Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and French Office in Taipei Director Jean-Francois Casabonne-Masonnave on Tuesday signed an agreement to promote cooperation on virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed-reality development.
The possibilities for cooperation between the two nations on XR — the collective term for the three technologies — is endless. Institutions in France such as the Louvre are using XR for virtual tours amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while French firms such as immersiv.io are using them to facilitate an immersive experience for sports fans, for example providing real-time player locations on a soccer field.
In Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has used VR to highlight the government’s successes and challenges in containing the pandemic, and has shared an English-language version of a 3D video at youtu.be/9QtUzEyvpw4.
Perhaps more importantly, XR has helped Taiwanese firms promote themselves at trade fairs amid travel restrictions and health concerns due to the pandemic. In July last year, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council set up an online VR platform for businesses that had been scheduled to attend the Hannover Industrial Fair in Germany, and this month, the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Taiwan Tech Arena launched a VR pavilion that allowed start-ups to remotely participate at the Consumer Electronics Show.
Taiwan is home to TSMC, one of the biggest names in semiconductor and video processing technologies, which produces chips used in many XR applications. Taiwan can provide the hardware and software for French applications, or cooperate with French software engineers on their development. Taiwan could also help host French applications, given the nation’s strengths in fixed and mobile network infrastructure.
Taiwan and France have cooperated in other areas in the past few years, as highlighted in talks between the Ministry of Culture and the French Office in 2018 on promoting Taipei as a hub for non-governmental organizations, and cultural exchanges, such as France hosting Taiwanese start-ups and Taiwanese artists participating in French art festivals.
The future of Taiwan-France relations could develop in two important ways: First, as XR and other remote-computing technologies would be of growing importance in the wake of the pandemic, the two countries can leverage their experience to be industry leaders. Second, given that France has expressed concerns over China’s expansionism and its suppression of Taiwan on the global stage, it is likely that Taipei could leverage those concerns to promote military cooperation with Paris.
On Dec. 7 last year, the Sankei Shimbun reported that France is to join the US and Japan in military drills in the East China Sea in May.
“This is a message aimed at China. This is a message about multilateral partnerships and the freedom of passage,” French Navy Chief of Staff Pierre Vandier told the Japanese newspaper in an interview.
As the report suggested that the drills are motivated by Chinese ambitions over the Diaoyutais (釣魚島) — which Japan also claims and calls the Senkakus — Taiwan has a vested interest in participating.
Taiwan has purchased military equipment from France, so military cooperation between the two countries is not out of the question. France made its position clear in May last year when it announced the sale to Taiwan of weapons to upgrade French warships sold to the country nearly 30 years ago.
Responding to Chinese criticisms over the weapons sale, it said that it “respects the contractual commitments it made with Taiwan and has not changed its position since 1994.”
Taiwan and France clearly have shared interests in regional stability and technology development. The government must act on these interests to bolster the relationship.
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