In this interview for the Worldfolio, Mr. Guo Fu, CEO of REVO TIMES, explains how his firm is bringing digital technologies that originated from the film industry to other sectors and applications. From digital twins to immersive education, the opportunities brought about by digitalization have never seemed so endless.
Characterized by the major changes brought on by technologies such as AI, robotics and IoT, combined with a rapidly fluctuating international economy, Globalization 4.0 —a term coined by this year's World Economic Forum to signal the coming shift in globalized structures combined with Industry 4.0 technologies—is upon us. How do you believe those new technologies have impacted the development of China?
In my opinion, Industry 4.0 has been, and will continue to be, the most important enabler of China’s economic development. The first industrial revolution was marked by the appearance of the steam engine, the second by the development of electric capabilities and the third, by the multiplication of telecommunications and electronic devices, such as computers. During each of the three past revolutions, China systematically lagged behind other nations. However, that is not the case anymore for China is at the forefront of various Industry 4.0 technologies.
The concept of Industry 4.0, which we refer to as the ‘AI revolution,’ was introduced in Hanover, Germany, in 2013. The Chinese Government then introduced this concept in 2015 as part of the “Made in China 2025” campaign. Right from the start, REVO TIMES began utilizing Industry 4.0 technologies into its development. To understand the impact of Industry 4.0 on industrial processes, one must consider three elements: AI factories, AI production and AI delivery. For example, China today has 2,600 robot-making companies, making our country the nation with most producers of robots worldwide.
Undoubtedly, the impact of robotics and automation is cross-sectorial and trans-regional. In Jiangsu province, South of China, there is a company that produces white wine. Before installing AI-controlled robots in their production process, they had 60 factory workers. After inputting robotized production, they lowered the number of factory workers to 12 . The results of this simple example allows us to observe two majors factors of improvement. First is the profitability of the company’s work, which has gone up post-installation. Second is the production output, which increased fivefold after the introducing of robots.
Let us now discuss the impact of Industry 4. 0 on China’s economy. Although I am not an expert in economic-financial research, everyone knows that China is the second largest economy in the world. In 2018, China’s GDP stood at 900 trillion RMB. For our economy to pursue its growth, it requires us to develop cutting-edge technologies that will increase revenue, productivity and profitability from a national point of view. As such, one can consider Industry 4.0 to be a mean for China to keep its economy growing at 6.6%.
In your opinion, how good are Chinese companies and Chinese people at innovating?
To answer that question, one must first consider the various pillars of Chinese innovation. To describe China’s innovation paradigm, we employ the term “ABCDEF.” Each of these letters represent a word describing an advanced technology. “A” refers to AI; “B” is Blockchain; “C” means Cloud Computing; “D” stands for Data; “E” is Edge Computing, and “F” is for Fintech. Chinese companies are currently developing ABCDEF technologies at an ever-increasing speed.
I often ask myself: “how does this enthusiasm from Chinese companies came to be?” In my opinion, this passion comes from the end of the 12th Five-Year-Plan, which began at the end of 2015, and the anticipation from the upcoming 13th Five-Year-Plan.
Today, our Government launched a document detailing how the 13th Five-Year-Plan will assist innovative companies by encouraging them to combine their traditional business with new advanced technologies. This document reflects our strategy to further digitalization within traditional economic sectors. To illustrate this combination between traditional business and digitalization, let us consider our field, namely, Mixed Reality and Digital Twins targeted at the Cultural & Creative industries. We are currently conducting a project about AI actors. In collaboration with Alibaba’s technology department, we are using voice interacting technology to build a digital replica of people, such as movie superstars and athletes. We successfully digitalized a Chinese basketball player, namely, Fang Shuo, and have digitally replicated all his movements when he plays basketball and trains. Today, we offer this digital replica to schools and institutions that teach basketball. The ultimate goal of this project is to provide basketball students with a world-class teacher. To explain how this project works: when Fang Shuo appears on your device’s screen, you just have to say: “Fang Shuo show me how to score a triple,” and Fang Shuo will do it in a highly precise motion. If you say “stop” during his movement, Fang Shuo will stop mid-air, allowing the viewer to observe his jump from a 360-degree angle. The whole proceeding is controlled by the voice, by your voice’s command.
China has made considerable investments in 5G technologies and is today considered to be an international leader in said field. What will be the impact of 5G on China and on the pace of digitalization?
The development of 5G is the most important industrial process today. I predict that 5G will impact us in four ways. Firstly, it will speed up the building of industrial internet. Secondly, it will improve and refine supply chain structures. Thirdly, it will allow us to further understand, evaluate and interact with our consumers. At last, it will combine the physical economy with the digital one, and allow it to develop together.
