Will the first metavers be Chinese?

As a reminder, the term “metavers” is a contraction of the words “meta” (which refers to an overall vision) and “verse” for “universe”. The word refers to digital spaces that are much more advanced than virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality. It’s about expanding our reality into shared virtual spaces, modeled in a 3D environment. The basic idea of ​​the meta-verse is not complicated. In short, the meta-verse includes any digital experience on the Internet that is enduring, immersive, three-dimensional, and virtual. Whose rebranding of Facebook in Meta automatically comes to mind when we talk about this new universe, Chinese companies and local governments in the country are working to counter the US offensive.

Chinese local governments are entering the metaverse

The municipal authorities of the cities of Wuhan and Hefei have both committed themselves to increasing the dynamics of the metaverse over the next few years. For Wuhan, the desire is to integrate metaverse, big data, cloud computing and blockchain into the “real economy”, while Hefei in turn stated that it would favor companies in “advanced fields”, including metaverse. As we will see below, a number of tech companies in China want to enter this universe, while state media are blowing on fire to calm speculation, closely or remotely linked to the metaverse.

“Everyone must remain rational to understand the current metaverse mania,” Folkets Dagblad, spokesman for the Communist Party. Other newspapers, including the economic daily, controlled by the state, warned against speculative transactions in the sector. The incentive is to avoid hasty investment in the “immature” concept as the meta-verse.

Despite these reservations, other cities are also developing metaverse initiatives. Presumably to attract new businesses in the field. Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province has launched a metaverse-based research center to help the city develop its tourism industry. Shanghai said that over the next five years, it will strengthen the R & D of technologies underlying the metaverse, especially for commercial and industrial applications. Finally, it is the city of Hangzhou, home to the headquarters of e-commerce giant Alibaba, which is said to have set up a “metaverse committee”, which was to consist of business representatives and academics.

If Chinese cities embark on this new virtual world, as you can imagine, companies are not going to lag behind either.

Overview of Chinese companies with Metaverse sauce

Tencent, the Asian troll

Let’s start with the gaming and entertainment industry giant Tencent. Clearly, the Chinese company cannot afford to give its American competitors a head start on a potentially revolutionary technology. It should be noted that the company still has a foothold on the American continent by owning 40% of the video game development studio: Epic games and it has also entered into a strategic partnership with Roblox, a platform that allows users to create virtual worlds. Tencent CEO Ma Huateng told several analysts at a conference that:

The meta-universe is an exciting thing, but it is also a conceptual thing. We are at a relatively high stage to look at the meta-verse, which is about making the virtual world more real and the real world richer. Tencent has several technical modules, including the basics of interaction and social media, AI and the ability to create a community gaming platform, can create a metaverse like building blocks”.

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

Baidu, the Chinese Google

Last month, the Chinese group unveiled a parallel universe titled Xi Rang (“Land of Hope” in French). As the ambition of the various metavers, the platform proposed by the head of the group, Robin Li, will allow its users to interact with other individuals developing in this land of hope. Playing, having fun, learning, shopping, showing commercials, attending conferences are all activities that the company says will be possible in the meta-verse.

There is still a lot of work to be done to offer users a high quality metavers experience. Fluent, intuitive and ergonomic navigation must be in place for mass adoption to explode. But we will have to take our problems 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 several media: AR / VR headsets, computers, smartphones, which will help reach a large user base. At present, the company has not communicated about the economic model that will be used for the metaverse. Case to follow in the coming months.

ByteDance pays for Pico

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

Pico’s Goblin 2 model
Source: Pico

ByteDance, which owns the popular app TikTok, intends to absorb these technologies in hopes of one day being able to offer augmented reality-based resources to its user base. But that’s not all. ByteDance has invested 100 million yuan in Qiankun, a Metaverse concept mobile game developer. A kind of Roblox with Chinese sauce. ByteDance seems to fit into Metaverse samba.

The Alibaba Triplets

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

NetEase: an island dedicated to the meta-verse

The Chinese company is one of the leaders in the development and publishing of video games. inevitably, NetEase must be part of the metaverse trend, and to do this, it does not save on funds. It signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the municipal government of Sanya last month. This agreement plans to establish the company’s headquarters in Hainan and build an industrial base project based on the metaverse of the capital of the southern island province of Sanya.

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

A contradictory Chinese verse

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

Number of trademarks registered in China linked to the meta-verse
Source: Quartz.com

The only catch 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 number of measures to try to reduce the role of social media and the Internet in the lives of Chinese citizens. The National Video Game Regulatory Authority recently tightened its already strict rules and required that everyone under the age of 18 be allowed to play online games for only one hour per week. night between Friday and Sunday. We can see a kind of contradiction between private initiatives and the will of the government. On the one hand, companies that develop 100% digital solutions in an immersive virtual world, and on the other hand a government that wants to limit individuals’ exposure to digital content.

At the same time, China is one of the most advanced countries in the development of digital central bank currencies (MNBC). Eg. pr. June 30, 2021 almost 70 million wallets had been opened, with more than 70 million transactions worth 35 billion yuan (about $ 5.3 billion). 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 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 necessity and usefulness of setting up an MNBC.

In the end, Chinese companies have nothing to be ashamed of in US metaverse initiatives. Tencent, Baidu, NetEase, ByteDance, Alibaba, among others, all have the competencies, technologies and, of course, the ambition to develop metaverse solutions. The big question mark comes from the Chinese state, which seems to be taking tweezers and even slapping the wheels of these companies to throw itself with body and soul into this digital world. While local governments, as we have seen, also appear to be on the same wavelength as private companies, we are not immune to a blow from the state in the metaverse anthill. This would give American companies free rein. Some’s misfortune is the happiness of others …

Expect that I will continuously focus on Chinese and American companies and our European nuggets of gold regarding progress on the metaverse. Who knows, maybe in the near future I will offer you interactive articles in the Zonebourse meta-verse. A kind of immersive collaboration.

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