A North Korean company claims to be using HTC VIVE virtual reality (VR) systems to run one of its programs, according to an image from a technology fair in Pyongyang this week posted to state outlet the Arirang Meari.
Explicitly listing “VIVE” under the features section and displaying an image of the full VR system at this week’s 2018 National Exhibition of IT Successes, the Unha IT Company (운하정보기술교류사) appears to be showing off a virtual reality program which uses the foreign company’s hardware.
While Taiwan-based HTC makes multiple versions of the VIVE VR system, the one depicted at the exhibition appears to be the $500 standard version, with on-site advertisement showing a set including a headset, two wireless controllers, two motion-tracking base stations, and an adapter box.
The premise of the game or software, which must be run on a separate high-powered computer, is less clear due to poor image quality, though it does list “virtual landscapes” as a primary feature.
HTC has yet to respond to an inquiry from NK News regarding the company’s knowledge of any potential sales of their systems to North Korean organizations.
Another VR headset appeared at a separate booth at the fair under a banner with the words “VR Experience” and “Experience Station,” though no company name could be seen in the available images.
This is just the latest in a trend of the DPRK showing off VR products and technologies – sometimes of foreign origin – in various media, with headsets from a Chinese brand often being used by students at the Pyongyang Teacher Training College when guests visit.
In addition to the VR system, the Unha IT Company also displayed at the exhibition this week a driving simulation program, which appears to include both software and a driver’s seat hardware kit, claiming to provide “driving exercise” experience in vehicles such as cars and tractors.
The country has recently been highlighting the construction of children’s traffic education parks (“Park for Teaching Children Traffic Regulations” as described by state media in English), claiming last week that 50 new parks are currently going up around the country.
Similar driving simulation systems can be seen being used by children in different parks shown in state media, though the simulation software and vehicle “cockpit” kits do not always appear the same.
It is unclear if the two Unha IT Company products are related or if their VR system is intended for use in the driving simulation stations now sprouting up in the children’s traffic education parks.
Also at the exhibition were major brands in North Korea’s tech sector, including Sonamu displaying curved-screen TVs and karaoke machines, Phurunhanul showing off CCTV cameras and TVs, and the Manbang IT Agency showing upgrades to their eponymous on-demand TV program device.
One individual from a national IT agency said some of the key new areas on display at the event were “artificial intelligence” and “big data” in a segment on Korean Central Television (KCTV), while its theme was described in the Rodong Sinmun as “The age of knowledge-based economy and IT enthusiasm.”
Some words on a display for the “Rungrado” (릉라도) brand of TVs made by the Ryongak Trading Company (룡악무역회사), however, were blurred during a segment on the exhibition on KCTV.
An image released in the Arirang Meari article revealed the blurred words to be “low price” and “4K” – a reference to the TV’s display resolution.
The country’s proprietary operating system, Red Star 4.0, was also at the exhibition.
Under a banner for the Red Star Technology Company, an information display describes the expansion of the operating system’s usership, saying 606 organizations and 72,000 users or PCs utilize the individual-oriented operating system.
It also says 942 organizations utilize the server-based system through 17,000 servers or stations.
These numbers could not be independently verified, but if accurate, are still comparatively low for a country of over 20 million people.
Computers used by schools and companies in North Korea shown in state media still appear to be, by and large, using different versions of Windows.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: VIVE/Arirang Meari, edited by NK News
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