To illustrate how these four aspects impact REVO TIMES, let me give you an example. We are currently cooperating with the government of Henan province to develop an initiative called “Digital Huaxia.” Henan is in the middle of China and is famous for its ancient ruins and antiques. In the past, these historical artifacts remained in museums. Under this initiative, we are going to use digital tools and mixed reality to present those digital properties where they physically belong. For example, there is an ancient musical instrument, called bianzhong, which is 2,500 years old. Normally, people can only stand in front of it and keep their distance. Our goal is to digitalize it and turn this ancient instrument into a digital property that can be utilized. Equiped with Virtual Reality Glasses, one will be able to immerse himself in a 2,500-year-old-environment. One will be able to experience China’s bianzhong era, observe how emperors treated their guests, feel the bronze texture of ancient artifacts and hear the soft melody of forgotten instruments. Our objective is to multiply the cultural experience of visitors by transporting them to the past, digitally. As China’s Belt & Road Initiative continues to create deep bonds with international nations, we believe that this technology will allow tourists to further enjoy the rich history of China. Interestingly so, the bianzhong was regulated by a policy which forbade its display outside of China. Hence, foreign tourists are not able to see it unless they travel to China. By combining our technology with mixed reality, we will allow world citizens to travel and discover China, from the comfort of their land. In the past, developing heavy digital files made them poorly accessible and hard to transfer due to their size. However, the development of 5G technology is making this assumption obsolete. With 5G, we will be able to transfer and upload these files in record time.
In the past, the physical economy constrained us to think about the “amount” of resources. In today’s digital economy however, the “amount” of resources is obsolete for it can be seamlessly multiplied. In the digital world, it is not the quantity of the product that counts, but its quality.
How are new technologies influencing and impacting the film industry?
Digital technologies are accelerating the speed of movie production. Movie production is composed of three key fields, namely, distribution, collaboration and measuring. In the past, managing these three features simultaneously was a difficult task.
From a production standpoint, Chinese firms are not as advanced as their American peers. Nevertheless, we pride ourselves in having highly competitive techniques in subsectors. In April of last year, we participated in the production of a Chinese blockbuster movie entitled Crazy Alien. For this project, we utilized our proprietary mixed reality technology, and that is as good as it gets! To put it simply, when one watches the movie, he can see there are real characters interacting with digital aliens present simultaneously in the same scene. With traditional technology, directors or actors cannot see the digital characters on-set, for they are added later on in the post-production process. As such, only the post-production crew is able to see the interaction, not the actors themselves. But with our mixed reality technology, we use an on-stage monitor as a live-rendering tool, therefore allowing everyone to see the digital characters. By combining our software system with our monitor, everyone can see the characters simultaneously, and coordination becomes easier. This simplifies digital and physical collaboration but it also helps with photography, editing and measuring, effectively saving money and time. To a large extent, we have been able to break the separation between the digital and the physical world. Our services were highly praised by the “Crazy Alien” team, including the producers and investors. Quantitatively speaking, we were able to finish 412 shots in 35 days. In traditional movie sets, these 412 shots would have taken four month to tweak.
How does this live-rendering technology ameliorate the quality of the movie?
For the creative part, the director’s job is simplified as he can just sit in front of the monitor and give directions instantly. The director can just judge and clearly see where and when the digital character is moving its hand, and how the real actors react to it. Consequently, the director is able to direct both the real characters and the digital ones simultaneously.
Do you plan to export this technology and collaborate with firms outside the film industry?
Increasing international and cross-sectorial collaboration is precisely what we are currently aiming for. To manage a company, investing in technological development does not constitute a source of revenue. As such, we are currently looking for partners active in other fields. Similar to our collaboration with Henan province, we are currently offering our product and services to schools. We are particularly focused on primary, middle and high schools. To give you an example as to how our services can improve academia, imagine a history lesson. Instead of having students reading books, we can propose an immersive experience into history, allowing our students to see and interact with historical events.
Furthermore, by ameliorating the quality of digital tools, we can help rural area students have access to better education. Thanks to connectivity, schools from China’s poor district can watch and attend the same classes as their more fortunate peers.
In the upcoming weeks, I will meet with representative of China Mobile to discuss a possible partnership with the aim to digitalize China’s past and present. To explain what I mean: imagine you are a China Mobile user currently enjoying a road-trip. You can see on your GPS that the place you are currently driving through was historically inhabited by dinosaurs. By turning on China Mobile’s 5G, our products would transmit digital replicas of dinosaurs on your GPS or mobile screen. From ancient animals to a single piece of grass, everything can be digitalized. In the future, we hope to digitalize the whole of China and utilize that data to add-value to a multitude of socio-economic sectors.
Can you tell us more about your plans for the future of REVO TIMES?
I’m always thinking about this question! In the future, we will develop our technology under two aspects. First is the development of the applicability of our solutions with the aim to offer added-value services to enterprises across sectors. Second, is understanding the needs of our clients and markets. If a technology doesn’t answer a clear need, no matter its degree of excellence, the technology is useless.
Do you plan to collaborate with American firms in the future?
To answer your question, I will use a metaphor. Today, REVO TIMES is holding an unlit, yet inflammable torch. To create fire for our torch, we will learn from the USA and apply their techniques and technologies. In our field, the USA still possesses the best technological abilities, and our aim is to learn from them, import their technology to China and then export our version of their technology to the US and internationally. While we are currently focused on the Chinese market, we hope to expand REVO TIMES internationally in the future. As an admirer of America’s top production studios, such as LUCAS FILM, we would be truly proud to collaborate with them and develop our technology alongside theirs.