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Gut drones, livestreams and T-Rex

By Erik Nilsson | China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-25 07:10

The Huanghelou Tower hails modern Wuhan's ancient legacy. [Photo/China Daily New Media Center]

Wuhan is often called 'China's Chicago', and its Optics Valley is hailed as the country's 'Silicon Valley'. Erik Nilsson explores its high-tech zone, including what he sees as 'China's Hollywood for the mobile-internet age'.

Editor's Note: This is Part 4 of the six-part Yangtze diaries series based on journalist Erik Nilsson's recent 35-day, 2,000-kilometer journey to 11 cities to discover how the Yangtze River Economic Belt has transformed over the 40 years since the reform and opening-up. Scan the code to watch the video.

I recently drove a gut drone in "China's Hollywood for livestreamers", as I call it. That is, I used two joysticks to remotely operate a gastrointestinal-camera robot the size and shape of a pill in Wuhan's Optics Valley.

I was disappointed that I wasn't able to swallow the capsule-endoscopy device to drive it around and film inside my own digestive system.

I'd fantasized about doing so while walking past buckets slithering with eels, fish and frogs on the street side on the way back to my hotel the night before.

But it was still fun to make the drone dance like a jumping bean on a bench. It was a bit like an arcade game. The device contains nearly 100 patented technologies and over 300 parts.

Optics Valley has become a globally leading biomedicine, entrepreneurship and IT hub since it was built on wasteland in Hubei's provincial capital 30 years ago. About 70 patents developed in the valley were approved every day last year. And over 60 tech enterprises are established in the valley daily.

The combination of tech and youth culture has also made it a haven for livestreaming.

Indeed, a growing number of young people are flocking to the valley with dreams of online stardom, making it something like China's Hollywood for the mobile-internet age.

"Wuhan is outstanding in that hundreds of thousands of university students study here. But most used to leave," says Yuan Gang, vice-president of Douyu, a livestreaming site headquartered in the valley.

"The rapid development of Wuhan's industries means a growing number of graduates, who've gained management and technology experience in cities like Beijing, are returning. This enhances emerging industries and provides talent for Wuhan's industrial transformation and the development of online culture companies like Douyu."

The enterprise, founded with about 30 employees and a gaming focus in 2014, is worth 20 billion yuan ($2.90 billion) and has a workforce exceeding 2,400. The platform has over 4 million registered hosts and 100,000 active daily users.

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