China wants sixfold growth in VR industry in five years

China wants sixfold growth in VR industry in five years

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Beijing eyes a big role in the metaverse

A visitor uses a virtual reality headset at the Meta Platforms booth during Hong Kong FinTech Week in Hong Kong on Monday. (AFP photo)

HONG KONG: The Chinese government wants to boost the output of the country’s virtual reality (VR) industry by 2026 to 350 billion yuan ($48 billion) – six times last year’s level – showing Beijing’s ambitions to become a global leader in metaverse technology.

The Department of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and four other agencies released a guideline on Tuesday, setting a national sales target for VR devices of 25 million units by 2026. is significantly higher than last year’s shipments of 3.7 million units, according to data from a research institute reporting to a state-run newspaper People’s Daily.

Virtual reality, one of the seven “key industries of digital economy” designated by Beijing last year, will help China become a “powerhouse in manufacturing, cyberspace, culture and digital economy”, indicates the document.

By 2026, China will have 100 “backbone enterprises” with strong ability to innovate and create impact, as well as 20 use cases with special characteristics, according to the guideline. VR technology will be used in video games, short videos, fitness, education and other fields, he said.

Despite the country’s lofty ambitions, its virtual reality industry still lags its overseas peers in content production and operating systems, according to Zhao Siquan, a China-based senior analyst at the firm. IDC market research.

“At present, the domestic virtual reality industry still focuses on hardware manufacturing as a core skill, and the vast majority of enterprises are small-sized,” Zhao said.

“Key technologies such as operating systems, development tools and system-on-chip are missing. There is still a large gap with major foreign manufacturers…Improvement in content richness is needed.”

The Chinese government has backed VR technology since 2018, when MIIT said it would accelerate the development of an industry that would “take advantage of an emerging market worth billions of yuan”.

President Xi Jinping, in his letter to the 2018 Global Virtual Reality Industry Conference in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, said, “China is willing to cooperate with other countries to make reality beneficial for all”.

China’s largest virtual reality company is currently Pico. Acquired by TikTok owner ByteDance last year, it held a 4.5% share of the global VR market, a fraction of Facebook owner Meta Platforms’ 90%, according to a June report by IDC. The American giant acquired the Californian company Oculus VR in 2014.

The IDC report identified 2023 as a pivotal year for the virtual reality industry, with Meta, Pico and Sony set to launch next-generation headsets alongside a mixed reality headset from Apple.

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