Tiktok Parent Company ByteDance Acquires Chinese Virtual Reality Startup PoliQ

Bytedance is expanding its metaverse portfolio including hardware, platforms and content.
Image source: ByteDance

Quick take:

  • ByteDance acquired PoliQ for “tens of millions of yuan” last week.
  • PoliQ founder Ma Jiesi was the former director at Xiaomi’s VR unit.
  • Bytedance launched a virtual social app and digital fashion app to explore the metaverse.

ByteDance, the owner of Tiktok and its Chinese version, Douyin, has acquired virtual reality (VR) startup PoliQ. PoliQ was the operator of virtual social entertainment app, Vyou, which allowed users to create their own avatars. 

According to Chinese business and trademark tracking firm, Tianyancha, the acquisition was made last week for “tens of millions of yuan” as ByteDance furthers its foray into the metaverse.

Chinese media outlet VR Tuolo reported that PoliQ was absorbed by VR headset company Pico, which Bytedance acquired last August for nearly 5 million yuan ($772 million). According to his CV on Chinese social media platform, Maimai, PoliQ’s founder Ma Jiesi leads the social centre department at Pico.

Ma was the former director at Xiaomi’s VR unit where he led the smart device company’s collaboration with Oculus in 2018 and launched the Chinese variant of Oculus Go, called the Mi VR Standalone. The device sold out on the official Xiaomi site within minutes after launch.

As tech giants are ramping up their metaverse efforts, ByteDance has acquired PoliQ to expand its metaverse portfolio that includes hardware, platforms and content. ByteDance’s acquisition of Pico last year was a Chinese tech giant’s first major investment into the metaverse hardware sector.

Since the acquisition of Pico, Bytedance has doubled down on its support for the VR unit. Earlier this year, the company said it would partner with Qualcomm to create extended reality (XR) hardware and software. Bytedance has also moved three senior managers from its short video unit to the VR unit.

Qualcomm recently announced a $100 million Snapdragon Metaverse fund that will invest in XR experiences, augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

Big tech firms in the east and west have been racing to launch metaverse initiatives. Last week, Chinese technology and entertainment giant, Tencent, announced its new extended reality unit while Alibaba Cloud has a suite of metaverse-related services and backed AR glasses maker Nreal’s $60 million raise in March.

Apple is also developing a mixed-reality headset for virtual and augmented experiences as it unofficially targets the metaverse. While Meta’s Reality Labs unit posted a loss of $2.96 billion in its Q1 earnings call, the company is still developing several VR headset prototypes with the goal of passing the “visual Turing Test” where virtual reality is indistinguishable from the real world.

Mark Zuckerberg targets at least one to two billion users each spending hundreds of dollars on metaverse products by 2030.

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