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Young boys play Tencent’s Honour of Kings. The Chinese government has called for action to prevent myopia among children who spend too much time playing online games. Photo: Reuters

Tencent adds eye protection function to videos after Beijing calls for action to prevent myopia in children


Chinese internet giant Tencent has introduced an eyesight protection feature for its Tencent Video mobile app that blurs the image if the viewer is too close to the screen, a move seen as a proactive response to the government’s nationwide myopia prevention campaign for minors.

When a user’s face gets closer than 40cm to the screen, the video blurs and an alert pops up asking them to move the phone further away.

Targeting children and their parents, the eye protection feature can be enabled on Tencent’s video streaming app, according to a statement posted on Tencent’s official WeChat social media account.

“The Tencent Video team is introducing this new feature to add ‘safety’ and ‘reassurance’ to our young users and their parents,” the statement said.

Tencent said the real time sensing and distance data that was collected would not be stored or shared with a third party. The eye protection feature will not apply to Tencent games at this time. “We will continue to explore possibilities to use cutting-edge technologies in real scenarios in games,” the company said in a separate statement.

The enhancement, powered by Apple’s TrueDepth camera system introduced with the iPhone X, uses depth sensing technology to measure the distance between the user’s face and phone. The Tencent feature will only be available on iPhone X and the newly launched iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, which also use TrueDepth.

China has 600 million nearsighted people, while the rate among Chinese youth tops world figures. Photo: EPA

The new feature comes amid a nationwide eyesight protection campaign which has created an environment of uncertainty for Tencent, China’s biggest game publisher, and the country’s gaming industry in general.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has publicly spoken about the need to help children improve their eyesight. Myopia among Chinese students is becoming more common and is affecting children of younger ages, the Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying last month. He called for the nation to address the problem.

China’s Ministry of Education subsequently announced a plan to curb the number of new online games and limit playing time. The day after the ministry’s announcement, Tencent’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell 4.9 per cent to close at HK$340 (US$43) while rival Chinese games company NetEase fell 7.2 per cent on Nasdaq. 

“For the nation’s future, we can never allow gaming companies to get rich by inducing teens to get addicted [to games],” state news agency Xinhua said in a recent commentary.

China has 600 million nearsighted people out of a population of 1.4 billion, while the rate among Chinese youth tops world figures, according to the World Health Organisation.