How far is the metaverse from us

  Young entrepreneurs rush into the game and work together to run through the entire industry chain

  A meeting about "Metaverse" was held in the conference room of the Management Committee of Hefei Xinzhan High-tech Zone not long ago.

  Although it was a less "official" meeting that didn't even attract the attention of the local media, it was the first time that young entrepreneurs scattered in various fields gathered in the name of "metaverse".

After the meeting, they couldn't wait to set up the "Metaverse Communication" WeChat group to meet for regular contact in the future.

  The theme of the seminar was "Metaverse-Virtual Reality Project". At the meeting, more than 10 young people from the government, universities, and industries launched a big discussion across virtual and reality.

Many participants believed that this was the first multi-participation metaverse conference held in Hefei.

Topics such as Metaverse industry development status, future trends, hardware and software "stuck neck" pain points, and talent introduction were put on the table for discussion for the first time.

  2021 is called the first year of the Metaverse. This science-fiction concept is causing a global wave. It not only triggers the transformation of entrepreneurs' thinking, the adjustment of corporate strategies, but also affects the industries of governments at all levels. planning.

In the past year, Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of Facebook to "Meta" and devoted himself to the development of the Metaverse. Internet technology giants at home and abroad rushed to the Metaverse and took the lead.

  What is the Metaverse?

The "Metaverse Development Research Report Version 2.0" released by the team of Professor Shenyang of the New Media Research Center of the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University explained that it is a combination and upgrade of various new technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data, resulting in a virtual reality. Integration of Internet applications and social forms.

  Some industry insiders predict that the metaverse is the next "ecological-level" technology mainline, and human beings will be able to reach a wider space.

  At the beginning of this year, the Small and Medium Enterprises Bureau of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology proposed to focus on cultivating a group of innovative small and medium-sized enterprises that enter emerging fields such as Metaverse, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.

At present, Wuhan, Hefei, and Shanghai Xuhui District have written "Metaverse" into the government work report, and proposed to speed up the layout of related industries and demonstration areas.

  From "starting by innovation" to "being home by innovation", in recent years, Hefei's strategic emerging industry layout has been "out of the circle" across the country, and "chip-screen auto integration and life-long wisdom" has become its new phenomenon-level industrial landmark.

Today, the curtain of the Metaverse has been quietly opened. How to bring the "tall" sci-fi concept of the Metaverse to the ground, and then promote the implementation of the industry, build core technologies, and attract key talents?

Can it add another spark of youth to the development of Hefei's rapidly growing science and technology industry?

A reporter from China Youth Daily and China Youth Daily conducted in-depth research.

  Virtual human: another "me" on the screen

  The "Metaverse Development Research Report Version 2.0" pointed out that virtual humans are an important element in the metaverse. In the metaverse society, natural humans, virtual humans, and robots coexist together, and virtual humans expand the capabilities of natural humans in virtual space.

  In Anhui Qingbo Big Data Technology Co., Ltd., the task of receiving visitors is undertaken by a virtual "little sister" dressed in professional attire on the big screen.

Her name is "Xiaoyue", and she is both a company instructor and an image spokesperson.

Users upload any PPT, "Xiaoyue" can help explain.

In corporate image promotion, news release, virtual anchor, virtual office, brand marketing and other scenarios, "Xiaoyue" can appear in different images to achieve different functional requirements.

  With the help of wearable devices, reporters from China Youth Daily and China Youth Daily experienced a capture-driven "virtual human" that the company just released in May this year.

Through visual communication and action expression, people can control the expressions and actions of the virtual human, and the virtual human imitates and replicates another "me" in real time on the screen.

The reporter noticed that the facial expressions, portrait details, and even each strand of hair of each virtual person are very realistic, like a "high imitation" real person.

  Zhu Xuqi, general manager of Qingbo Anhui, introduced that AI-driven without human performance, inertia-driven wearable devices, and pure camera vision-driven constitute the current mainstream model driven by virtual humans in the metaverse.

With the continuous development and popularization of drive technology, people wear equipment to perform corresponding actions, and the equipment can transmit the collected data to the virtual human, so that it can imitate human beings to perform teaching and interpretation.

Virtual humans can learn Taijiquan, dance, talk show, intangible cultural heritage skills, etc., to help cultural inheritance and protection, and different driving modes meet the needs of different virtual human market scenarios.

The company's technicians can define and modify the appearance, expressions and actions of the virtual person through 3D face modeling, and constantly modify the details to meet the personalized needs of different customers for the virtual image.

  This company, which is deeply involved in AI and big data technology, has opened up a new track for Metaverse intelligent services since October last year.

