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NetEase Games’ artificial intelligence arm, Fuxi Lab, has teamed up with China Construction Eighth Engineering Division to develop smart robots for China’s construction industry. Photo: Shutterstock

NetEase doubles down on video gaming tech adoption in major deal to develop smart robots for China’s construction industry

  • Fuxi Lab, the AI arm of NetEase Games, will jointly develop smart robots with a unit of China State Construction Engineering Corp
  • NetEase founder William Ding expects the joint initiative to provide a new example of digital transformation in China’s construction industry
Chinese internet and video gaming giant NetEase is collaborating with a unit of China State Construction Engineering Corp to jointly develop and promote the wider use of smart robots in the construction industry.
Fuxi Lab, the artificial intelligence (AI) arm of NetEase Games, signed an agreement with the China Construction Eighth Engineering Division (CCEED), a unit of the world’s largest construction company by revenue, to pursue joint research and development of smart robots as well as commercialise these machines, according to a post published on Thursday by Fuxi Lab on its official WeChat account.

NetEase will use the technologies it has accumulated in the video gaming industry, such as AI and human-computer interaction design capabilities, to “make working [in construction] like playing games”, Fuxi Lab’s post said. “As workers’ efficiency improves, their salaries are also expected to increase.”

The intelligent machines under the two firms’ joint initiative include robots for excavation, loading and paving activities, which are expected to be launched in the next three years.

NetEase founder and chief executive William Ding Lei, fourth from left, poses with executives from Fuxi Lab and China Construction Eighth Engineering Division during the signing ceremony for their deal to jointly develop smart robots for the construction industry. Photo: Weibo
William Ding Lei, founder and chief executive of NetEase, said at the signing ceremony between Fuxi Lab and state-owned CCEED that their efforts would provide “a new example of digital transformation in China’s infrastructure [development]”.

“Let the scenario of ‘one person simultaneously controlling hundreds of machines working non-stop for 24 hours’ become a reality,” Ding was quoted as saying in the Fuxi Lab post.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Shares of Hangzhou-based NetEase rose 4.11 per cent to US$71.21 on Thursday at the close of trading on the Nasdaq stock market.

Game over for Warcraft as NetEase, Blizzard end their 14-year deal

The collaboration between Fuxi Lab and CCEED, which is involved in industrial equipment installation as well as construction process and management, reflects a growing trend to promote the “social value” of video gaming technologies, which can make a contribution outside online entertainment.

NetEase rival Tencent Holdings, which operates the world’s biggest video gaming business by revenue, set an early example for working with Shanghai Baosteel Group Corp to apply real-time cloud rendering, motion capture, virtual reality, augmented reality and other gaming technologies to help in the state-owned steel company’s digital transformation and increase its manufacturing efficiency.
Such digital transformation activities could help the country boost efficiency and productivity, as it continues to undertake mega-infrastructure projects.
For NetEase, its involvement in developing smart construction robots has come after a setback in its core video gaming business. The company last month agreed to end its 14-year licensing agreement with US game publisher Blizzard Entertainment.

China’s State Council vows revived policy support for nation’s digital economy

The Fuxi Lab-CCEED initiative also comes after the State Council, China’s cabinet, pledged to bolster the country’s digital economy through major new policy commitments that were presented during the standing committee session of the country’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress, on October 28.

The report called for deeper integration of digital technologies into traditional industries to raise efficiency, enhancements in cyberspace and data security, and improved collaboration with economies around the world.