Technology

Chinese internet giant starts augmented reality lab

EPA / How Hwee Young

In an effort to tap on its mobile customer base to maintain profits, China’s Baidu Inc. set up an augmented reality (AR) laboratory in the country’s capital. The facility will work on improving the technology and building applications for corporate clients. The end goal will be to make AR technology available to all smartphone users in China, engineers said. Ever since the immense success of Nintendo’s Pokemon Go, the innovative segment became the focus of many internet and tech companies.

“China is a mobile-first country. Many of the mobile phone-based innovation starts in China. That is why we expect the mobile phone to be the best way to popularize augmented reality in China, rather than persuade people to buy expensive headsets for enjoying the technology,” says Andrew Ng, head of the company’s research team.

The Beijing-based lab will additionally evolve the AR marketing initiative it launched in August 2016. The platform for smartphones helped the discovery of new territory in the field of advertising, working with brands like KFC, L’Oréal and Lancome on interactive commercials, Baidu said.

“AR allows us to synthesize the virtual world with the real world, and will transform how all of us perceive our surroundings. We’ve already seen rapid growth in AR marketing, and expect other industries to follow,” said Zhongqin Wu, the new lab’s chief.

Another feature of the apps is using a smartphone to view 3D simulations of old Beijing. By just taking a picture of one of the nine historical gates in the city, users can activate the function and see what the city once looked like.

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