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Local govts chart plans to tap metaverse

By MA SI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-02-17 09:33
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A visitor (right) tries metaverse games at the 2021 International Digital Technology Exhibition and Tianyi Intelligent Ecological Expo in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Nov 11. [Photo by Li Zhihao/For China Daily]

Local governments in China are rolling out their plans to boost the development of the metaverse, which is considered by many the next generation of the internet, to bolster integration of the real and digital economies.

Shanghai has highlighted the metaverse in its 14th five-year plan (2021-25) for the city's electronic information industry, calling for efforts to strengthen forward-looking research and development of the underlying core technologies and capabilities of the metaverse, promote the development of new terminals that can deepen perception and interaction, as well as construct systematic virtual content and explore its industrial applications.

Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province, said it will build a pilot zone for the metaverse this year, which will feature a combination of virtual reality software and hardware companies.

The plan came after the city has worked hard to cultivate its VR industry in recent years by attracting international heavyweights such as Qualcomm Inc and Microsoft Corp to set up businesses in the city.

Meanwhile, Hefei, capital of Anhui province, and Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, have also included the metaverse in their government work reports. Some local governments have also shown interest in the technology by holding seminars or setting up industry committees.

"The metaverse promises a future where the virtual and physical worlds are inextricably interconnected, which will bring not only changes to lifestyles, but great opportunities for industrial upgrading, especially the integration of the real and digital economies," said He Chao, secretary-general of the Metaverse Industry Committee of China Mobile Communications Association.

The State-backed metaverse industry committee said on Wednesday it had admitted 17 new firms, including three listed companies, as members.

The development came as leading Chinese tech players were reported flexing their muscles. For example, Baidu unveiled in December its first metaverse-related app, Xirang, which translates as "land of hope." The app allows up to 100,000 people to take part in a three-dimensional virtual reality conference simultaneously.

Gaming giant NetEase has also moved fast. When its music streaming arm Cloud Village made its debut on the Hong Kong stock market in December, the company held what it claimed was the world's first metaverse listing ceremony through Yaotai, its immersive activity system.

NetEase CEO Ding Lei attended the event digitally as a 29-year-old version of himself in 2000 and as what he appeared last year. Both digital versions sounded the listing gong in an offline ceremony with the real-life Ding.

Bloomberg Intelligence forecast that metaverse revenue opportunities globally could reach nearly $800 billion in 2024, while international consulting company PwC predicted that virtual reality and augmented reality have the potential to deliver a $1.5 trillion boost to the global economy by 2030.

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