Are Hong Kong’s tech hubs ready to crown content technology the new queen?
This article appeared originally in the South China Morning Post on 2 March, 2021.
Authors: Helen So, Lead of Arts and Culture and Yolanda Lam, Assistant Researcher at Our Hong Kong Foundation
As in previous years, innovation and technology has received substantial attention in the government’s budget, with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park and Cyberport the dual protagonists of this chapter.
What should the strategies be in the coming year for the city’s largest and wealthiest tech hubs? After a year of stay-at-home activities and modified lifestyles, there are new industries to look out for.
In 2014, BuzzFeed’s Jonathan Perelman captured the zeitgeist of the mass media when he declared, “Content is king, but distribution is queen”. In today’s changed times, we suggest a new queen – “content technology”.
In an era of data-informed entertainment, the technology behind the scenes has become the backbone of creating quality content. One example is Netflix, which decides what to recommend that you watch next. From artificial-intelligence-assisted scriptwriting to viewer analytics and big data, content technology is the revolutionary force that helps creators make more informed choices, driving more customised experiences for viewers.
Major tech giants around the world have already invested heavily in content technology. Netflix has its own centre dedicated to content technology research and development across areas such as machine learning, analytics, and video and audio encoding. China’s Tencent has also built an AI lab to enhance content technology in its products, from games to AI-generated music. A recent example is their creation of AI virtual singer-songwriter “Ai Ling”.
Content technology is where discussions of “art tech”, which popped up in the 2020 policy address and again in last week’s budget, should be heading. Just imagine the new heights the city’s media and entertainment industries could scale if we considered content technology in the same light.
But where do we find these companies? That’s a question the Science Park and Cyberport – home to over 2,000 local small and medium-sized enterprises, many in disruptive technologies – should answer. Recently, Cyberport-based start-up ConnectAR Limited brought Lunar New Year fireworks to our screens with augmented/virtual reality technology, and Science Park’s ClusterTech Limited joined a local film production and distribution company to develop AI-assisted scriptwriting.
Hong Kong’s first film made using virtual production technology is also under way. The project, spearheaded by the Hong Kong Design Institute in collaboration with smaller, Hong Kong content production studios, uses a suite of software tools to combine live action footage and background computer graphics in real-time.
This new production skill is game-changing, not only for the film industry, but also for broadcasting live sports and music events. It has the potential to redefine the future of visual culture entirely.
Clearly, there is huge potential for both the Science Park and Cyberport to take the lead in bringing together the cultural and creative industries and technology.
It is important for account managers and related personnel at these tech hubs to keep abreast of cross-industry trends so they can understand the fast-changing applications of new technology for the content and creative industries. To keep these employees both technically and “artistically” adept, internal training might be necessary.
It might help if the tech hubs forged closer relationships with bodies such as the Vocational Training Council, as institutes under the group may offer short courses which could help. For instance, the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education is planning to roll out a course on art tech later this year.
Closer connections also make it easier for students with sector-specific skills to join incubation programmes at the tech hubs, where they can benefit from the resources provided before leapfrogging into industry.
Moreover, the Science Park and Cyberport, both landlords in their own right, should allocate more space to support content technology R&D. Science Park, for instance, could engage more tech companies that could lend themselves to developments in the creative, media and entertainment industries at its Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate, positioned as a data technology hub.
With dedicated space for content-related R&D, new players would be encouraged to join the cluster, fostering the content technology ecosystem.
The measures above are merely low-hanging fruit. The Science Park and Cyberport must be proactive when pushing innovation and new industries. Content technology development would be a timely strategic focus.