Metaverse Frenzy Spreads to Asia

Metaverse Frenzy Spreads to Asia

by January 17, 2022

The metaverse frenzy is sweeping across Asia, attracting interest from tech giants, electronics manufacturers and investors.

At CES 2022, an annual consumer electronics trade show that took place earlier this month, Asian firms ranging from LG and Panasonic to automotive manufacturer Hyundai, showcased their latest developments on metaverse technologies, demonstrating their ambition to play a key role in this futurist reality.

South Korean electronics company LG presented several metaverse startups it is working with under an incubation program, including iQ3, a company that builds applications and services for enterprises in the metaverse, and I3M, which specializes in immersive digital experiences. LG’s partnership with I3M revolves around developing technology for “hyper-realistic virtual travel and tourism.”

Automaker Hyundai introduced “metamobility,” a concept that blends smart devices with the metaverse to “expand the role of mobility to virtual reality (VR),” and shared its vision of how robots will act as a medium between the real world and virtual spaces, enabling users to make changes in the metaverse to be reflected in reality.

Meanwhile, Japanese electronics firm Panasonic showcased a number of new products including MeganeX, an ultra-lightweight and ultra-compact VR glasses, and Haritora X, a US$270 body suit that tracks waist and leg movements.

The metaverse, a concept that refers to a shared, immersive virtual environment facilitated by the use of VR and augmented reality (AR) headsets, has become one of the hottest trends in technology, a frenzy that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts and industry observers have argued that the concept could be the next evolution of the Internet.

One research firm estimates that the metaverse market, which includes gaming, VR headsets, other gadgets and online services, reached US$48 billion in 2020 and will grow by more than 40% each year between 2020 and 2027.

Tech leaders jump on the metaverse bandwagon

Bigtechs including Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba are all investing in different pieces of that future.

Tencent has invested in Roblox, a leading gaming company that’s building a metaverse, and Epic Games. ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, has acquired VR company Pico; and NetEase, an Internet technology firm, is backing metaverse social network IMVU.

In December 2021, leading Chinese search provider Baidu opened its metaverse to the public, allowing users to interact and visit virtual locations through avatars, reported Nikkei Asia.

Image Credit: JingDaily

Known as XiRang, the environment can be accessed using smartphones and personal computers, and is able to support up to 100,000 users at a time. XiRang features the so-called Creator City where people can host meetings and other events. It also recreated attractions such as China’s Shaolin Temple.

E-commerce giant Alibaba, which has invested more than US$1 billion into AR and VR-related startups over the year, is betting on virtual meetings and workplace activities. The firm’s workplace app, called DingTalk, is planning to launch new AR glasses that would allow users to conduct virtual meetings in the metaverse, reports the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Investors snap up virtual land

In Hong Kong where housing is scarce and expensive, interest in virtual land has soared amongst real estate moguls and property investors, pushing valuations to new heights.

Andrew Man, an investment professional at a public property investment company, said he also bought land in The Sandbox. Of the three plots he owns, one has nearly quadrupled in value in the space of a few short weeks, he told the SCMP last month.

Jason Au, director of the Nasdaq-listed investment firm Troops, is another avid buyer of digital land, having purchased a handful of big plots in Decentraland, another popular metaverse platform.

Hong Kong’s infatuation for virtual land is further evidenced by the series of new partnerships The Sandbox unveiled earlier this month. Teaming up with local partners from the entertainment, acting, professional services, finance, real estate, and gaming sectors, the startup is looking to create the so-called Mega City, a cultural hub aimed at showcasing the talent of Hong Kong.

Investors and partners involved in the project include Adrian Cheng, a businessman and the CEO and executive vice-chairman of Hong Kong-listed New World Development, PwC Hong Kong, Stephen Fung and Shi Qi, two award-winning entertainment stars, and Dough-Boy@BlueArk, an award-winning artist and music producer.

A fertile ground for metaverse adoption

According to Yat Siu, chairman and founder of Animoca Brands, a Hong Kong-based company behind The Sandbox, Asia’s high smartphone penetration, young, digital native population, and massive gaming community make the region poised to become a leader in metaverse adoption.

“Gaming readiness is one of the characteristics that make Asia the ideal metaverse adoption market. Most of the world’s gamers are located in Asia, and the region has a strong online and social presence,” he told DealStreetAsia in a recent interaction. “Gamers have a good understanding of virtual worlds and digital assets, which represents a powerful advantage for the region as it enter the metaverse.”

In 2021, of the 3.24 billion gamers worldwide, 1.48 billion were located in Asia, making the region the largest market for video gaming in the world, data from Statista show.

China, Japan, South Korea and India are the leading gaming markets in Asia, but Southeast Asian nations, including Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia are quickly following suit. According to Dutch games and esports analytics company Newzoo, 82% of Southeast Asia’s urban online population are gamers.