Apple’s Chinese competitor Vision Pro raises $70 million, doubles down on new strategy to win over consumers

This photo taken on Sept. 22, 2023 shows a Rokid employee demonstrating an augmented reality helmet at the company’s office in the 2022 Asian Games host city of Hangzhou, in east China’s Zhejiang province. From autonomous bug zappers to android pianists and driverless ice cream trucks, machines rule the world, at least at China’s Asian Games. The host city of Hangzhou is the unofficial home of China’s tech industry, and robots and other mind-blowing gadgets are meant to serve, entertain and police visitors. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) / To go with the AFP story ASIAD-2022-2023-technology, FOCUS by Jing Xuan Teng (Photo: PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

Philip Fong | Afp | Getty Images

BEIJING – Chinese augmented reality and augmented reality glasses company Rokid announced this week that it has raised 500 million yuan ($70 million) in a funding round led by the Hefei city government.

Hefei, which also backed electric car startup Nio, is a center for automobile and semiconductor manufacturing near Shanghai.

Augmented reality (AR) technology makes it possible to transfer digital images into the real world. Apple’The Vision Pro virtual reality headset, which will launch on February 2nd, also allows users to see the real world using what the company calls “spatial computing”.

Rokid sells AR glasses for consumers. But its deal with Hefei will focus on using AR for factories, Rokid founder and CEO Misa Zhu told CNBC in a phone interview on Wednesday.

AR glasses can help with security checks on equipment while reducing the time workers need to spend on training, he said, adding that Rokid already has more than 60% market share in industries such as energy in China.

Zhu said that since businesses care more about product capabilities than price, this allows Rokid to test new AR technology with industrial customers before finding ways to lower its costs and introduce it to consumers.

Rokid’s cooperation agreement with the city of Hefei will establish a “metaverse industrial headquarters, ecosystem center and research and development center,” local state media said in Chinese, as translated by CNBC.

While companies have diversified their supply chains outside of China due to geopolitics and labor costs, Beijing has said it wants to build domestic capacity in advanced manufacturing.

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Rokid said it plans to make more technology announcements in the coming weeks. The company also expects significant potential from the incorporation of artificial intelligence.

“AI plus AR will change people’s lives in the next five to 10 years,” Zhu told CNBC in Mandarin. “AI helps you better collect and organize data, and (AR) can be used to display it more naturally.”

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