Will the first metaverse be Chinese?

Recall that the term “metaverse” is a contraction of the words “meta” (which refers to an overview) and “verse” for “universe”. The word refers to much more advanced digital spaces than virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality. It is about extending our reality into shared virtual spaces, modeled in a 3D environment. The basic idea of ​​the metaverse is not complicated. Simply put, the metaverse includes any digital experience on the Internet that is persistent, immersive, three-dimensional and virtual. If the rebranding Facebook in Meta automatically comes to mind when it comes to this new universe, Chinese companies and local governments in the country are working to counterattack the American offensive.

Local Chinese governments enter the metaverse

The municipal authorities of the cities of Wuhan and Hefei have both pledged to revive the dynamics of the metaverse in the coming years. For Wuhan, the desire is to integrate the metaverse, big data, cloud computing and blockchain into the “real economy”, while Hefei has declared that it would favor companies in “advanced fields”, including the metaverse. below, a number of tech companies in China want to enter this universe while, at the same time, state media are blowing the flames to calm speculation closely or remotely linked to the metaverse.

“Everyone must remain rational to understand the current metaverse craze”, People’s newspaper, spokesman for the Communist Party. Other newspapers, including the business newspaper, run by the state, it warned against speculative operations in the industry. The incentive is to avoid hastily investing in the “immature” concept such as the metaverse.

Despite these warnings, other cities are also developing metaverse initiatives. Probably to attract new companies to the sector. Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province has launched a metaverse-based research center to help the city develop its tourism industry. Shanghai said it will strengthen research and development of the technologies behind the metaverse over the next five years, particularly for commercial and industrial applications. Finally, it is the city of Hangzhou, which is home to the headquarters of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, which is said to have set up a “metaverse committee” that would be made up of business representatives and academics.

If Chinese cities are embarking on this new virtual world, as you can imagine, even companies do not intend to lag behind.

Overview of Chinese companies with Metaverse sauce

Tencent, the Asian ogre

Let’s start with the giant of the games and entertainment industry Tencent. Of course, the Chinese company cannot afford to have its American competitors an advantage over potentially revolutionary technology. It should be noted that the company still has a foothold in the American continent by owning 40% of the video game development studio: Epic games and has also signed a strategic partnership with Roblox, a platform that allows users to create virtual worlds. Tencent CEO Ma Huateng told numerous analysts at a conference that:

The meta-universe is an exciting thing, but it is also a conceptual thing. We are in a relatively high stage of looking at the metaverse, which is about making the virtual world more real and the real world richer. Tencent has several technical modules, including the foundation of interaction and social media, artificial intelligence and the ability to create a gaming platform for the community, capable of creating a metaverse as building blocks“.

Tencent also owns the WeChat super social networking application that allows you to chat, shop, order food or even book a taxi. An essential application for the billion Chinese. If Tencent is preparing a sensational entry into the metaverse behind the scenes, it could, thanks to its vast business empire, be one of the players promoting the mass adoption of this new universe. In this sense, Tencent filed an application for registration last September for a hundred brands related to the metaverse, including “QQ metaverse”, “QQ Music metaverse” or “Kings metaverse”.

Baidu, the Chinese Google

The Chinese group unveiled a parallel universe last month titled Xi Rang (“Land of Hope” in French). As the ambition of the various metaverses, the platform proposed by the group’s boss, Robin Li, will allow its users to interact with other evolving individuals in this Land of Hope. Playing, having fun, learning, shopping, displaying advertisements, attending conferences are all activities that the company believes will be possible in the metaverse.

There is still a lot of work to be done to provide users with a quality metaverse experience. For mass adoption to explode, smooth, intuitive and ergonomic navigation will need to be implemented. But we will have to take our troubles patiently before we see an operational platform, since Baidu estimates that it will take at least six years before an optimal solution can be found. The virtual world is available on different media: AR / VR headset, computer, smartphone, which will help reach a large user base. For the moment the company has not communicated the economic model that will be applied for the metaverse. Case to be followed in the coming months.

