You could certainly say that 2014 was the year of the Chinese tech company, but 2015 is shaping up to be even bigger.
The country’s largest tech brands exploded in a way that only China and its 1.3 billion consumers can manage. From Alibaba’s record-breaking IPO to the meteoric rise of smartphone maker (and world’s largest startup) Xiaomi, Chinese tech companies are proving that China has vast potential for ridiculously concentrated growth.
Augmented reality is one sector that’s come out of the shadows over the past year. Internationally, the AR market – for everything from wearables to retail – has been escalating since 2013, with experimental products and startups surfacing.
So will China’s huge appetite for tech see AR expanding as quickly as smartphones and e-retail? According to Sonny Xin, head of China operations for AR company Metaio, the answer is yes. He estimates that AR products will be commonplace in daily life as soon as 2017.
Metaio entered the Chinese market in 2013, and is now working across animation, print media and heavy industry. According to the German-based company, they have over 150 international AR patents, making them the largest such holder in the world.
“In 2014 we saw a fast-growing demand for Metaio-patented technologies such as CAD edge based tracking, 3D environment tracking, and thermal touch algorithms in the Chinese market.”
Mr. Xin believes that the fiercest competition on the Chinese mainland is between AR content producers rather than between the hardware manufacturers. These includes creative agencies, media companies and middle tech companies that are “constantly” pushing AR content into the market.
2014 also saw a rapid boost in AR hardware manufacturing in China. Nearly all major chipset manufacturers are planning to support AR technology in 2015, says Mr. Xin.
The last year saw a steady growth of AR products in China. From character translation apps like Pleco and Waygo, to the public unveiling of Google glass competitor Baidu Eye in September, AR is slowly creeping into the day-to-day lives of Chinese people.
At the end of 2014, Beijing-based ANTVR also released a slew of virtual reality (VR) products, including a headset that will compete directly with San Francisco-based Oculus VR, which was recently acquired for US$2 billion by Facebook.
Growth in innovation in China, along with the new prosperity of its tech scene, means that China has the potential to lead the development of market-entry products such as AR, instead of playing catch-up as it has done in the past.
However, rudimentary industrial standards could prove an issue in a country often criticized for poor labour practices and protective pricing. According to Mr. Xin, this is the major drawback of the Chinese ecosystem.
“There is no pricing standards for AR projects and no labour standards for AR development in the Chinese market.
“Many AR startups have to develop their own standards to adopt in the new market.”
Image source: Shutterstock.com
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)