The company's original virtual human productivity service platform "Yuanwa" provides support for the operation of virtual human software and gives virtual human a brain with massive data learning ability.

  At present, the development of the virtual human industry has entered the fast lane.

Zhu Xuqi used an analogy: "The Metaverse is an upgraded version of the Internet, and a virtual human is like a web page after 'upgrade and evolution'. Web pages carry important functions such as information display, search interaction, and service experience in Internet life, and there are various design styles. The way of presenting technology and technology belongs to the Internet infrastructure; the virtual human similarly integrates high-end service interfaces such as emotional action exchange, information interaction, and dialogue understanding in the Metaverse. It has various appearances and different driving modes, and belongs to the Metaverse infrastructure. "

  According to his analysis, the virtual human entrepreneurial path can be roughly divided into two categories: one is "soul to physical", which first develops key technologies such as content semantic understanding and dialogue mechanism, and then tries to build a virtual human physical carrier; the other is from "physical body". To the soul", mainly from game design and character modeling, such as game film and television animation and other companies, the main direction is to create a perfect figurative "virtual idol".

  "In addition to the skin, the 'interesting soul' - the core AI technology is also very important. The virtual human image can be switched at any time with one click, and the product is cost-effective. This is our entrepreneurial goal, and we also need to achieve SaaS (out of the box), It's as simple as registering for an online mailbox." In the blueprint of the 14-year-old veteran, the virtual human "little assistant" will appear on the screen of any medium in the future.

Interaction is also not a mechanical process of "input command - output action", but a natural communication like human beings.

  iFLYTEK Co., Ltd., a leading intelligent voice and artificial intelligence company located in Hefei, is now also a virtual human business partner of Qingbo Big Data.

In the iFLYTEK virtual human family, AI virtual anchors and AI virtual digital humans that integrate technologies such as speech recognition, semantic understanding, speech synthesis, and avatar drive have come out one after another. The 3D virtual human "Bingbing" was even explained at the Beijing Winter Olympics. "Out of the circle".

Based on this, the two parties have carried out in-depth cooperation on technologies such as voice simulation to enhance the core competitiveness of products.

  Digital collections are about to become another growth point

  The virtual human is the main body of the digital economy of the Metaverse. It can extend the use value and carry out activities such as social interaction and transactions necessary for social life. The objects of transaction can be digital assets, ranging from houses to small clothes. Digital collections, the Metaverse thus forms an economic closed loop.

  In March of this year, Qingbo and a traditional liquor company jointly released digital collections, and the virtual wine bottle became the certificate of collection qualification. After users buy it, it is equivalent to holding a merchant membership card and enjoying discounts and other benefits.

The collection was snapped up instantly after it was launched, causing heated discussions in the industry.

  The "2020-2021 Annual Report on China's Digital Publishing Industry" released by the China Press and Publication Research Institute shows that in 2020, the IP transformation market combined with film and television, e-commerce, games, trendy games, secret rooms, and script killing has reached more than 580 billion yuan.

Digital collections are about to become another growth point for the publishing industry.

  Leveraging the technology of the Metaverse Research Laboratory, Qingbo began to engage in the digital collection business at the beginning of this year.

Huang Yuanyuan, the founder of the company born in the 1990s, is now a "new Hefei native". In the cooperation cases she posted in real time in the circle of friends, more and more brand companies have included digital collections in their marketing plans.

  She explained that digital collections are the symbol of blockchain and virtual assets in the metaverse, "this is a kind of migration of marketing methods, which migrates goods from the original media and e-commerce platforms to the 'chain'".

  "We generally cooperate with media, publishing houses and other units, as well as film and television dramas, sports events, calligraphy and painting exhibitions and other activities to publish collections, and at the same time publish cultural and creative collections in the cultural and fashion categories that are popular among young people, which is also an emerging cultural communication method. "Huang Yuanyuan said that digital collections have the characteristics of uniqueness, traceability, non-tampering, and verifiable rights. Before distribution, they must go through a series of processes such as digital collection planning, digital creation, and confirmation of distribution objects.

  "On the one hand, companies hope to use digital collections to innovate content marketing methods, increase user participation and loyalty, and attract young audiences at the same time." Huang Yuanyuan revealed that the company is currently planning to cooperate with local companies to issue digital collections to attract more young people. Users understand Hefei's cultural history and urban development.

  Digital Twin: Connecting Real and Virtual Spaces

  The technology chain of Metaverse extends to all walks of life. Among them, "digital twin" is closely related to enterprise management and social governance, involving smart cities, transportation, energy and other fields.

