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VR & AR take center stage at GMIC 2016

Reporter: Martina Fuchs 丨 CCTV.com

04-29-2016 17:00 BJT

One of the world's largest tech events is underway in Beijing. The Global Mobile Internet Conference runs from Thursday through Monday, with entrepreneurs, developers, and investors from around the globe flocking to the Chinese capital.

Point of no return: Virtual and Augmented Reality are the next big thing. As the sector continues to grow at breakneck speed, this year's Global Mobile Internet Conference shows that VR and AR are here to stay.

Visitors at this virtual reality track can experience the latest consumer technologies and gadgets, immersing themselves in a virtual world of live sports events and entertainment shows. The experience is all that counts.

Luxury travel agency Zanadu based in Shanghai allows customers to first virtually experience a far away destination such as the Maldives or Switzerland, before they actually hit the road.

"So we go out into the world and we work with our hotel partners and destinations and resorts together to bring these experiences to Chinese travelers before they even go on a trip," said Dirk Eschenbacher, founding partner of Zanadu.

The concept of virtual reality has been around for many years but major advances are just now starting to take shape. 2016 is seen as the year of ultimate take-off.

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Samsung are just a few of the players heavily investing in VR. Cheaper, more sophisticated, headsets are flooding the market.

French-Chinese company Homido produces headsets that allow one to enter the virtual world through one's smartphone, to watch 3D movies and play games.

More recently, it has developed the Homido Mini VR glasses which you can clip on your mobile phone and put into your pockets. It sells for 15 euros or 110 yuan.

"At Homido we're launching lots of new products, we will have a whole range of VR headsets. We are also investing a lot in content because we're mostly doing hardware. But obvsiouly it's all about content. Without content you cannot use your hardware," said Raphael Seghier, co-founder of Homido.

HAX, is one of the world's biggest hardware investment companies based in the so-called "Hollywood of Electronics" in China's Shenzhen.

"The challenge really is differentiation. What do you have that's better than others have? Because fundamentally, the basic is really a good screen, a headset, so what do you build on top of that? Can you build better reaction, can you build autonomy with processing inside it? Can you build 3D sound, can you build eye tracking? Can you recognize natural gestures for controlling instead of having some kind of joysticks?" said Benjamin Joffe, general partner of Hax.

Research firm TrendForce says virtual reality hardware and software will be a 70 billion US dollar annual industry as soon as 2020. Of that, VR hardware will bring in about 20 billion US dollars with software accounting for 50 billion US dollars.

It estimates that more than 200 million headsets will be sold by that date. But no matter the pace, immersive technology will increasingly turn the virtual world into our everyday reality.

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