In a year that seems more "virtual" than ever, with the world struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, China is embracing the booming virtual reality (VR) industry and making it more real in terms of integrating this technology in various fields to envision a better-off and safer society.
The 2020 World Conference on VR Industry kicked off on Monday in Nanchang, capital of East China's Jiangxi province. The two-day event focused on the key and common problems in VR industry development, discussed industry trends and solutions, and illustrated the latest achievements in the field.
This year's conference has prompted businesses to sign projects with contracted amounts totaling 66.2 billion yuan (about $10 billion), according to organizers.
More applications, deeper integration
VR technology has been exposed to the public in more fields in the past years, such as gaming, livestreaming, shopping, and tourism. Besides these familiar life scenarios, it is also integrating with other significant industries.
More than 160 exhibitors, including Huawei and Microsoft, have presented their products and projects on VR, AR (augmented reality), and MR (mixed reality) technologies at an expo during the conference.
Jiangxi Copper Corporation Limited presented its VR application scenarios at the expo. Staff can monitor mining sites, whose images can be projected on screens in VR form, inside their offices.
With such a vivid and intelligent approach, the company said they could increase the qualified rates of selected copper grade and sulfur grade by 11.34 percent and 4.43 percent, respectively.
The application of VR in the mining process not only drives the working efficiency but also ensures the safety of workers. As technologies create a better life for humankind, the VR industry is no exception, especially in healthcare fields.
It has brought more possibilities to medics. Wearing VR glasses, a doctor can clearly see lung images, even fine structures, of COVID-19 patients in three dimensions.
Telemedicine has undergone rapid development based on 5G, VR, and other technologies in this extraordinary year, as such methods play a significant role in treating critical COVID-19 patients.
The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University and Jiangxi Suojian Technology Limited Company, a VR enterprise, inked an agreement in 2018 to establish a VR medical innovation lab. Medical staff and students have access to an app which gathers clinical cases and then have virtual practices any time they select a case, said Li Weicai, chairman of the company.
"In the field of medical education, virtual simulation teaching is applied to the skills training of students, enhancing their knowledge and improving teaching," said Wang Yunyun, with the education department of the hospital.
The VR industry cannot survive without the support of infrastructure construction. Ongoing 5G construction has laid solid foundations for the future development of the VR industry, said Ke Ruiwen, chairman of China Telecom.
China has now built over 600,000 5G base stations, and the number of connected devices on the network has exceeded 150 million, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Wang Zhijun, vice-minister of MIIT, said the ministry would help facilitate the high-quality development of China's VR industry, accelerating the industrial integration of VR with other technologies, such as 5G and artificial intelligence. It would also help with promoting industrial agglomeration and deepening international cooperation to achieve win-win results in the global market.
Industry not virtual but real
The VR industry is getting more real, as industry leaders diligently develop equipment and devices to meet the technological standards for better user experiences.
Zhang Yong, CEO of Alibaba Group, said that VR and many aspects of society are changing, and many scenarios in science fiction are becoming a reality.
Huawei, Microsoft, and other enterprises presented their new VR devices during the conference. He Gang, head of Huawei's mobile phone product line, unveiled a VR glass game set and said Huawei would release more high-quality VR games and applications in the future.
"We cannot live without VR or AR in an intelligent world, as they can improve production efficiency," He said. "Now, students can wear special glasses to 'walk' into a specific simulation site in real-time to understand how chemical reactions occur and understand the essence of the phenomena."
According to the think tank CCID under the MIIT, China will likely ship 8.2 million VR devices in 2020, with more than 25 million users.
What is more realistic about the VR industry is also manifested in its growing value.
Besides the 66.2 billion yuan in contracts this year, during the conferences in the previous two years, a total of 261 projects were inked, worth 128.4 billion yuan.
Ren Aiguang, an official with the MIIT, mentioned China's VR industry has also faced obstacles despite rapid growth, such as an immature business model and shortages of professional and versatile talents.
China has witnessed a maturing and expanding VR industry as the country pushes for the high-quality development and extensive application of new technologies. According to the MIIT, China's VR market will amount to 54.45 billion yuan by 2021.