The national "14th Five-Year Plan" clearly proposes to explore the construction of digital twin cities.

  Zhongguo Qingnian Bao-China Youth Net reporter recently (Anhui team) learned is located in Hefei Shushan Economic Development Zone 51WORLD company, several waves of users online reservation 51MEET enterprise-level meta-universe application freshly baked.

In the virtual 3D meeting space, meeting the required lines under sofas, tables, lounges, waiting areas, recreation areas readily available, Logo, decorative, PPT content can be replaced at any time.

  Under the influence of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, users can participate in online immersive meetings, take photos, train and preach by choosing personalized "virtual people".

Therefore, 51WORLD and Qingbo Big Data have also become upstream and downstream partners of the Metaverse industry chain.

  51WORLD's main track - the establishment of a digital twin platform and application ecology.

"Digital twin is the entry-level technology of the Metaverse. Without this technology, virtual space and real space cannot be connected." Wang Ya, general manager of 51WORLD Anhui and Fujian Region, mentioned that the company's core technology research and development personnel account for more than 65%, and through computer graphics It can reproduce the modeling of real scenes with technologies such as science, physical simulation, industrial simulation, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, and map a "twin" in the virtual space, reflecting physical equipment and various data, and can conduct targeted simulation and prediction.

  The company's technology integrates simulation simulation system, digital twin technology and other modules. Wang Ya used the automatic driving simulation test platform as an example: import the automatic driving algorithm into the simulation scene for testing. Driving algorithms are "trained" to be more efficient, safe, and smart.

  She went on to demonstrate a familiar scene to the public - a subway station, with real-time display of the flow of people in each area, the generated ticketing, etc. on the screen.

During the simulation algorithm exercise, check the capacity results of the station by setting and modifying the flow parameters of each escalator, entrance and exit.

This makes it easy to measure how the subway station dispatches in an orderly manner in the event of an emergency.

  Digital twin technology is applied to buildings and parks at the same time, using information and intelligent means to improve governance efficiency.

The smart city operating system in the central business district of Hefei Swan Lake is a typical application example: all building assets, legal person database, and government system information in the area of ​​12.67 square kilometers are loaded into the digital twin system platform. You can see complete information about the relevant places and scenes.

  "This project is actually a 3D simulation city, and it is also a comprehensive and intuitive investment promotion platform and enterprise service platform to help the government achieve refined governance." Wang Ya said that in traditional investment promotion scenarios, people generally look at the document atlas. With the digital twin platform, the government can intuitively describe key issues such as land potential, business environment, and policy support to enterprises.

She added that if a common digital base is built, it can further integrate the city's economic, health, education, community governance and other data, and facilitate the unified access of the government. "The application value of digital twins is reflected in the use of data to support management decisions." .

  The reporter saw in the digital twin platform of a science and technology enterprise park that elements such as equipment, regions, assets, and flow of people correspond one-to-one with the real-time real state.

In the event of loss of corporate assets or equipment failure, the system can automatically check and alarm, and even the maintenance status of damaged air conditioning pipes can be displayed in real time.

Entering the digital twin system of a chemical factory, zooming in with the mouse, you can see that the granularity of the facade of the building is restored to a very real level, and you can conduct real-time environmental monitoring, personnel position management, large-scale equipment management, and production efficiency management.

  "The fine construction of high-quality three-dimensional space scenes with high immersion and interactivity is conducive to the efficient realization of the comprehensive management of people, vehicles, places, things and things." Wang Ya firmly believes that digital twin enterprises cannot exist for "short-term realization" , must focus on creating application value for the society, otherwise the product will become an ungrounded "luxury".

  VR technology: infinite value in the field of training

  The application of "digital twinning" in the fields of oil output, factory assembly line, and automobile maintenance training is actually the application of Virtual Reality. For example, in oil pipeline maintenance training, only reading thick operation manuals will become a thing of the past. By wearing VR glasses, employees can clearly see the internal structure of the pipeline, and can simulate operations by hand and tools "in the air", which greatly improves the training efficiency of production and maintenance.

  VR technology has become a seamless "interface" between the digital world and the real world. It is not only used in the industrial field, but also has a very wide range of applications in the fields of aerospace, defense and military, intelligent manufacturing, and medical surgery.

The post-85 entrepreneur Yang Yewei and his team found its application value in the field of culture and education.

  Yang Yewei previously studied the application of VR in biological models in a scientific laboratory in California, USA.

2016 is the first year of VR recognized by the industry. He officially returned to China for development. In that year, he witnessed a group of young people using VR to "restore" the Yuanmingyuan, and was deeply shocked.

