Cook coincides with Ma Huateng

On June 21, Tencent established an XR division. On the same day, 36 technology companies including Meta, Microsoft, Huawei, Alibaba, Nvidia, and Qualcomm jointly created an organization called “Metaverse Standards Forum”, whose members include chip manufacturers, game companies, and existing standards-setting organizations such as W3C. .

Interestingly, neither Tencent nor Apple participated.

Ma Huateng once wrote at the end of 2020 that the mobile Internet has developed for ten years and is about to usher in the next wave of upgrades, which we call the true Internet; Cook said in an exclusive interview with Time magazine in September 2021: Compared with The so-called “Metaverse”, more willing to call it augmented reality AR.

The full truth and reality of the two seem to coincide a bit, but they are obviously different from the virtual world created by Meta that is completely out of reality. This is also the battle over the line of the future Metaverse: from real to virtual or from virtual to real?

However, Tencent’s new XR department this time has made it clear that it will officially launch its efforts on this track, and Apple’s XR (mixed reality) headset will be launched in 2023 at the latest. The software and hardware confrontation between the two in the XR field is foreseeable.

As the intersection of the virtual and the real in the Metaverse, XR has attracted global technology giants to deploy in this field, and has gradually established a whole industry chain ecosystem from hardware, software, content, applications to services. Is it too late for Tencent to enter the game now? What are the odds?

Tencent enters the game, and the Metaverse gathers “big guys”

Although the Metaverse combines various labels such as “next-generation core technology” and “future strategic commanding heights”, there are irreconcilable differences in the industry’s views on the Metaverse, and they criticize and question each other.

At present, in the sluggish global economy and lack of innovation driving force, and the Internet ecology has developed to its limits, technology companies have not had a good time this year. Even Apple, which has always been big-eyed, has fallen about 23% since the beginning of the year.

Therefore, everyone is eager for a “new ecology” that can lead the next ten years and decades. Therefore, no matter what they say, the giants have already ended in fact, and they have deployed their own advantages in the Metaverse.

Tencent’s official entry this time means that all the heavyweight players with “1 billion users” in China and the United States have gathered. At present, there are 3 enterprises at the “1 billion user” level in China, namely Ali, Tencent and Byte, and 5 in the United States, namely Apple, Microsoft, Google, Meta, and Amazon.

In addition, Samsung, Huawei, Baidu, Sony, Qualcomm, Nvidia, etc. In general, the five major fields of the Metaverse (underlying technology, ecological application, platform technology, terminal industry, and network technology) all have representative companies.

It is not a coincidence that 36 technology companies around the world are co-creating the “Metaverse Standard Forum” at this moment.

Cook coincides with Ma Huateng

Behind the intense gongs and drums, the growth of the Metaverse has entered a new stage of development.The technical route and evolution logic that has been unclear for a long time, as well as the battle for imported hardware, are expected to get the exact answer at this stage.

According to Deloitte’s analysis, the Metaverse includes four stages of development: budding, inception, maturity, and finality. The embryonic stage is from 2016 to 2020. At that time, the concept of Metaverse did not appear, but different industries are carrying out some attempts to online, digitize and virtualize a single point of technology, so it can be considered as the prototype of the Metaverse.

The period from 2021 to 2030 is the initial stage of the Metaverse, which will lay the basic technical framework and key equipment for its ecology.

Tencent Ma Xiaoyi also believes that “some key technologies to realize the Metaverse will be available on a large scale between 2025 and 2027, and the real rollout will take until 2030.”

The focus of this phase is to enable the development of platform infrastructure and key connected devices, such as XR headsets.

XR (extended reality) refers to the combination of real and virtual through computer technology to create a virtual environment for human-computer interaction. It is the collective name and collection of VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), and MR (Mixed Reality). From the perspective of product form, the basic functions of XR head display include “display + interaction + computing”, and at the same time, it has excellent wearability and brings a sense of immersion.

Whether it is the only entrance to the Metaverse is difficult to determine at present, but XR is the most frequently used hardware in the Metaverse in the future, and there is not much controversy.

Therefore, at present, global Internet manufacturers regard VR as an extension of their original business, and terminal hardware manufacturers regard AR as a new opportunity for the next-generation terminal revolution. Therefore, there is an argument that the groundbreaking significance of XR is comparable to that of personal computers and smartphones.

The development of XR has reached an industry inflection point similar to the eve of the launch of the Iphone 4.

Cook coincides with Ma Huateng

According to IDC data, the total global shipments of XR headsets in 2021 will be 11.2 million units, which has already reached the industry development that Zuckerberg mentioned “with more than 10 million units shipped, the market potential is enough to drive developers’ continued investment” inflection point.