ByteDance pays for Pico

In late summer 2021, the Chinese company acquired VR software and hardware maker Pico. It was founded in 2015 by Zhou Hongwei, who previously served as Vice President of Goertek (Meta’s unique Oculus foundry). In other words, Mr. Hongwei has the bottle, or should I say, the helmet. Pico holds over 300 patents covering key technology areas of virtual reality such as imaging, optics, acoustics, hardware design, and spatial positioning, among others.

Pico’s Goblin 2 model
Source: Pico

ByteDance, which owns the popular TikTok app, intends to absorb these technologies in hopes of someday offering augmented reality-based resources to its user base. But that is not all. ByteDance has invested 100 million yuan in Qiankun, a developer of Metaverse mobile games. A kind of Roblox with Chinese sauce. ByteDance seems to fit the Metaverse samba.

Alibaba’s hat-trick

The Chinese e-commerce giant recently registered a new company called Yuanjing Shengsheng in Beijing to explore the possibilities of the “gaming metaverse”. In addition, the company has registered the Chinese version of the “Ali Metaverse”, “Taobao Metaverse” and “DingDing Metaverse” brands. With these various initiatives, Jack Ma probably has several ideas in mind to compete with American Big Tech and their metaverse projects.

NetEase: an island dedicated to the metaverse

The Chinese company is one of the leaders in the development and publication of video games. Inevitably, Netfacility it must be part of the trend of the metaverse and, to do this, it does not skimp on the means. Last month it signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Sanya municipal government. This agreement involves setting up the company headquarters in Hainan and building a metaverse-based industrial base project in the capital of the South Island province of Sanya.

As part of the deal, NetEase noted that it has “full reserves in technology, talent and regulation related to the metaverse.” For example, NetEase has advanced technical capabilities in areas such as Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Cloud Gaming and Blockchain. The tech giant has also implemented metaverse conceptual products such as the immersive “Yaotai” system, an AI virtual host, and “blockchain planetary”, a blockchain-based value sharing platform.. If a Chinese verse emerges, the company will most likely be a major player in the industry.

A contradictory Chinaverse

While the Chinese state has been quick to pour some cold water on the metaverse initiatives warning of “undesirability” and “heated speculation” about this new universe, companies across the country are throwing themselves headlong into this virtual world:

Number of registered trademarks in China related to the metaverse
Source: Quartz.com

The only problem for these companies is that the Chinese government may not share Zuckerberg’s enthusiasm for the prospect of an immersive, real-time universe of virtual worlds.

In recent months, Xi Jinping’s government has taken a series of measures to try to reduce the role of social media and the Internet in the lives of Chinese citizens. The national video game regulator recently tightened its already strict rules, requiring anyone under the age of 18 to be allowed to play online for only one hour a night between Friday and Sunday. There is a kind of contradiction between private initiatives and the will of the government. On the one hand, companies that are developing 100% digital solutions in an immersive virtual world and, on the other, a government that wants to limit people’s exposure to digital content.

At the same time, China is one of the most advanced countries in the development of digital central bank (MNBC) currencies. For instance, as at 30 June 2021, almost 70 million wallets it had been opened with which over 70 million transactions were carried out for a value of 35 billion yuan (about 5.3 billion dollars). Four months later, the number of digital wallets has doubled and the value of transactions is approaching $ 10 billion. It is therefore now possible for the Chinese to be able to convert their paper yuan into e-yuan. A much more important development than in the United States, which still raises the question of the real need and usefulness of creating an MNBC.

Ultimately, Chinese companies have nothing to be ashamed of in the face of American metaverse initiatives. Tencent, Baidu, NetEase, ByteDance, Alibaba, among others, have all the skills, technologies and, of course, the ambition to develop metaverse solutions. The big question mark comes from the Chinese state, which seems to be taking the tweezers and even putting a punch in the wheels of these companies to throw themselves body and soul into this digital world. While local governments, as we have seen, appear to be on the same wavelength as private companies, we are not immune from a coup d’état in the anthill of the Chinese metaverse. This would allow American companies to have free rein. The misfortune of some is the happiness of others …

Count on me to regularly focus on Chinese, American, and our European nuggets as far as advances in the metaverse are concerned. Who knows, maybe in the near future I will offer you interactive articles in the Zonebourse metaverse. A kind of immersive collaboration.

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