  On November 24, 2016, he and a group of young researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China and Hefei University of Technology gathered in a small restaurant to discuss the application prospects of VR.

Later, that day was designated as the company's "Annual Meeting Day", and the road to entrepreneurship started from here.

Many people in the team are teachers and technicians, and they are aiming at the application of VR technology in front-line teaching.

  In 2017, the team set up a VR innovation classroom in Suzhou City, and then they brought VR technology into the steam (comprehensive education integrating science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) classrooms in Hefei primary and secondary schools, producing content to stimulate children's interest in learning— - In the virtual world, children travel to the "magical nature", follow the footprints of dinosaurs, play with fish on the "seabed", and feel the vastness of the universe surrounded by stars.

  In 2018, the team set up the first VR teaching application demonstration center in Anhui in Hefei, engaged in VR teaching teacher training and teaching material development.

In 2019, Anhui Pangu Future Technology Co., Ltd. was established to develop a VR intelligent experimental platform, integrate virtual experiments and real experimental operations, and bring this technology into the steam classrooms of Hefei Normal Primary School, Hefei Nanmen Primary School, and Tsinghua High School Hefei School.

Wearing the device, students can edit the scenes they want, such as the real scene of their own community and nearby parks, and even simulate the dynamic space shuttle launch process. Medical students can even complete simulated anatomical operations on the VR platform.

  "In the past few years, organizing popular science education and research trips, and going to a technology-themed venue, was considered a 'science and technology research'." Ding Haijun, a team member who was previously engaged in research and education, in his opinion, the three-dimensional effect of space brought by VR is really Changed the form of one-way output of knowledge and the effect of learning.

There are more and more types of VR helmet equipment in China, and the price is gradually becoming more affordable and accepted by ordinary families.

However, he personally felt that the original capabilities of domestic VR software and hardware systems still lag behind foreign counterparts, and the realization of many contents relies on the editing systems of large foreign companies.

  "The VR industry includes chips, displays, hardware, and systems, and brings together many related technologies. If the entire industry is compared to an ecosystem, we hope that the entire ecosystem will be benign and efficient." Yang Yewei analyzed that the current pain point is that some VR equipment is easy to Damage, expensive, uncomfortable and dizzy after wearing for a long time, how to ensure high output frame rate and low power consumption of the chip in the hardware are all a series of problems that need to be overcome next.

  Hefei has both industrial and educational advantages

  VR is regarded as the "eyes" that human beings open to a new digital space in the metaverse.

The industry generally believes that Hefei, as a new type of display capital, has unique hardware advantages in building the VR industry chain. There are global leading companies in the display industry such as BOE and Shiya, which have formed a complete "from sand to complete machine". Industrial Distribution.

  Hefei Shiya Display Technology Co., Ltd. is located in Xinzhan High-tech Zone, Hefei City. Its products are the core display components of a new generation of smart wearable display equipment. field.

From a global perspective, Hefei Shiya ranks among the few companies with the R&D and mass production capabilities of silicon-based OLED technology.

  There are nearly 200,000 students in 28 colleges and universities in the Higher Education Base of Xinzhan High-tech Zone in Hefei City. Such abundant educational and scientific research resources provide prerequisites for Metaverse industry talent training and "industry-university-research" cooperation. .

  Ye Mingsheng, a teacher of digital media art at Anhui Arts Institute, observed that in the past two years, teachers and students in art design, music and dance, drama performance and other majors have begun to explore and apply virtual reality technology to teaching scenarios.

Some teachers try to use a virtual simulation dance training system, where virtual people lead students to train and master body movements.

The device transmits the student's practice data collection to the system to evaluate learning effectiveness.

  As far as he knows, many graduates are distributed in animation, film and television industries, and are engaged in UI design, indoor VR simulation, and virtual indoor scene construction. Most of them are content producers.

In the popular game industry, he is engaged in front-end jobs that focus on artistic expression, such as animation interaction design, game art, and special effects production.

  "As a teacher, you should pay attention to the metaverse industry in advance, and usually subtly pass on relevant concepts and knowledge to students, so as to cultivate students' industry insight in advance." He said.

  It was under the influence of Ye Mingsheng that a student took the "virtual epidemic prevention and control" shooting game as his graduation project, and set the new crown virus into a three-dimensional "anti-character".

Wearing VR glasses, the player looks for "suspicious points", shoots the virus with a syringe, and the virus disappears, then the game is successful.

At this time, text will appear in front of you, accompanied by voice to introduce epidemic prevention knowledge.

