China’s metaverse is all about work
This ban helped pave the way for the development of the Chinese metaverse, according to experts, as it decoupled virtual spaces from digital assets. “The main difference (in the metaverse) between China and the rest of the world is that it is highly centrally regulated,” says Zhengyuan Bo, partner at China-focused research firm Plenum. “And there is limited room for growth without (digital assets) for monetization.”
The government hasn’t just cracked down on cryptocurrencies. Gaming – which forms a pillar of the metaverse in the West – has also come under pressure from above. Amid fears young people could become addicted to online gaming, state-run media dubbed the industry “spiritual opium”. Between 2018 and 2022, the government froze licensing of new games for 17 months In in total and in 2021 limited to three hours for minors playing time per week.
But the government is willing to support parts of the metaverse that it believes could directly benefit the economy. digital twins were included Beijing’s 14th Five-Year Planthe huge economic strategy document that sets the national agenda from 2021 to 2025. At action plan The report, released late last year by five ministries including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, promised to boost the virtual reality industry to 350 billion yuan ($51 billion).
The high-level plan identified innovations they would like to see more of, including near-eye display (a way of projecting images onto a user’s eye); Rendering processing (transforming 2D or 3D models into realistic images), sensory interaction and network transition.
But the government’s support comes with strings attached — Beijing has a vision of what Metaverse technology will do for China. That means the metaverse must serve China’s physical economy, rather than a virtual world where people can socialize, work, and play.
“Currently, everyone attaches importance to industrial applications in education, medicine, travel and industrial development,” said Siri Chen, marketing director of HiAR, at the company’s headquarters in Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai. In a demo for WIRED, a HiAR employee acted as a factory worker with a HiAR headset and was remotely asked to fix a valve.
Other Metaverse-affiliated companies have turned around in anticipation of government investment. For Eric Liu, co-founder and CTO of Shanghai-based digital twin company Digitwin Technologies, the 14th five-year plan has helped underpin his company’s shift into energy and manufacturing — “an area that wasn’t ready before” for them kind of technology , he says.
While the Chinese government’s desire to shape the Metaverse might limit its scope, government support might mean it doesn’t fall victim to the notoriously capricious tech sector, which is rapidly deviating from trends. Startups often try to be “in the middle of the whirlwind”, i.e. to hit the right trend with explosive growth potential.
“When there’s something going on in China, companies flock to the space,” says Jingshu Chen, co-founder of the VR company VeeR. “However, if growth doesn’t happen as quickly as expected, more companies will likely switch as well.”