HTC brings virtual reality theme park to Hong Kong

January 17, 2019 14:13
The applications of HTC's virtual reality solutions go far beyond gaming. Photo: AFP

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC will open a virtual reality (VR) theme park in Hong Kong on Friday, fueling market speculation that it plans to exit the smartphone market and focus on the VR business.  

VIVELAND, a VR theme park developed by HTC, is its first overseas, the firm's Hong Kong branch announced on its social media page. 

The theme park, located at the Discovery Park shopping mall in Tsuen Wan, will charge users for playing different VR games and renting its VR headsets. 

HTC opened its first Viveland in Taipei in 2016, offering first-hand VR experience with 20 different VR scenarios. 

The Taipei Vivelandspans 330 square meters and all the booths are fully equipped with HD projectors, high-end stereo equipment, high-performance graphics cards, high-quality wireless headsets with low latency, and comfortable seats for consumers. 

Compared with smartphones and game consoles such as the PlayStation, virtual reality remains a niche product. 

Viveland in Hong Kong should help build a certain level of public exposure to the technology. The theme park should make use of its well-equipped venue to promote the technology in a fun and easy way. 

Virtual reality is not just about games. Of course, wearing a VR headset to play a game is an exciting experience for game lovers. But the applications of the technology go far beyond entertainment. 

At Taipei Viveland, for example, there is a booth that enables users to travel to the past through the use of a VR headset that makes them feel like they are a part of historical photos and videos.  

Such an offering would attract even non-gamers to visit Hong Kong Viveland and try out the new technology.  

In fact, some technology companies did provide a similar service for the elderly in Hong Kong, and the senior citizens were delighted with the experience of using the VR headset to relive the past. 

Virtual reality is also expected to play an increasingly important role in education. 

Many local schools are now promoting STEAM education, which is an approach to learning that uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics to develop the student's critical thinking ability. VR is a key tool in this interdisciplinary learning method. 

Virtual reality allows the user to be immersed in a virtual world. Unlike a classroom whiteboard or a regular projector screen, a VR headset provides three-dimensional images that will surely grab the users' attention, and encourage them to be more engaged and responsive. 

With such enormous possibilities, VIVE solutions can be promoted in schools as well as other institutions and businesses.  

HTC is one of the leading technology firms in the VR business, offering a whole ecosystem from hardware to software. 

The company has released a new VR headset called VIVE Pro Eye at the annual CES consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas. The gadget has a built-in eye tracking function to enhance the perception of visual effects. 

Meanwhile, its VIVEPORT app store launched an unlimited subscription plan for subscribers to enjoy VR content. 

Together with the Viveland theme park, HTC has a complete online-to-offline VR ecosystem for users and developers.  

However, what appears to hinder the mass penetration of VR is hardware compatibility. 

Currently, HTC focuses on a PC-based VR headset system which requires a certain spatial area for users to enjoy the full VR experience at home or any indoor venue. 

In Hong Kong, this may pose some challenges. For example, it would be difficult for a family living in a 400 or 600 square foot flat to provide considerable space for the installation of a VR hardware system. 

That being the case, it is crucial for HTC to incorporate its VR system into its smartphone or similar devices to be able to reach more customers. 

Speaking recently at the CES in Las Vegas, HTC chairperson Cher Wang said that VR technology and the smartphone would be integrated in the future, and the advent of 5G mobile technology would speed up the pace of this integration. 

She also revealed that her company will launch its 5G smartphone in the second half this year, which would bring this envisioned integration closer to reality.

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EJ Insight writer