Baidu announced on Dec. 10 that it will update its virtual reality app Xirang (meaning “land of hope” in Chinese) at the end of December and use it to host a virtual event that can accommodate more than 100,000 online attendees. 

Why it matters: China’s search giant has been looking for ways to leverage its AI capabilities in the burgeoning metaverse field. This update is a sign of Baidu’s ambitions in the three-dimensional online space. 

READ MORE: Metaverse in China: Investors and tech leaders say they are prepared

Details: The company called the app “the first Chinese-made metaverse product” in a Dec. 10 press release. Baidu said the upgrade will offer an immersive virtual planet with experiences such as touring China’s Shaolin Temple and the Sanxingdui Museum, an important archeological site in Sichuan. 

  • Baidu will host its annual AI developer conference “Create 2021” on the Xirang app this year, the first time the conference will take place virtually since it launched four years ago. The company said the app will allow up to 100,000 attendees to experience immersive and interactive sound and visual effects simultaneously.
  • In the press release, Ma Jie, Baidu’s Vice President and Xirang’s manager, said the metaverse industry is in its very early exploratory phase. “We need a community and a long time to build it,” he added.
  • After the upgrade, people will be able to log in on Xirang via various devices, including computers, phones, and wearables, to attend virtual conferences, shop, meet new people, and tour exhibitions. 

Context: Baidu has been developing the Xirang app for months, even before the metaverse concept became popular in the Chinese market this summer. The popularity of the metaverse has partly motivated Baidu to upgrade the app. 

  • In early November, Baidu’s Vice President Ma Jie said at a Baidu AI event (in Chinese) that the company plans to develop VR content platforms and VR interactive platforms for content creators in the metaverse. 
  • Baidu is not the only Chinese tech giant making moves in the metaverse. ByteDance has invested in several metaverse-related companies, including VR headset maker Pico. Alibaba Cloud, a subsidiary of the e-commerce giant, announced a “metaverse” solution in November to provide cloud and other technical support for metaverse-related applications. 

Qin is the managing editor at TechNode. Previously, she was a reporter at the South China Morning Post's Inkstone. Before that, she worked in the United States for five years. She was a senior video producer...