Chinese gaming giant NetDragon makes big push into augmented reality with interactive holograms

Company plans series of learning events across Asia using three-dimensional interactive holograms of international celebrities and famous speakers.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2016, 7:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 June, 2016, 1:47pm

NetDragon Websoft, the Hong Kong-listed operator of China’s leading online gaming portal, aims to push augmented-reality technology into the mainstream with a series of so-called learning events across Asia using three-dimensional interactive holograms of international celebrities and famous speakers.

Headquartered in Fuzhou, Fujian province, NetDragon on Friday provided a sample of these “HumaGrams” – a portmanteau of the words human and holograms – inside the Charles Kao Auditorium at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, where American television and radio host Larry King was beamed live from a studio in Los Angeles to join executives on stage for the launch of its campaign.

“Interactive holograms are the ultimate form of augmented reality, and we expect to tap into new opportunities for the use of this technology in China and across the Asia-Pacific region,” NetDragon vice-chairman Simon Leung Lim-kin told the South China Morning Post ahead of the event.

NetDragon’s ambitious new initiative followed its C$5 million (HK$30.3 million) investment in HumaGrams developer ARHT Media in February to become the Toronto-based company’s exclusive partner in the Asia-Pacific for education, professional training, seminars and entertainment activities.

Augmented reality provides an overlay of digital information – in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements – onto the real world, as seen from advanced smartphones, tablets and smartglasses which support the technology.

According to ARHT Media, it has developed the most life-like, interactive human holograms. These are generated through its patent-pending augmented reality holographic technology, which provides a scalable, repeatable and transportable form of 3D without the use of special glasses or displays.

“Through NetDragon’s platform, it’s one of those technologies that will help bring the world closer together,” said Paul Duffy, the chief executive of ARHT Media.

NetDragon and ARHT Media announced a partnership with popular American motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Australia-listed seminar organiser Success Global Media to stage what they claim as “the world’s largest augmented and virtual reality learning event” later this year.

In June last year, Robbins staged an international speaking engagement as a human hologram with the aid of ARHT Media.

Another partnership announced was with Canadian production company tinePublic, which will help promote a series of international learning events with HumaGrams of top speakers and celebrities. The firm had earlier staged speaking engagements with celebrities like TV host Oprah Winfrey, former British prime minister Tony Blair and noted economist Alan Greenspan.

Leung pointed out that NetDragon’s goal was “to build the world’s largest learning community”.

He expected the firm’s US$130-million acquisition of London-listed learning technologies provider Promethean World in November would help open up ARHT Media’s technology to 1.3 million classrooms around the world.

According to ABI Research, the global augmented reality market is forecast to reach US$100 billion by 2020.

That market size included augmented reality hardware sales, as well as dedicated content and software revenue. The industries covered include education, gaming, health care, industrial and retail.

Founded in 1999, NetDragon raised US$52.5 million from new investors in January last year to support its online learning initiatives. The company owns and operates popular multiplayer online role-playing games, such as Eudemons Online and Calibur of Spirit, as well as gaming portal

NetDragon on Thursday reported a wider net loss of 134.79 million yuan (HK$158.91) in the first quarter, from 13.06 million yuan in the same period last year, due to increased marketing, administrative and development costs.

Total revenue increased 132 per cent to 571.64 million yuan, up from 246.22 million yuan a year ago.

NetDragon shares closed 4.19 per cent lower to HK$24 on Friday.