Counterpoint predicts that XR shipments will grow to 105 million units in 2025, and will enter an explosive period in 2022, because this will be the year with the most new XR product releases.

There are various signs that XR has come to “the eve of a full-scale outbreak”. But is Tencent’s entry too late at this time? Industry insiders expressed such concerns.

As a software company, hardware has always been Tencent’s weakness. In recent years, although the self-developed Xingxinghai server and intelligent operation and maintenance robot and other hardware products have been launched and achieved good results, compared with Microsoft, Meta, Google, etc., Tencent has not come up with any influential products. VR/AR hardware products, and lost to Byte in the bidding for VR equipment company Pico.

However, in November last year, Tencent, which has always been conservative in technology disclosure, told analysts that there are many “technologies and capabilities” to approach the “Metaverse”, but did not disclose specific details.

On the eve of the outbreak, the global battle is about to emerge

Under the metaphor of “changing the world”, the grand evolution of the Metaverse is not comparable to any business concept in the past. It requires the gradual implementation of technologies such as XR, AI, NLP, video rendering, and cloud virtualization, as well as the continuous follow-up of technologies such as machine learning, computer vision, human-computer interaction, and the Industrial Internet, as well as network, computing power, display, and chips. The continuous iteration and evolution of basic-level technologies.

The reason why XR is called the “next-generation computing platform” is precisely because it is the master of key technologies in the computing era, and the road to realization is quite difficult.

Cook coincides with Ma Huateng

Take Apple as an example, its XR headset has been ill-fated and has yet to be released.

This project has been in development since 2015, and was originally planned to be announced in 2019 and publicly available in 2020. But it has been postponed until today.

The device faced a number of challenges during development. For example, there are a number of technical hurdles for developers to find attractive enough apps and content, including hardware overheating and how to improve the camera on the device.

Apple has also been working on AR versions of its core iPhone apps, as well as new apps that can handle tasks like streaming live immersive content and holding virtual meetings, but it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

However, Tencent, the new rival of Apple’s XR track, has already broken through the industry bottleneck of virtual video conference scale, and can support 1 million users online at the same time in a single room. It can be seen that the “technology and ability” that it emphasizes close to the Metaverse is not a lie.

An internal outflow of Tencent data shows that its “Data Vientiane” product can support all formats of pictures, audio and video processing, and achieve a picture compression rate of 99%, which can greatly reduce the data processing burden in the “full true interconnection” scenario. In terms of computing power, Tencent Cloud has also launched self-developed chips for three scenarios, including AI computing, video processing, and high-performance networks.

The data also shows that Tencent has made extensive deployments in basic technology fields such as real-time communication, audio and video, and holographic technology. And realized the three major technological innovations of “unlimited computing power, real-time processing, and extreme transmission”.

In April of this year, Ma Xiaoyi also said: At present, the technical roadmap of human-machine interface is very clear. Except for the battery that is limited, almost all other aspects have solutions, and they are all in progress.

The general manager of Tencent XR is Ma Xiaoyi, who is executed by NExT Shen Li. It is reported that Shen Li joined Tencent in 2013 and has been in charge of NExT studio since 2017.

This is not Shen Li’s first exposure to XR. In 2016, Shen Li once said: The VR industry has completed a breakthrough from 0 to 1. Although there are still some problems from 1 to N, they will be solved one by one with the advancement of technology.

At the time, he also said that Tencent Interactive Entertainment has been trying to make VR games since 2015.

According to insiders, the XR department also includes Shall, the only 16-level female scientist at Tencent, who is also the head of the multimedia laboratory. The laboratory has been committed to enhancing the sense of immersion through technological innovations that increase visual information, and to explore “full-real interconnection”.

It can be said that Tencent has made the most adequate preparations for the early realization of the vision of “all-true interconnection”. Data shows that as of September 2021, Tencent also ranks first in the world in patent applications in the virtual reality industry.

Cook coincides with Ma Huateng

However, the Quest2 headset from Meta’s main evangelist, Meta, currently dominates the market absolutely, accounting for about 78% of global sales in 2021. And an XR headset similar to Apple’s is expected to launch in the next few months.

This is a big challenge for Tencent.

Apple’s multiple AR/VR headset patents were also announced by the US Patent and Trademark Office last month. Patently Apple disclosed more than 349 patents, and the Apple realityOS trademark is also quietly being registered.

realityOS is an operating system based on AR/VR devices, which will be powered by Apple’s XR headset.

When the Apple XR headset is finally launched, foreign media believe it will dominate the market. This will undoubtedly intensify the competition between Apple and other technology companies including Tencent, and the global competition is almost ready to emerge.

Between the virtual and the real, where is the digital world heading?

