Alibaba bets on virtual meetings in the metaverse with DingTalk AR glasses

South China Morning Post

Posted at Jan 07 2022 01:17 PM

DingTalk, the workplace app developed by Alibaba Group Holding, plans to launch new augmented reality (AR) glasses so users can conduct virtual meetings, in the tech giant’s latest move to stake out a claim in the metaverse.

The AR glasses will feature self-adjusted optical functions, saving nearsighted users the trouble of wearing additional glasses, Ye Jun, president of DingTalk and a vice-president of Alibaba, was quoted as saying by state-owned media Beijing News on Wednesday.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

The new headset, which incorporates improvements over DingTalk’s previous AR products and makes the workspace more “immersive”, is the platform’s approach to developing the metaverse, Ye said. The official launch date for the glasses remains unclear.

DingTalk, in collaboration with Beijing-based AR start-up Nreal, launched its first AR glasses in 2020. They featured the DingTalk app, which enabled a “3D virtual meeting room”, allowing users to make conference calls with a headset. The product is priced at 13,999 yuan (US$2,202) on DingTalk’s Taobao store.

Nreal secured a fresh round of financing last September from investors including Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital, as well as Nio Capital, the venture capital arm of Chinese electric-vehicle manufacturer NIO.

DingTalk, whose user numbers exceeded 500 million last October, wants to introduce real-world workplace activities into the metaverse through the new gadgets.

“DingTalk will become the connection point between the digital world and the physical world, especially in the work scene,” Ye was quoted as saying.

The move represents Alibaba’s latest move towards a presence in the metaverse, which many see as the next iteration of the internet, and a hot new concept in the tech sector.

Over the past year, the e-commerce giant has increased its investment in the AR industry, with at least US$1 billion of funding injected into AR and VR-related start-ups over the past few years, including American start-up Magic Leap.

Besides its outside collaboration and investment, Alibaba’s own science and technology institution, Damo Academy, is also tapping into the field.

Its XR Lab, which focuses on research and development of AR and VR technology, has developed a system that can scan an offline store, and create a virtual version to display on a mobile terminal, complete with product information and even virtual storekeepers.

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