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Contactless technology takes spotlight in post-virus era

COVID-19 results in more media usage through online platforms

Moon Seon-woong, a junior at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, began his winter semester on December 23 by opening his laptop at home instead of going to campus.

“It is nothing new,” Moon told the Korea Herald in a phone interview. “I have been taking classes online all year since the beginning of the spring semester.”

“As the coronavirus outbreak became worse, all lectures suddenly turned into online classes and I did not know what to do at first,” he said. “It took time to get used to online classes. I am sure not only students but also professors can agree with that.”

Indeed, online classes have become normal across South Korea due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some freshmen have yet to step foot on campus nearly one year after being admitted.

As the novel coronavirus turned out to be a highly infectious disease, social distancing measures rose as the most effective deterrent before vaccines became available. In the meantime, contact-free technology took center stage.

Zoom, one of the biggest video conferencing platforms in the world, saw its number of users increase by 230 times in S. Korea. According to apps and retail analyzer Wiseapp, 30,000 Android smartphone owners used Zoom in January. Fast-forward eight months, the figure reached over seven million.

Contactless technology has also taken over the job market with employers turning to video and AI interviews for their recruitment process.

“It was my first time participating in a contactless AI interview,” said 24-year-old Lee In-sil. “The most difficult part was that I could not figure out the grading system, and you also could get disconnected if the server connection is not stable.”

“I think it is good for applicants who live far from the company and you do not have to worry about contracting the coronavirus,” she added.

Changes have also been made outside of the education world and the job market. Companies have adopted to working remotely from home in accordance with the stronger social distancing measures. Almost 50 percent of responding companies said they have implemented a work from home protocol, according to a survey published by the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

With coronavirus restrictions in effect across the globe, internet traffic has surged all over the world. Driven by video conferences, streaming, social media and online games, worldwide internet traffic went up by 40 percent between February and April, according to the International Energy Agency.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the world down, contactless technology has also been able to cheer up consumers of K-pop, games, movies and dramas. With people spending more time at home than ever, the media industry has thrived.

In October, nearly one million viewers watched K-pop megastar BTS’ two-day online concert “BTS MAP OF THE SOUL ON:E” from 191 countries and territories. Fans could watch the concert from six different angles in a multi-view mode. It was also streamed through 4K and High Definition for a better viewing experience.

Global video game revenue is expected to increase by 20 percent to reach almost $180 billion in 2020, according to the International Data Corporation. This would make the video game industry bigger than the global movie industry and North American sports leagues the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball combined.

Although the film industry stumbled this year with theater shutdowns and decreased ticket sales everywhere, online platforms grew even bigger. For instance, Netflix attracted 15 million paid subscribers worldwide in just the first quarter of 2020, according to Statista.

While the rise of contactless technology has helped humanity in the post-COVID-19 era, it may be taking a toll on people.

“There is an expression called ‘Zoom fatigue.’ It is a term for the social stress that comes from doing everything remotely and facing the limit of such a way of communication,” said Lee Kwang-suk, an associate professor of Digital and Cultural Policy Department at the Seoul National University of Science and Technology.

“With video conferences in schools, companies and organizations, we have efficiency in most cases. On the other hand, the level of fatigue and depression increases from using contactless technology,” Lee said. “The fact that contactless communication cannot replace social relationships is a problem.”

The expert added that it is important to take advantage of contactless technology to both prevent the spread of the virus and maintain a feeling of togetherness.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (