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Alibaba launches its VR lab to take on Tencent

Remember gnomes, the brilliant inventors from World of Warcraft? China’s top e-commerce platform, Alibaba, has gone with the name GnomeMagic (GM) for its first VR lab, it announced Thursday, revealing its bold ambitions for VR.

Alibaba said GM Lab will explore both content and devices. For VR content, the company has launched a Buy+ Plan, aiming to produce high-quality VR content by cooperating with its movie and music subsidiary, AliMovie and AliMusic, and China’s leading video website Youku Tudou. The lab will focus on exploring VR shopping experiences.

Alibaba’s Buy+ Plan (Picture from Sohu IT)

“VR technology will help customers have a vivid experience. In the near future, customers could be experiencing shopping on Fifth Avenue in New York while sitting at home,” said Zhao Haiping, an engineer at Alibaba’s GM Lab.

Alibaba will use their e-commerce platform to build an ecosystem for VR business, aiming to incubate VR projects and help popularize VR devices while also facilitating 3D-visual creation by VR developers.

Alibaba’s GM Lab said its first project will be named “Zaowushen”, or The Creator in English, and will involve building the world’s largest virtual warehouse for 3D images and facilitating the realization of shopping in virtual reality.

They said that their engineers have completed hundreds of refined product models, and will develop designing tools for businesses so as to promote 3D modeling, Tencent Tech reported.

With 400 million active users, Alibaba saw an annual turnover of RMB 2.9 trillion (USD 455 billion) in 2015, dominating about 80% of China’s online retailing market according to Xinhua.

Chinese tech giants including Tencent, LeEco and Xiaomi have all announced their plans for developing VR. Tencent announced in December that it will launch three types of VR display headsets including Google Cardboard-style VR glasses, all-in-one portable headsets, and Oculus Rift-like PC-connected headsets over the next two years.

“The technological revolution today is setting us free in so many respects. In 30 years, its achievement will surprise everyone beyond imagination,” said Jack Ma to the public last March.

(Top photo from Ifeng Tech)

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