Chinese tourist destination Zhangjiajie – a city in the southern province of Hunan – has been designated “the world’s first scenic spot metaverse research and development (R&D) centre”. The scenic area was made famous around the world by the movie “Avatar”: the “flying mountains” of the exomoon Pandora were inspired in part by the dramatic rock pillars of Zhangjiajie. The announcement has generated a heated debate on social media whether the idea is just a way to capitalise on the latest metaverse hype or if it is a serious research effort.
Industry insiders dubbed the plan by the tourist destination as “bold” but still “within reasonable reach”, as the gaming, culture and entertainment industries are set to be the first to adopt the metaverse. However, existing metaverse plans by big tech companies, such as Facebook, Microsoft and Tencent remain in their infancy.
The Zhangjiajie metaverse R&D centre will be set up in the Wulingyuan scenic area, a famous UNESCO World Heritage site photographs of which were used in the production of Avatar. With the announcement, local officials said, “the Wulingyuan scenic area will provide tourists with a more exciting travel experience, richer travel products, and a more comfortable travel environment.”
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