It's understood by most in the industry that the biggest VR technology players are Facebook, HTC, Sony and Samsung. But that may be changing soon.
For the most part, Western partnerships, Japanese and Korean companies have dominated the scene. HTC's partnership with Valve has enabled it to bring amazing technology to the Western market, but the ball still largely has stayed with the court of non-Chinese companies. However, the Chinese government has repeatedly expressed the desire to become a world leader in AI and VR, as well as other emerging technologies, and its vast number of state-funded research programs may just enable that future. Let's take a look at some of the reasons why:
1. The number of VR technology startups
There's an ever-increasing of VR hardware and software startups springing up in China. Two of the four HTC Vive accelerators are located in China and the total VR investment in 2015 and 2016 reached 4 billion RMB ($593 million USD) according to TechNode. The government has also enacted its "Internet Plus" action plan, lighting a new fire within prospective entrepreneurs in the nation as they eye increased funding opportunities and state partnerships. According to the China Electronics Standardization Institute, China’s virtual-reality market is slated to grow to over $7.9 billion USD (55 billion yuan) by 2020.
2. New VR innovations
The birth of these new companies, has led to an immense wave of new VR tech bound for cities across the world. Some of the most impressive products we've seen to date include the Insta360, an affordable 360 camera for smartphones, Noitom's Hi5 VR glove that adds finger-level precision to VR experiences, and the TPCAST, a wireless device that enables the HTC Vive headset to go completely wireless.
3. Experimental new projects
China is renowned for prototyping some pretty wild technologies and ideas, but whether any them have come to fruition is up for debate. VR is no exception to this, with some proposed VR projects being so outrageous that minds across the world will be blown if they're ever pulled off. One such project is Donghu VR Town, an entire city constructed in the south of China where ever facet of daily life, from shopping to entertainment to medical visits are all based on VR technology.
VR is taking China by storm. The number of VR arcades in China today numbers in the thousands, with HTC's own "Viveport Arcade" leading the pack. Chinese e-learning companies, such as NetDragon, are also developing VR technology for classrooms around the country with the goal of making it a staple of the modern Chinese education system. In China, VR presents an opportunity for the infinite scaling of content and software over large numbers of users, which is an undoubtedly an attractive quality of VR for investors as China's population nears 1.5 billion.
Although many of the ground-breaking technological advancements in VR are coming out of Western institutions and startups, China should not be overlooked by anyone watching the unfurling story of VR as the industry crawls out of it's early stages of development into mainstream adoption.