May 30, 2016

    VR theme park to open in Guizhou


    PLANS have been unveiled for a ground-breaking virtual-reality (VR) theme park where visitors can find themselves immersed in a world living with aliens, riding unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and fighting dragons.

    The theme-park site in Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou province, is part of a larger 1.3 sq km, 10-billion-yuan (S$2.1 billion) project being masterminded by the Shenzhen-listed Oriental Times Media's animation unit.

    Construction of the East Valley of Science and Fantasy has already started and it is scheduled to open in October.

    However, most of that total area will be devoted to VR moviemaking, with a cutting-edge media research and development centre at its core, said the company.

    VR helmets and other gadgets will be handed out to visitors to the theme park so they can "interact with the environment", said Shi Xiangdong, chairman of Shuimu Animation, an animation unit under Oriental Times that will oversee the project.

    "The VR park will give players a more realistic feeling than (that of) video games.

    "Moreover, we will feature China's first VR roller coaster and 13 pavilions showcasing different UFOs, which can help children explore outer space in a digitally immersive way," said Mr Shi.

    The ambitious new project comes as some of China's biggest companies scramble to tap into the burgeoning VR sector, which is being widely tipped to take over from the smartphone industry as the country's next commercial gold mine.

    Top gaming company Shanda Group, for instance, also plans to create a VR theme park in partnership with The Void, a United States-based entertainment company.

    Internet giants including Alibaba Group Holding, Baidu and LeEco Holdings have rolled out their own VR projects, focusing on either hardware making or video content production.

    She Shuanglin, an analyst with Beijing-based Internet consultancy Analysys International, has been taken by surprise by the speed of VR technological advancements.

    "Applications are coming sooner than we had expected," he said.

    Research firm Digi-Capital estimates the global VR industry will be generating US$30 billion in revenue by 2020, split 50/50 between VR games, and hardware, films and theme parks.