SHANGHAI: The success of Pokémon Go heralds a new stage in mobile tech, with Chinese businesses developing 3D detection technology and haptic features for phones that are expected to feed into a booming virtual reality (VR) gaming market.
Several recent studies have highlighted the huge promise of VR in China, the South China Morning Post reported, including a Q2 paper from the China Electronics Standardisation Institute, which noted that "in the next six months to a year, the VR consumer market will explode rapidly".
The iiMedia Research Group put a figure on that: 268% growth this year. It expects the market will be worth some Rmb 55bn by 2020, up from Rmb 5.7bn last year.
And in a recent report, Laura Chen, an analyst with BNP Paribas, said: "We see the potential for China to become one of the most important markets for VR in two to three years."
It is in mobile, in particular, that much attention is being focused. Phonemakers such as Lenovo and Huawei, for example, plan to release products with Tango AR – technology that can detect three-dimensional (3D) depth and motion.
Others – Xiaomi, Meizu Oppo, and Vivo – are looking at supplementing existing phone features such as vibration with pressure-sensitive touch display handsets to add to the VR experience.
"The development of smart devices will drive the growth in VR games in the next few years," Alicia Yap and Xin Wang, two Citi analysts, wrote in a report last week.
Not only will such devices have to come to market, consumers will have to upgrade to ensure they have the necessary processing power, memory and battery life to take advantage of mobile VR.
At the other end of the price scale, VR headsets are likely to be less of an issue. More than 1m people have signed up to test Xiaomi's new phone-based product, the Mi VR Play – unlike Google Cardboard, this is made of Lycra – which is currently available in beta for just Rmb 1.
Pokémon Go, meanwhile, remains out of reach of Chinese consumers due to the game's use of Google Maps, which is blocked in mainland China.
Data sourced from South China Morning Post, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff