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Innovating Health: The exbody Approach to Musculoskeletal Analysis

Interview - March 6, 2024

exbody, a trailblazer in musculoskeletal analysis, as it transcends borders and industries. Discover the unique fusion of medical expertise and gamified fitness platforms shaping the future of personalized health and wellness.

EXBODY’S CO-FOUNDERS AND NEXT LEADER
EXBODY’S CO-FOUNDERS AND NEXT LEADER | .

South Korea currently faces a unique demographic situation. On top of becoming the world’s first country to see its fertility rate fall below 1.0, experts estimate that by 2025, more than 25% of the South Korean population will be over the age of 65, turning the nation into one of the first super-aging societies in the world. While this demographic trend presents challenges, it also provides the Korean medical & pharmaceutical sector with a unique opportunity to develop innovative solutions ahead of other nations. What is the role of the Korean medical industry in mitigating the negative impact arising from an aging population?

To fully address this question, it's important to outline the challenges that the South Korean medical industry currently faces. Historically, the industry has relied heavily on imported technologies, which enjoy high brand value and reputation. Consequently, despite South Korea's IT and medical technologies being among the world's best, our medical devices have not received the recognition they deserve. South Korean medical companies have succeeded in manufacturing high-quality medical devices, but low brand value has hindered global recognition. This predicament has left us with no choice but to market our products at lower prices compared to the products of foreign medical device makers.

 

With the millennial generation aging, we are witnessing an increase in digitally savvy older adults. Do you foresee a surge in the popularity of digital health solutions in the near future?

Absolutely, I concur with your observation. Millennials, who are often comfortable with technology and large screens, have shown great interest in these advancements. The COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated staying at home, led to the government launching a project titled “home training and gamification.” This project, backed by an investment of KRW 3.6 billion, attracted significant competition.

exbody has pioneered a home training gamification platform that enables users to engage and express their emotions through coaching programs, irrespective of their location. The platform's AI automatically selects programs for individual users, and trainers can create and share custom-made exercise programs. Users can interact with others within a Metaverse setting using their own avatar.

Millennials have shown no hesitation in using platforms like ours to engage in exercise games at home. Unlike traditional gaming that relies on a mouse, keyboard, or controller, our platform enables users to interact with the environment using their entire body. This novel genre of games, termed Exegames, uses an AI that adjusts in real-time to the user's capability level.

One of the challenges that our technology aims to address is the impersonal nature of remote interactions. With the help of haptic feedback and sensors, we can create vibration feedback that enables players to feel interactions with others located thousands of kilometers away. For instance, if you are in Seoul working out with a friend in New York who wants to give you a fist bump after an impressive set of squats, our Metaverse's built-in systems and haptic feedback can make you feel that fist bump. This level of interaction significantly enhances user immersion in the platform.

 

South Korea’s medical device exports increased by around 79% between 2019 and 2020. Most of these exports were shipped to the Asia Pacific and Western Europe. With the recent surge in international medical device demand, exports have overtaken imports for the first time, and it is estimated that Korea currently has over 4.000 medical equipment manufacturers. On the global stage, how competitive are Korean medical equipment manufacturers today?

Our devices, especially those aimed at musculoskeletal examination, have gained significant popularity in China. In fact, they have been introduced in over 60 Chinese hospitals. Our edge in the global market derives from our creativity. However, we've encountered numerous imitations, particularly in China. Despite these challenges, we firmly believe that no other entity can replicate our market position due to our unique ability to integrate the functionalities of various medical devices into a single platform with a gamification element.

exbody has consistently identified and addressed consumer needs, and has integrated these elements into our products and services. This consumer-centric approach has largely contributed to our company's growth. During a recent exhibition, we received requests from more than 50 buyers across 22 countries to introduce our products in their respective nations.



Many innovative companies possess excellent technologies but struggle to translate these into marketable products that can scale. For Korean companies specifically, growth can be limited due to the relatively small domestic market, and significant capital is needed for international competitiveness. Could you discuss exbody's market penetration in Korea and your plans for further international expansion?

To date, over 2000 hospitals in South Korea are utilizing our products. Internationally, our products are being used in several countries, including the US, Japan, China, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, and Qatar.

There are two primary ways that South Korean medical devices, including ours, have used to be introduced globally. Initially, South Korean medical device manufacturers were invited to other countries or appointed as professors abroad. The second route is through domestic customers who use our products and subsequently introduce them in their home countries. This word-of-mouth process leads to inquiries from international hospitals and businesses. For instance, after Mongolian customers used our services during a visit to Korea, they returned home and inquired about our devices at their local hospitals. Consequently, those hospitals visited us with the intention of importing our products into Mongolia.

In January, during President Yoon Suk Yeol's visit to the United Arab Emirates, we were invited as part of presidential economic envoy. This exposure led to considerable interest from neighboring countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. As a result, we were able to display our products, and some hospitals in the UAE have now committed to utilizing our technology. This development has spurred interest from other neighboring countries, including Egypt.

 

While our conversation has primarily centered around hospitals, it's notable that exbody has recently ventured into the wellness sector, marking a transition towards a B2C model. Could you shed light on your expectations for revenue growth? Will it be driven primarily by hospitals or by your wellness initiatives and services?