  Xinhua Internet Technology (School), also located in the higher education base, has been exploring virtual technologies such as AR/VR for a long time.

In 2016, the school opened the major of VR virtual reality production, and introduced AR/VR equipment for the teaching and training of VR game animation design, architecture and environmental design majors, and provided talents for the development of the Metaverse industry through school-enterprise co-construction and directional training. .

  When visiting more than 500 graduates, the school's teacher Zhao Chang learned that most of them have taken up positions in virtual reality development and production such as VR 3D modeler, game map editor, UE4 engine development, and some students work in well-known companies in the industry in first-tier cities. serve.

"Currently, a number of 3D animation production companies have transformed into virtual reality production companies. There is an urgent need for talents in positions such as roaming animation, security training, and educational content development, and students are full of confidence in their employment prospects." He analyzed.

  Accurate government support to promote the integration of the entire industry chain

  In April this year, Metaverse was listed as one of the innovative projects for emerging business types, and was written into the "14th Five-Year Plan for Software and Information Service Industry Development Plan of Anhui Province".

Anhui will support enterprises to carry out technological innovations such as virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D engine, and the Internet of Things, and guide enterprises to deploy emerging formats of the Metaverse.

  From the perspective of social acceptance, Metaverse, this emerging business format, has completed the first cross-domain from academic concept to industrial planning.

The next most realistic question is, is the industry's key talent pool ready, and can it produce agglomeration effect?

  Zhu Xuqi said frankly that the current professional recruitment agencies have not yet fully kept up with the pace of the "Metaverse".

For related industries, considering that strict job standards and comprehensive technical standards have not been formed, it is not easy for companies to recruit related compound talents in the fields of interactive technology, artificial intelligence, art modeling and other fields in a short period of time.

  Entrepreneurs in related industries said: The imbalance of talent supply and demand is ultimately due to the lack and immaturity of the entire industry chain, which is also the main factor restricting the development of the industry.

  Yang Yewei has called on different occasions to establish and improve a multi-angle, full-chain policy support system based on the advantages of Hefei Xinzhan High-tech Zone in new display industries such as chips, screens, and helmets, build industry alliances, and set up enterprises, industry associations and A bridge of communication between government departments.

  His team recently issued a research report to the government department, suggesting that Hefei should plan ahead and support the development of the Metaverse virtual reality industry.

For example, relying on the existing industrial chain advantages of the new station area to establish a Metaverse Industrial Innovation Demonstration Zone, with sensors, chips, and optical equipment as upstream enterprises, and software, system development and content production as downstream enterprises, forming a closed-loop virtual reality industry.

  At the same time, financial institutions such as banks are encouraged to launch products such as talent loans and technology loans according to the characteristics of the Metaverse industry.

Only by building an industrial "incubator" and a project "cultivating a nursery" can the latest scientific research results go out of the laboratory, realize the marketization of products, and speed up the industrialization process of the entire industry.

  "Chip, cloud resources, computing power... The development of the Metaverse industry requires the joint promotion and resource integration of multiple parties, and it is also inseparable from the policy guidance and safety supervision of government departments." Wang Ya hopes that the departments of science and technology, economy and information, and commerce can According to the functional positioning, actively embrace the metaverse industry, find a meeting point, and promote the development of the new economy.

  Professor Shenyang pointed out in the "Metaverse Development Research Report Version 2.0" that support for core technologies should be increased, including the two dimensions of hardware infrastructure infrastructure and software development environment. Education, industry, space exploration and other industries.

  A local industry insider in Hefei said that the government should support digital service providers to develop lightweight, low-cost, and easy-to-deploy digital solutions and products for small and medium-sized enterprises to improve their management level; around smart cities, smart parks, digital tourism, games In the fields of leisure and other fields, the construction of Metaverse application scenarios has been exerted. "The entire chain of new technologies needs to be bigger and stronger in order to support the Metaverse technology base."

  The reporter learned from the Hefei Municipal Science and Technology Bureau that next, Hefei will strengthen technological innovation to lead industrial development, build a platform for key core technologies, accelerate the forward-looking layout of the future industry, and deploy the "metaverse" technology development.

  Zhu Xuqi expects that from the underlying technology to software applications, such as display devices, computing chips, voice interaction technology, general virtual human platforms, application scenarios and other links, with the coordination and support of relevant industrial policies, upstream and downstream parties can form rapid cooperation. Space, "When the industry is closer, the technology cake can be shared and a win-win resonance occurs."

  China Youth Daily, China Youth Daily reporter Wang Haihan and Wang Lei 

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