Earlier this year, well-known whistleblower Mark Gurman said that the idea of ​​​​the Metaverse is a “no-go area” within Apple, which is completely different from Meta’s strategy.

Cook has also said more than once: I am very excited about what augmented reality (AR) can bring. This is the superposition of the virtual world and the real world, which will not distract people from the real world and the relationship between reality, but strengthen the relationship and cooperation between each other.

On the contrary, Meta’s vision is to strive to build a parallel completely virtual universe outside the physical world, even beyond the offline online world.

These are the two main directions of the development of the Metaverse, and of course it is also a battle of routes: First, from the real to the virtual, based on the imitation of the real world by the virtual world, emphasizing the digitization of real experience. The second is to move from the virtual to the real, detach from the imitation of the real world, and form a value system independent of the real world.

However, the essence of the route battle is the “entry” hardware battle.

Apple has been trying to build at least three major hardware (iPhone, iPad, AR headset) and a software ecosystem to solve Apple’s “slowing growth” problem.

Different from Apple, which has strong hardware genes, Meta mainly focuses on virtual reality VR headsets in specific technology, and it is also the entrance to the Meta Metaverse. To put it simply, Zalbok wants to replace mobile phones with VR devices and become the carrier of next-generation traffic.

Tencent’s “full-real interconnection” is more inclined to augmented reality (AR), emphasizing the introduction of real scene information (or vice versa) in a virtual environment. It digitizes part or all of the physical environment that the user is in, and builds an interactive feedback information loop between the virtual world, the real world and the user, thereby enhancing the realism of the user experience.

This requires a system that can mix the real world with virtual information without distortion, known as mixed reality (MR). MR combines the characteristics of VR and AR, and can build a bridge between the virtual world and the real world.

In fact, from the perspective of the XR (extended reality) direction of the layout of Tencent, Apple and even Qualcomm, it is to integrate virtual and reality, to combine the two, and even the landing scene is very close.

According to an Apple patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March, one scenario is described as follows: With the support of the system, a doctor can directly receive a brain scan image of another hospital patient in real time in the headset, and can change it. The perspective and information of the image.

Cook coincides with Ma Huateng

The information flowing out of Tencent also has similar descriptions of medical scenarios: “Cloud-based” medical imaging workstations, relying on real-time image rendering technology, provide a possible new solution for cloud-based integrated processing, analysis and diagnosis of medical big data.

This document also describes the application of “full-real interconnection” in industrial scenarios: the TRRO solution can realize one-to-many centralized remote control of vehicles, and control the mine trucks in the Ordos mining area 1500km away in real time from the cockpit in Wuhan, with a delay of only 0.1 seconds .

The above three scenarios are very close to the definition of mixed reality, but the exact technical route of each company can only be accurately judged after the product is launched.

Apple and Tencent also have a common feature, that is, the fundamentals of the two companies determine that it is impossible to rely on the existing Metaverse ecology.

For a long time, Apple has established a strong position in the field of consumer electronics by relying on its control of the hardware industry chain and building a closed-source ecosystem through multiple ports.Tencent has also established a unique ecosystem by virtue of the strong influence of social platforms such as QQ and WeChat and the number one position of games in the world for many years.

Cook coincides with Ma Huateng

This is also one of the reasons why Tencent XR is built under the game department, and the new “entrance” naturally brings new increments. From the broader application level of XR, the main ones for the consumer side (To C) are games, social networking, live broadcast, etc.

But the main reason lies in the technical attributes of the game, which are closest to the requirements of the “Metaverse” or “full-real interconnection” building blocks, such as image rendering, immersive experience, virtual simulation, etc. Tencent’s systematic and large-scale game R&D team has far more technical accumulation in 3D engine, cloud computing, 3D content, virtual economy, AI and other aspects than other platforms.

For example, the Unreal engine of Epic Games, a game developer in which Tencent holds a 48% stake, is considered to be the top engine tool necessary for creating virtual worlds.

And Tencent is already building a “super digital scene.” In early 2021, Ma Xiaoyi first proposed this concept.In his explanation, a game is a technology-driven digital scene with a wide range of possibilities, and in the future, there will be more interaction possibilities between games and reality, thus constituting a “super digital scene”.

The Metaverse in the narrow sense is generally limited to the virtual world, so Ma Xiaoyi believes that in this sense, the Metaverse is a subset of the “super digital scene”.

Therefore, Tencent’s “all-true interconnection” world may be larger. Tencent’s chief scientist Zhang Zhengyou also said: All-true interconnection means connecting everything and connecting the virtual and the real.

In fact, it doesn’t matter what it is called, what matters is what it achieves. The overall architecture design of 6G, which is the first in China’s mobile industry, also provides some possibility for Chinese enterprises to take a step forward in the digital world.

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