Currently, our growth is evenly split between the medical and fitness sectors, each accounting for 50%. However, I anticipate a shift in this balance as schools are now allocating budgets for our products. Major corporations like Samsung and Hyundai have also started utilizing our products for employee health assessments, which signals potential for significant growth coming from corporate demand. This expected growth is not confined to corporations, but also extends to hospitals, public health care centers, and private companies. Given that there are 35 provinces and 3500 health care centers in Korea, the scope for growth is substantial. If we manage to realize this potential, I envisage a distribution of 30% from each sector - medical, fitness, and wellness care centers.

As more customers experience our products, they may want to integrate these experiences into their home environments. This provides an opportunity to expand our B2C business, enabling direct sales to individual consumers.

 

We're interested in understanding how your machines not only assess and diagnose patient conditions, but also facilitate recovery from injuries. Could you elaborate on this process and how it's implemented through your devices?

That's precisely why we're investing our efforts in enhancing our platform. For instance, if you're someone suffering from back issues and have a history of slipped discs, you can utilize our Medigen platform. This platform doesn't just assess your health status, it also recommends specific exercises to enhance your well-being. Essentially, it's a bespoke service that's tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual customer.

For instance, let's take our exbody 9100 Posture Analyzer as an example. This device maintains individualized records for every customer, which are automatically transferred to our management platform. This feature enables customers to know exactly which exercises they need to perform. Additionally, it not only assists them in identifying their bodily issues, but also in finding appropriate solutions which can be further analyzed. This seamless transition from diagnosis to treatment, combined with the capability to track their progress at each stage, provides an unparalleled experience. In essence, the device offers a continuum of analysis, from pre-exercise to real-time exercise management, tailored specifically for each individual.



Our devices utilize our core joint recognition technology, supplemented by our proprietary range of motion (ROM) analysis and heart rate monitoring technologies. This enhancement greatly expands the available content for users and improves the efficiency and accuracy of the exercises recommended by the device. For our international clients, we offer this device in all languages as well.

 

Which markets are you testing your video diagnostic system in?

We operate on two distinct platforms: Medigen and Medicare. Medigen caters to fitness, while Medicare focuses on medical aspects. South Korea comprises over 3,500 unique districts, and our primary objective is to convert users in these areas. Our platform operates on a subscription-based model. However, a few legal obstacles exist; digital consultations for diagnosis are prohibited in South Korea. Nonetheless, there are no restrictions on preventive measures, hence our primary focus is oriented towards this domain.

 

It's evident that the accuracy of the solutions offered is directly proportional to the amount of data collected from the user. With the emergence of AI and VR technologies, big data is currently undergoing a revolution. How are these evolving technology fields influencing your business, and how are you harnessing them to stimulate growth within the company?

Our approach until now has been to provide diverse exercise programs for a variety of customers. For example, if a user's physical condition isn't optimal, our program recommends exercises and routines to help improve their well-being. While this was previously algorithm-based, we now live in the era of ChatGPT. This AI-powered platform interacts with users, and if they express feeling tired, the AI will suggest mood-enhancing exercises. Such collected data is instrumental in generating community content. Our goal is to cater to the holistic health of users, both physical and mental, effectively creating a platform that serves as an adult wellness playground.

Indeed, the scope of data collection and analysis we engage in is significant. To effectively interpret this data, we're integrating AI technologies that will facilitate more comprehensive and accurate solutions for consumers.

Currently, in Korea, there's a surge in AI adoption, with numerous companies offering diverse types of data. Despite the abundance of data, not all of it is inherently useful or applicable, especially when gathered for a highly specific purpose. However, with over two decades of continuous data collection at our disposal, we believe we can effectively leverage our locally acquired data for practical applications.

Our platform is designed not only for end users but also for medical practitioners, integrating them into our system's framework. This will facilitate a connection between medical professionals and end users for more accurate analysis. What we are envisioning is a transformative, next-level approach to health management.

 

The change in how medical practitioners conduct health management will come with technology. However, medical institutions are known for their conservatism when implementing new products or new procedures. Therefore, the upfront investment in an analyzer might deter some implementations. How do you plan to overcome this challenge?

Our organization has implemented a new system infrastructure that transitions our services to a pay-per-use model. This means that instead of purchasing our equipment, users such as schools, welfare centers, and health clinics will only pay for the services they actually use. We are currently in the process of building and deploying this infrastructure to ensure seamless access for our clients.

With the new pay-per-use model in place, we are now positioning ourselves to expand our services globally. Our goal is to reach users and organizations worldwide, offering them access to our innovative solutions and technologies. By expanding our reach internationally, we aim to make a positive impact on communities and industries across different countries and regions.

To achieve our global expansion objectives, we are actively seeking partners who share our vision and can collaborate with us to deliver our services effectively. These partners may include technology firms, educational institutions, government agencies, NGOs, and other organizations that can help us reach and serve diverse populations. We are open to exploring partnerships with entities that have expertise in local markets, regulatory frameworks, and cultural contexts to ensure the success of our global initiatives.

 

Suppose we revisit this conversation in three years. What milestones would you like to have accomplished by then?

We are currently registered as a partner of two influential Korean trade institutions, KOTRA and KITECH. We are also part of the South Korean Presidential Economic Envoy, with a dedicated team from the SME Venture Department exclusively assigned to our company.

Looking ahead, I foresee our products and platforms gaining a presence in over 70 countries globally within the next three years. We're also part of a government initiative named "Innovative Companies Representing South Korea", which aims to identify and foster the next generation of unicorn companies.


For more details, explore their website at https://exbody.kr/

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