alvin-wang-graylinAlvin Wang Graylin is the China President of Vive at HTC, and I had a chance to talk with him at CES this year about what’s happening in China. He provided me with a lot of cultural context, which includes support from the highest levels of Chinese Government to invest in companies working on emerging technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence. There were a flood of Chinese companies at CES showing VR headsets, peripherals, and 360 cameras. On average, the VR hardware from China tends to be no where near the quality of the major VR players of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony PSVR, or Samsung GearVR, but there were some standout Chinese companies who are leading innovation in specific area. For example, some highlights from CES include TPCast’s wireless VR, Noitom’s hand-tracked gloves, and Insta360 with some of the cheapest 360 cameras with the best specs available right now.

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After CES, I was convinced that if you want to understand what’s going to be happening in the overall VR ecosystem, then it’s worth looking to see what’s happening in China. The VR market in China is growing, and there is a lot more optimism for technological adoption and enthusiasm for having VR arcade experiences. Education in China is also very important with the one-child/two-child policy, and Graylin says that if VR can be proven to have a lot of educational impacts then the government will act to get VR headsets in every classroom. Once VR is in the classrooms, then it’ll help convince more parents to buy one for the home if they believe it’ll help their education.

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In an extensive round-up of Chinese-driven VR growth from Yoni Dayan, he mentions a moonshot project called Donghu VR Town, which is a proposed “city built in the south of the country, designed with virtual reality intertwined in every aspects from services, healthcare, education, to entertainment.” Here’s an untranslated promotional video that shows off what a VR-utopian city might look like:

It’s debatable as to whether Donghu VR Town would be a successful experiment if built, but it reflects a desire to innovate. Graylin said China doesn’t want to just be the manufacturing arm of the world, but that it wants to become a leader in virtual reality as well as in artificial intelligence, as can be seen in this Atlantic article detailing how Chinese universities and companies are starting to surpass American ones in researching and implementing AI.

China is a complicated topic and ecosystem, but after having a direct experience of the TPCast wireless VR, Noitom VR gloves, and the great-looking and high-res stereoscopy from a Insta360 camera at CES, then I think that it’s time to really look to China as a leader in innovation. If China really does go all-in on VR and AI and continues to investing large sums of money, then that type of institutional support is going to leap-frog China as one of the leading innovators in the world. I’ve already have started to see this at CES this year and at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence where there was a very healthy representation from China, and the thing to watch over the next couple of years is any big educational infrastructure investments by the Chinese government as well as the evolving digital out-of-home entertainment hardware ecosystem.

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  • Jevon

    China might become prime vr hardware developer but with their social/school system they will struggle to create the best software/art. Their government encourage children to grow up as robots without free spirited thinking.

    • Eastern

      you seem very familiar with the education system in China. Have you been involved there? I wonder how companies like alibaba is made with workforce thinking like robots.

      • Nairobi

        Oh yeah those great glorious Alibaba employees selling products produced by people who spend their lives getting paid pocket change, extorted for food, and indentured for servitude. Yeah fuck China.

        • NooYawker

          Where’s your computer made? and the keyboard you’re typing on and the monitor your looking at. Where’s all your clothes being made? Do you blame the drug dealer or the drug addict?

          • Nairobi

            The drug dealer. It all starts with a dealer. And then the addicts are locked into a loop. You think it was first American consumers who started selling cheap stuff on foreign land? No. It was China. The Chinese are literal preprogrammed communist robots.

          • Nairobi- couldn’t disagree more. if we teleported all the drug dealers away : New drug dealers would come in. this is part of the ludicrous nature of a war on drugs. The majority of humans use drugs (you’d think eating/drinking rotting things would go away. But since it alters your brain chemistry, we embrace it.)(including booze and caffeine here).
            research shows the way to have less drug addicts is to change your culture to support and connect with them. (so your assertion that getting rid of the “dealers” will stop people from wanting cheap shit strikes me as completely backwards).

          • NooYawker

            The so called war on drugs is proof positive that trying to stop the drugs does nothing.

          • NooYawker

            US corporations are the dealers. Was it Americans going to china looking for cheap labor or did china do this all by themselves? How did china navigate americas complicated trade laws? You want an enemy to point fingers at? Look no further than greedy American businessmen and American consumers looking for low priced goods.

          • crim3

            Like if you’d had options. “Excuse me. Where is the section of electronics made by well paid workers in decent working conditions that cost 3-4 months of my salary like in my parents’ times?”

          • NooYawker
        • crim3

          So true, they are literally slaves but nobody cares. We are all guilty of letting a dictatorship prove to the world that being brutal with your own people can lead to world leadership while at the same time destroy the welfare economy based on well paid jobs of the rest of the countries. For 25 years we’ve been voting with our wallets, and the aftermaths are every year more evident.
          The world we knew when we were kids is going down the drain. I’m not sure what is coming to replace it, though, but doesn’t look good.

    • NooYawker

      At the rate we’re going china will surpass us on literally everything. So these robots are doing very well for themselves so far.

    • Foreign Devil

      China is making apps and services that surpass US ones. . WeChat being a prime example. but yeah don’t expect brilliant AAA VR game titles. Not that we have any of those in the west just yet either. .

  • Foreign Devil

    I’m happy about China’s enthusiasm for VR. . but that “VR city” in the video just made me smile. . . .China will find any new angle or gimmick to build shoddy condos and business parks around. . . . Most of which sit empty and deteriorating for years because they are basically just investments for excess cash that has very limited places to go in China. I’ve lived in CHina and have to laugh at these kind of condo project promo videos. . . they almost always feature a “foreign expert” or some foreign student hired and dressed up to look like the expert. . . I guess that still draws people. .. I’ve been featured in such videos once or twice myself when I was young.