effective in locking consumers in, with a churn rate for Kids’ Land 2.0 subscribers at half of that of regular users.

Owing to the positive impact of educational content on brand image, industry watchers expect mobile carriers to continue those investments.

“Even though the return on educational contents is lower than entertainment, when a company is recognized for its quality contents, it connects in to building a professional and future-forward image for the brand” said an official from SK Telecom.

BY PARK HYOUNG-SU [kang.jaeeun@joongang.co.kr]

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