Tech giants bank on VR for metaverse opportunities

A visitor plays a VR game at the exhibition area of ​​HTC Corp during the 2022 World 5G Convention in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, in August. [ZHANG SHU/FOR CHINA DAILY]

HTC Corp will step up popularizing the use of virtual reality technology in both the consumer market and the enterprise market as part of its broader push to better tap into the metaverse, a senior executive said.

As a hot tech buzzword, metaverse refers to a shared virtual environment or digital space created by technologies including virtual reality and augmented reality.

Charles Huang, corporate vice-president of HTC, said there is surging demand for VR devices in a wide range of segments, such as remote conferencing, training, education, healthcare, design and exhibition, with the COVID-19 pandemic bolstering the application of VR equipment.

According to Huang, HTC is banking on the business-to-business segment and attaches great importance to cooperation with industry partners to develop new applications.

“Metaverse is not a slogan or a very distant future,” Huang said, adding that HTC is working hard to strengthen technological exchanges and information sharing in the metaverse and striving to build an interconnected, mutually beneficial and compatible metaverse ecosystem.

HTC has unveiled an open metaverse platform called Viverse, which provides seamless experiences that are reachable on any device anywhere and is enabled by VR, AR, high-speed connectivity, AI and blockchain technologies.

Data from market consultancy International Data Corp showed that the investment scale of the global AR and VR market was close to $14.67 billion in 2021 and is expected to increase to $74.73 billion in 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 38.5 percent.

IDC said the IT-related expenditure in China’s AR and VR market reached about $2.13 billion in 2021 and will increase to $13.08 billion in 2026, making it the second-largest market in the world.

Pedro Palandrani, a technology analyst at research company Global X ETFs, said early versions of metaverse now exist, offering investors a glimpse of its enormous potential. However, a successful metaverse is expected to feature a decentralized open platform accessed by VR headsets and powered by blockchain technology.

“A truly immersive metaverse experience, for instance, engages all the senses — sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Today, VR mostly involves sound and images,” Palandrani said.

To accelerate the development of metaverse, other Chinese tech companies are also moving fast. Huawei and Alibaba, for instance, are among the first group of companies, along with Meta, formerly known as Facebook, and Microsoft from the United States, to form a standards group that aims to accelerate the development of metaverse.

Participants in the Metaverse Standards Forum include many of the biggest companies working in the sector, from chipmakers to gaming companies, as well as established standard-setting bodies like the World Wide Web Consortium, according to the group.

“Industry leaders have stated that the potential of metaverse will be best realized if it is built on a foundation of open standards,” the group said. “Building an open and inclusive metaverse at a pervasive scale will demand a constellation of open interoperability standards.”

The move signified that companies are racing to build the concept of a metaverse and want to make their nascent digital worlds compatible with each other, said Pan Helin, co-director of the Digital Economy and Financial Innovation Research Center at Zhejiang University’s International Business School.

That could make it easier for developers to build the same content for different metaverse platforms or for users to export data from one service to another, which will help build a thriving ecosystem in the future, Pan said.

Seven of China’s big technology companies, including Huawei, Tencent, Baidu, Oppo and Alibaba, are among the top companies that filed the most virtual reality and augmented reality patent applications globally in the last two years, said the Singapore-based research and development analytics provider PatSnap.

Bloomberg Intelligence forecasts that metaverse revenue globally could reach nearly $800 billion in 2024.

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