Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Chinese tech giant Baidu says it could take 6 years to fully distribute its metaverse

Baidu Vice President Ma Jie gives a preview to reporters in Beijing on December 21, 2021 about how the company’s Metaverse app XiRang will host a developer conference.


BEIJING — While Metaverse hype has hit the world this year, one of China’s tech giants in the game has revealed a version of the virtual ecosystem that has so far been little.

The metaverse can be loosely defined as the next generation of the Internet – a virtual world in which humans interact through three-dimensional avatars. Social network giant Facebook changed its name to Meta in October and announced plans for $10 billion in related investments next year.

China is similarly buzzing with Metaverse headlines. Beijing-based Baidu plans to hold its annual developers event on Monday in the virtual world of its Metaverse app, XiRang. The company claims that this will be China’s first Metaverse conference.

However, at a preview event on Tuesday, Sheerang’s executive in charge lowered expectations noting how many aspects were not yet up to par.

Development of the app began last December, but there are still “negative six” years for a full launch, Baidu vice president Ma Jie told reporters in Mandarin. In response to questions like asking for details on that timeline, Ma said in an apologetic tone: “That’s a great question, but I may not have a very good answer.”

Baidu Vice President Ma Jie shares the company’s Metaverse plans at a media event in Beijing on December 21, 2021.

Evelyn Cheng | CNBC

Baidu’s app, as it exists now, could host up to 100,000 virtual attendees for Monday’s conference, Ma said, showing reporters a graphic rendering of the virtual stadium.

He said Baidu aims to create an open-source platform for Metaverse developers — an infrastructure for a virtual world.

Monday’s event primarily marks the opening of XiRang to developers in China for now.

“The metaverse, while a buzzword in the global tech and investment community, is still in its infancy,” Stansberry Research analyst Brian Tykangko said in an email. “Many people don’t even fully understand what the term means today or what it will mean in the next 3 to 5 years.”

He said Baidu’s timeline reflects the company’s understanding of the metaverse, its conservative approach in managing expectations, and China’s regulatory environment. “Baidu is clearly trying to move forward to ‘own’ the metaverse in its domestic market while adhering to Beijing’s new policies aimed at deterring monopolistic conditions, hence the open platform.”

The Chinese government has cracked down on alleged monopolistic practices by China’s internet tech giants over the past 18 months with fines and new rules. Beijing also enacted a new data privacy law this year. Analysts say policymakers are trying to address issues of income inequality by supporting innovation-led growth.

Baidu said in a statement to CNBC that openness is an inherent part of the company, and that by promoting open source development, applications can be more widely and rapidly adopted.

The company was founded about 22 years ago as an Internet search engine and has since shifted its focus to cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies.

China’s Internet is tightly controlled by the government, with foreign social media sites Facebook and Twitter blocked. Google operated its search engine only for a short time in China.

global metaverse rush

Analysts disagree about how quickly China’s metaverse is evolving compared to the US

Alibaba has a webpage promoting its Metaverse cloud offerings. In November, Tencent chairman Martin Lau said in an earnings call that he expected the Chinese government to support the development of Metaverse technologies, with regulations specific to the Chinese market.

Earlier this month, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said he expects that in two or three years, most virtual meetings will move to the metaverse. Around the same time, Facebook (meta) announced its virtual reality ecosystem, Horizon Worlds, would end its invitation-only phase and be freely available to anyone 18 years of age and older in the US and Canada. Will be done. Users can interact with other avatars and create their own worlds and games in the system.

In the view of Dan Ives, US-based senior equity analyst at Wedbush Securities, “The six-year timeline for Baidu is disappointing to hear for investors and head-scratchers as they will likely miss out on this massive metaverse market for years to come.” ” Ives expects the Metaverse to start monetizing in 2024 and grow in a big way over the next year.

Baidu’s XiRang app demonstrations on Tuesday showed that avatars have inhuman abilities such as sometimes being able to walk through walls or other objects. Some parts of the virtual universe temporarily turn black or purple when the system is loaded.

The app mimics the real world by having avatars walk or take public transportation. Video games typically display a map or offer other features that let users quickly jump to other parts of the virtual game space.

Baidu’s Metaverse concept on XiRang begins with a “Creator City” with a tall skyscraper at the center, according to this visualization shared with reporters on December 21, 2021.


While the Metaverse discussion draws public attention, Chinese state media have published numerous articles on the subject, often about the risk of scandals.

On Thursday, the Chinese government’s Central Disciplinary Commission published an article on its website about the global history of the metaverse. The piece also warned about the risk of unfounded Metaverse propaganda by some companies and the need for financial supervision in the virtual world.

Virtual lands have become a field of speculation in the nascent metaverse.

But Baidu’s XiRang app will not support trading of digital currencies or assets, such as betting on virtual assets, even if it uses the same underlying technologies as blockchain, Ma said.

He is not the only voice of restraint.

Alvin Grelin, China’s president of smartphone and virtual reality company HTC, said development of a full metaverse would take five to ten years, noting that he could not comment on Baidu specifically. “Pieces of the products and services that the Metaverse will include will come very soon.”

“The major challenge of achieving a complete Metaverse ecosystem will be less about the specific technology or products, but more about the underlying infrastructure, international regulatory agreements, and global standards,” Grelin said in an email. “Fulfilling the promise of the metaverse will take a joint global effort between multiple companies and governments.”

Some of the elements the Metaverse urgently needs include tax regulation, and global coverage for high-speed cloud computing, he said.


Nation World News Desk
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