The cities of Oulu in Finland and Kent in the US have been collaborating at a grassroots level for business development purposes. Last year, we organized a webinar to introduce the unique characteristics of our cities and regions, as well as showcase some exemplary tech companies from both Oulu and Kent. Our goal has been clear: to identify common themes in technology and tech markets that create positive traction for companies in both cities. Recently, we held another event in continuation of this collaboration, and this article is about that.
Based on our earlier discussions with our esteemed contact person, Donald Davis, who holds a position at Kent Displays managing technical services and business development, we decided to take a closer look at the theme of the Metaverse and companies that focus on related themes. Donald’s active involvement has been truly remarkable and has been a key factor in facilitating this collaborative effort between our two regions. We are immensely grateful to him!
But let’s delve into the Metaverse. The Metaverse refers to a virtual reality space or a collective virtual shared space where users can interact with each other and digital objects in a simulated environment. It is often envisioned as a fully immersive, interactive, and multi-dimensional digital universe that may include virtual worlds, augmented reality, virtual reality, and other forms of digital experiences. The concept of the Metaverse has gained popularity in recent years with advancements in technology and is often associated with virtual reality, gaming, social networking, and potential future applications in various industries such as entertainment, education, and business.
So, we organized a webinar, but to align with the theme, we didn’t use teams or Zoom as our platform. Instead, we opted for an actual virtual reality platform provided by Finpeda, a company based in Oulu. We were aware of the risks: would the platform work effectively? Would users be able to use it seamlessly?
Would it be awkward? Would it generate any added value compared to conventional platforms? Fortunately, our fears were unfounded, and everything went surprisingly smoothly!
During the event, we highlighted the similarities between the two regions with the aim of establishing a shared foundation for joint initiatives. We identified the following points:
- Innovation and Technology: Both Oulu and Kent in the US place a strong emphasis on innovation and technology. Oulu is renowned as a hub of technology and innovation in Finland, with a thriving tech industry and a focus on research and development. Similarly, Kent, located in the state of Ohio in the United States, has a history of innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in the fields of science, engineering, and technology. Both cities may have a culture that values technological advancements and promotes innovation.
- Educational Institutions: Both Oulu and Kent in the US are home to reputable educational institutions. Oulu is known for its universities and research institutes, including the University of Oulu, which has a strong focus on technology and science. Kent, on the other hand, is home to Kent State University, a renowned public research university known for its programs in science, technology, and business. Both cities may have a vibrant academic community and a culture of learning and research.
- Outdoor Activities: Oulu and Kent in the US are both located in regions with ample opportunities for outdoor activities. Oulu is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, including forests, lakes, and the Baltic Sea coastline, which offer opportunities for hiking, skiing, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits. Kent, located in the northeastern region of Ohio, has nearby parks, forests, and lakes that provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and boating. Both cities may have a culture that values and embraces outdoor activities.
- Community-oriented Approach: Both Oulu and Kent (US) are known for their community-oriented approach to living. Oulu is recognized for its strong sense of community and social cohesion, with active community involvement and participation in various local initiatives. Similarly, Kent is renowned for its vibrant community engagement and civic involvement, with a focus on fostering a sense of belonging and community pride. Both cities share a culture that values community engagement, inclusivity, and social well-being.
- Local Business and Entrepreneurship: Both Oulu and Kent (US) have a culture that supports local businesses and entrepreneurship. Oulu boasts a thriving tech industry and a supportive ecosystem for startups and entrepreneurs, with various initiatives and programs aimed at fostering local businesses. Similarly, Kent has a history of entrepreneurship and small businesses, with a focus on promoting local economic development and supporting local enterprises. Both cities share a culture that values and promotes local businesses and entrepreneurship, providing ample opportunities for collaboration.
The event featured presentations from companies such as MeKiwi (Fin), Alpha Micron (US), Komia Ventures (Fin), Kent State University (US), Finpeda (Fin), and Cleveland Institute of Art (US). The presentations centered around immersive platform and gaming development, high technology solutions for augmented reality user interfaces and devices, screens and lenses, metaverse contents such as art and culture aspects, and business cases based on that area, as well as virtual platform use cases. There were also exciting holistic approaches that combined art and culture with new technologies, opening up possibilities for immersive and interactive experiences that push the boundaries of traditional artistic mediums.
The attendees were able to navigate Finpeda’s platform fluently, with some flying around the virtual room during the event and avatars sprinting among the show booths of the participating companies. It all felt very natural, and we highly recommend everyone to take the opportunity to try these virtual spaces as they become more mainstream in business and leisure. As more people become accustomed to operating in these spaces, they become increasingly valuable.
Overall, we are thrilled that this event took place and that so many people attended with their avatars. We eagerly anticipate round three with Kent!