Policy urges further use in entertainment, cultural sectors
(SHI YU / CHINA DAILY)
With many industries actively stepping into the realm of the metaverse, China recently launched its Three-Year Action Plan for the Innovative Development of the Metaverse Industry, which was warmly welcomed by the cultural and entertainment industries.
In September, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the National Radio and Television Administration, the Ministry of Education and the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council jointly issued the action plan spanning the period from 2023 to 2025.
It sets very specific goals for various sectors and strongly supports the wide application of the metaverse — a collective virtual reality space that blurs the lines between the digital and physical worlds — in the entertainment, cultural and tourism sectors.
The action plan encourages cultural sites such as museums to provide immersive experiences for visitors in a digital format. It also urges the TV and entertainment industries to create digital anchors to offer better services for their audiences.
"It's the first national-level policy to support the application of the metaverse," said Zang Zhipeng, an expert with the China Cultural Industry Association.
This year, many provincial-level regions, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Sichuan, released action plans for promoting the development of the metaverse in the cultural and entertainment sectors.
Zang said that these government policies coupled with passionate investors have fueled the development of the metaverse in the cultural industry. Many related programs have been operating successfully at cultural sites and large events across the country.
A visitor checks out metaverse equipment during the 5th China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Examples of the efficient use of metaverse technology have been on display recently.
At the opening ceremony for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, in September, the cauldron was lit by 100 million digital torchbearers as well as those in the physical world. It was the first time that a flame was ignited by an integration of efforts made in the physical and virtual worlds.
And during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, some 30 virtual celebrities took part in cultural activities, including a digital avatar of champion freestyle skier Gu Ailing.
China's television industry, which has actively embraced new technologies, has also shown great enthusiasm for metaverse technology in the past few years.
Last year's New Year celebration galas hosted by online video platforms and TV stations all invited their own virtual stars, either anchors or celebrities, to perform with real stars.
Bilibili, a leading short-video sharing platform popular among young people, devoted 10 minutes of its gala to virtual idol Luo Tianyi, who sang five songs as real dancers performed. Sichuan Television invited a virtual rock band comprising five digital creations based on cultural relics found at the Sanxingdui site in Deyang, Sichuan.
This year, Run for Time, an outdoor reality show produced by Mango TV, attracted millions of viewers by putting celebrities into a virtual world to vie against each other in a series of competitions. The production team also built a virtual city based on a hot tourist destination in Xiamen, Fujian province. Viewers who don VR gaming equipment can fully immerse themselves in that city and participate in competitions that are similar to those featured on the show.
Lu Haibo, chief technology officer at Mango TV, said the metaverse has created new possibilities for the production of reality shows. He added that by using virtual reality technology, it will be possible for entertainers to remotely participate in the recording of the network's reality shows.
Mango TV established a VR department last winter and plans to expand the use of the technology in its productions in an effort to increase interactions with viewers.
People check out the metaverse project of a tourist site in Qiandaohu township, Zhejiang province, in November. (SHE JIANFENG / FOR CHINA DAILY)
Catering to youth
Ji Zhihui, an expert who has observed the metaverse industry for years, said the action plan's launch is based on the lifestyle shift of the nation's youth, who enjoy more online activities such as watching videos, listening to music, making friends and playing games.
"These young people will be the majority of the metaverse's future residents. Our country is making policies for the future generations," Ji said.
In an answer to the nation's call to embrace the digital age, many media groups also created digital employees and hosts.
China Daily unveiled its digital employee Yuanxi in October last year. She was positioned as an explorer and promoter of Chinese culture.
Over the past year, Yuanxi has told the stories behind oracle bone inscriptions, paper cutting techniques, Chinese tea production and porcelain making. She also interviewed delegates to this year's two sessions, the annual meetings of the National People's Congress, the top legislative body, and the CPPCC, the top advisory body, in March.
In April, Yuanxi and Jiayao, a digital ambassador of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu province, collaborated in a video to announce the launch of the Digital Library Cave project. It provides an immersive, interactive experience for visitors with not only a representation of the physical grottoes, but also historical scenes re-created at the caves, where some of the world's best Buddhist art is housed.
Zang, the cultural industry association expert who has kept a close eye on the country's development of the metaverse, said the concept has been widely accepted by cultural institutions across the country, with the central government providing strong policy support.
"Just a year ago, only a few institutions had attempted to build their own metaverses. Now, we can see lots of innovative programs being built across the country," he said.
Zang and dozens of scholars from key universities released a white paper focusing on China's cultural metaverse last month. It said the metaverse can be well integrated with museums and tourism to offer an immersive experience to visitors.
Virtual reality exhibitions and digital docents and spokespeople are now common sights in museums.
Liu Shuguang, head of the Chinese Museums Association, said that more museums are using metaverses to offer high-quality services to visitors.
"Many are cautious about metaverses, but think with policies being launched, more museums will embrace them," Liu said.
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