Baidu joins metaverse bandwagon with ‘Land of Hope’, an app for the tech giant’s AI conference
- The internet search giant said the Xi Rang app can host 100,000 participants at once and will be the first metaverse platform to host a Chinese conference
- Baidu joins peers like Tencent and NetEase in touting its metaverse prowess, as Chinese state media warns against hype of the concept
Baidu’s first metaverse product, called the Land of Hope, will launch later this month, as the Chinese internet search giant joins its peers in a rush to develop the technology that is already drawing critical attention from Beijing.
The new metaverse app, known as Xi Rang in Chinese, will launch on December 27 as a virtual site for the Beijing-based company’s three-day artificial intelligence (AI) developers’ conference this year, Baidu said in a statement on Friday.
This will be the first Chinese conference to be held in a metaverse space, the tech firm said. It also boasted that its platform would be able to handle 100,000 participants interacting at the same time.
“The metaverse is still in a very early stage of development,” said Ma Jie, vice-president of Baidu and head of Xi Rang, adding that it will take a long time for the whole community to build and improve it together.
The metaverse has drummed up a lot of hype this year as some have heralded it as the next iteration of the internet. The technology can be loosely defined as a shared immersive 3D space where people interact virtually.
The concept gained more widespread attention in October, when Facebook renamed itself Meta. The company said on Thursday that it will open its virtual reality (VR) product Horizon Worlds to anyone older than 18 years old in the US and Canada.
Amid heightened excitement of the metaverse, companies around the world have voiced commitment to the concept.
Chinese tech giants, especially gaming giants Tencent Holdings and NetEase, have sought to assure investors of their interest in the nascent market, which is projected to be worth US$800 billion by 2024, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. China’s three state-owned telecoms companies – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – also partnered in November with several tech companies to form the Metaverse Industry Committee, China’s first industry group dedicated to the concept.
However, Chinese firms have remained more cautious in their endorsements of the metaverse amid signs that it could be a politically sensitive topic. A state-backed think tank has warned about national security risks associated with the metaverse, and a state-run newspaper said investors should not pour money into the “immature” concept.
Ni Zewang, chairman of state-backed investment firm Shenzhen Capital Group, said in an interview last week that the metaverse is unable to create value “without an actual application scenario”. He suggested that the market was in bubble territory and that it could hurt the development of the industry.
When launched, Xi Rang will be one of the first Chinese metaverse products to make it to market. Baidu said the virtual world is a Wonderland-like planet, where users can encounter monks trained in Shaolin kung fu and cartoon characters like Transformers’ Optimus Prime.
Baidu’s metaverse efforts are aimed at developing an engine that can also provide AI and cloud computing capabilities to other metaverse products, the company said.
Author: Che Pan, SCMP