Report: China’s Tencent Forms XR Unit to Build Its Own Metaverse

Tencent, the China-based multinational known for WeChat and a host of mobile games, reportedly announced to staff that was creating a unit dedicated building out its XR offerings.

As reported by Reuters, Tencent allegedly told staff on Monday about the official formation of a unit tasked with building up its XR business, which is said to include both software and hardware projects. The internal XR unit was supposedly launched in secrecy earlier this year.

Tencent Games Global’s Chief Technology Officer Li Shen is said to head the unit, and it will be a wing of its Interactive Entertainment business group. It’s also said the company is aiming to hire over 300 staff members to fill various XR roles.

The report maintains that Tencent founder and chief executive Pony Ma views the XR unit as a passion project, underling the importance of the metaverse by dubbing it in 2020 an “all-real internet.” Tencent has yet to comment on the information alleged in the report.

This follows continued downsizing by Tencent, first announced in May. At the time, it was said the Shenzhen-based company would reduce its headcount to between 10%-15% this year alone.

At least within China, it seems Tencent is primarily looking to compete with TikTok parent company ByteDance, which acquired Chinese VR headset creator Pico Interactive for an estimated $775 million in August 2021.

However with ByteDance pouring millions into VR developer support, it’s clear the target is a wider launch in Western markets, with the company’s Quest 2 competitor, Pico Neo 3 Link, now available in Europe and coming soon the United States.

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HTC Announces Vive Flow Business Edition, Optional 3DOF Controller

Vive Flow, HTC’s compact VR headset, is targeted at travelers and consumers looking for casual VR experiences and media consumption. Now the company has announced it’s marketing a Business Edition of Vive Flow alongside an optional controller which should make navigating in-headset a bit easier for first-time users.

Vive Flow Business Edition is being pitched as a lightweight device for VR training, distance learning, bringing immersive experiences into the classroom, location-based entertainment, and healthcare and rehabilitation. The headset, which sells for $499 (€550) on the company’s website, includes a two-year business warranty as well as standard enterprise support.

HTC says new software features include a ‘kiosk mode’ so content can be queued up and remotely triggered, which is ideal for trade shows or running training sessions, the company says.

Vive Flow Controller | Image courtesy HTC

Launched for consumers last year, Vive Flow is a standalone VR headset that tethers to an Android smartphone for input via Bluetooth, and physically plugs into an external battery for power. Ok, so not entirely standalone, but the lightweight device does feature onboard processing. Granted, that Android-only device spec may change here soon, as HTC says it’s working on iPhone support for Vive Flow too.

By default, Vive Flow uses the smartphone as its only input device. Now the company is introducing an optional 3DOF controller for Vive Flow (seen above) that can be paired with either the consumer or business version of the headset.

Although we were hoping to hear more about hand-tracking or controllers (emphasis on the plural), going back to the old reliable controller style, which we’ve seen as early as 2016, makes a good deal of sense: blindly clicking on a smartphone when immersed in VR isn’t the most intuitive way for newcomers.

You can check out the full specs for Vive Flow here, including resolution, field of view, processor, and all of the ergonomic bits that help it achieve its 189 gram weight, making it several times lighter than any major VR headset on the market today.

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