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Tencent works with publishing house to develop augmented reality textbooks

The headquarters of Tencent in Shenzhen in China's Guangdong province Photo: Imaginechina/AP

Tencent, one of China's leading technology companies, has put its advanced augmented reality technology into a brand-new application: education.

Recently, the technology giant built a partnership with PEP Digital Publishing Corporation in an agreement, which allows the two companies to jointly develop the country's first set of English teaching materials driven by augmented reality technology.

Tencent, the operator of China's most popular social media application QQ, is taking lead in the race to develop augmented reality technology, which can provide a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated or extracted real-world sensory input including sound, video, graphics, haptics and Global Positioning System data.

Students are able to watch the multimedia learning materials on their smartphones by simply using the QQ-Augmented Reality feature to scan the pictures of the lessons that they want to study, according to Tencent.

The English teaching driven by augmented reality technology will bring a brand-new, interesting learning experience to students, and the cutting-edge technology will allow educators to explore the potential of digital teaching, said Wang Qiaolin, chief executive officer of PEP Digital Publishing Corporation.

Yin Yu, vice president of Tencent, described the collaboration as a way to enable QQ's technology and users to be closely connected with the quality publications of PEP Digital Publishing Corporation, creating a greater educational experience for students.

Derived from the technologies developed by the Tencent Youtu Laboratory, QQ-Augmented Reality can be identified as an emerging online-to-offline interactive technology, which features numerous basic functions including image recognition, gesture recognition, character recognition and display of three-dimensional animation and video.

Tencent and PEP Digital Publishing Corporation will not specially promote the augmented reality-featured teaching materials nationwide, as the local educational departments will decide whether the teaching materials will be adopted based on the actual conditions and local educational policies, said Tencent, which unveiled plans at the 2017 Tencent Global Partners Conference in November to realize free use of its augmented reality technology.

Besides the educational field, augmented reality technology has been widely used in many other environments such as museum and coffee shop.

The Palace Museum, which is located in Beijing's Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, has been included into a mini-program on the WeChat platform, a very popular instant messaging application in China developed by Tencent, through which mobile phone owners can be offered a digitalized, all-around introduction to the exhibits displayed at the museum by taking pictures of them.

Augmented reality can also be found in Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai, where visitors can learn more about how coffee beans are roasted through the technology offered by Alibaba Group's artificial intelligence laboratory.

With domestic and global technology companies including Tencent, Alibaba, Apple and Google strengthening efforts in augmented reality, the value of China's augmented reality industry is expected to reach $5.2 billion in 2017, representing an increase of 100 percent from a year earlier, according to a recent industry report. The report also predicted that augmented reality technology would be applied to many other fields of consumption, medical treatment and car manufacturing.

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