ICT Ministry opens bidding to build virtual reality zonesThe Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced a plan to bring virtual reality (VR) technology closer to the public on Monday by opening bids for the construction of so-called VR experience zones.
The ministry expects the 1.9 billion won ($1.6 million) initiative to attract consortia consisting of tech companies, content creators and property owners.
The fund will go toward establishing two types of facilities: one featuring immersive 360-degree videos and games at popular tourist destinations, and the other involving digital content themed around K-pop and K-dramas as well as Korean movies and animated films.
The ICT Ministry noted that the consortia are expected to pay for half the construction costs.
But the government fund is only available to small and medium-sized companies rather than conglomerates, public entities or regional governments.
The experience zones will be set up at popular tourist destinations by the end of this year, according to the ministry.
The content should work on major VR devices, including Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR and the HTC Vive.
“The experience zones will pop up in places frequented by tourists in the beginning stage,” a ministry spokesperson said. “It will later extend its reach to different cities, and we will mull how to generate money from them.”
In choosing the consortia, the ministry will consider aspects like level of VR technology and quality of content.
But doubts still linger regarding the profitability of government-led cultural projects.
Following the phenomenal success of rapper Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” district offices and the Korea Tourism Organization invested heavily in building centers and facilities themed around K-pop. Few have generated any meaningful revenue.
Meanwhile, the ICT Ministry also announced a separate plan on Monday to boost another future-oriented field: brain science.
At the core of the plan is an intention to develop brain mapping to provide a complete picture of the brain’s structure by 2023.
The ministry initiative is aimed at two areas of brain mapping: high cortical function and brain diseases associated with aging.
The historic match between Go master Lee Se-dol and Google’s AlphaGo earlier this year spurred interest in artificial intelligence and brain research.
The ministry estimates the plan will require 340 billion won for 10 years, adding that it will negotiate the budget with related bodies.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]