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Industrial hub sets sights on metaverse

By QIU QUANLIN in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-29 09:57

A woman visits an exhibition hall of a global traceability center for imports and exports in Nansha district, Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on June 15. [Photo by QIU QUANLIN/CHINA DAILY]

A hub for emerging industries in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, has set its sights on a futuristic new industry-the metaverse.

This immersive version of the internet, accessed via virtual-reality headsets, augmented reality glasses or other devices, is considered by some to represent the internet brought to life.

For Nansha district in Guangzhou, a center for high-end manufacturing, aerospace and marine technologies, health industries and integrated circuits, the metaverse represents not just a fascinating concept but a whole new lucrative realm of business.

"With the building of a perfect digital ecology, Nansha has laid a solid foundation for the development of the metaverse industry in the near future," said Liu Quanbao, an official with the Guangzhou Science and Technology Bureau.

The district has an artificial intelligence industrial park set up in the Qingsheng area that has attracted more than 300 AI enterprises, local government officials said.

Three Nansha-based companies-Cloudwalk Technology, Aofei Data and Pony.ai-were listed among the top 200 Chinese metaverse companies with the greatest potential, each with a market value of more than $1 billion, according to an industrial report released recently by the Hurun Research Institute, a research, media and investment group.

Enterprises based in the district, including Deepmirror, SequoiaDB and Cross Stars, made the list of "future metaverse stars", according to the report.

"The cutting-edge field of the metaverse is the next important development direction for the internet industry, which will profoundly change production and lifestyle in the future, and promote future industrial development," said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report.

The Guangzhou Metaverse Innovation Alliance, which was inaugurated in Nansha in March, is expected to help inject new vitality into Guangzhou's construction of a global digital economy benchmark and an international consumer-oriented city, according to Hoogewerf.

"With the release of the list of metaverse companies with the greatest potential, it is expected that more businesses in the metaverse industry will move to the district and develop there," he said.

Nansha has developed a good business environment for metaverse-related companies since it enacted competitive policies to support the industry, according to Hoogewerf.

"From technology research and development, industrial agglomeration and application scenarios to financial support, special policies from the local government will help build Nansha into a prominent location for the innovation and development of the metaverse industry," he said.

Although many companies, including some of China's largest by market capacity, have not had a specific team dedicated to the metaverse industry, they have already applied relevant technologies in some particular fields, according to Hoogewerf.

"Media and entertainment companies are at the forefront of the metaverse, using existing technologies to explore the application possibilities of the industry," he said.

People who utilize the metaverse are expected to reach 5 billion by 2030 worldwide, and the potential market size of the metaverse economy is likely to hit $10 trillion, according to a recent Citibank report.

Construction is to be accelerated on a center for scientific and technological innovation in Nansha for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, according to a plan to promote comprehensive cooperation in Guangdong and the two special administrative regions.

The plan, issued recently by the State Council, also stressed the importance of building a platform for key scientific and technological innovation and development of high-tech industries in Nansha.

By 2025, joint scientific and technological innovation systems and mechanisms between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao will be improved in Nansha, industrial cooperation will be deepened, and regional innovation and industrial transformation systems will be preliminarily established, according to the plan.

In recent years, Nansha has been advancing its innovation-driven development strategy, focusing on building infrastructure for science and technology innovation platforms, according to the local government.

Additionally, the first national system of its kind integrating innovation, industry, capital and multiple policies was launched in the district. Plans call for more than 20 billion yuan ($2.99 billion) to be invested over the next five years to support innovation and entrepreneurship in companies and talent.

Strategic emerging industries have been developing vigorously in the district, with 744 high-tech enterprises settled in Nansha.

Companies in the district have developed ambitious goals in the emerging metaverse industry.

"We will focus on building a metaverse R&D center in the near future, using our AI and man-machine technologies in the district's development, such as in urban planning and design, construction and urban management," said Xu Ming, vice-president of Cloudwalk Technology Co.

The man-machine collaborative operating system, created by the company, is designed to promote a more natural interaction between people and computers, aiding the collaborative completion of complex business, Xu said.

"The system provides support for developers to design and develop man-machine collaborative, intelligent applications, which are a good fit for the development trend of the metaverse industry," Xu said.

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