Welcome back to Spatial Beats. The week came blasting out of the gate with not shocking but devastating revelations about how Facebook prorgrams its algorithm to maximize profits, even when they know it harms their users. It was a big tobacco moment. Former executive Francis Haugen was super credible both in the media and in front of Congress, where she was embraced by politicians on the right and left for different reasons. It’s increasingly clear that giant tech companies are harming the public for profit. Their attempts to cover up data indicating this is true is understandable, and definitive proof they must be regulated. The FB PR machine dutifully trotted out its visionary but tone deaf CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, in a lame attempt to discredit Haugen by portraying her as an angry ex-employee. It didn’t stick.
And then on Monday, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus went down for the better part of the day. Just to remind everyone what is at stake when the media coagulates around one company. Facebook was widely roasted while the businesses that depended upon it felt the sting.
Then, Thursday, Facebook Reality Labs announced the creation of a ten million dollar maker fund for its still-in-closed-beta Horizon social VR app. In addition, the company said Horizon will be rebranded as Horizon Worlds. This follows the launch of Horizon Workrooms last month, suggesting there may be more brand extensions to come. Both applications have the same look and feel and use Facebook’s recently updated avatar system.
When Zuck and FRL talk about VR, they are the beloved visionary inventor Dr. Jekyll, but when wielding its enormous power, Facebook sadly resembles Mr. Hyde. That story doesn’t end well. Dr. Jekyll was addicted to the algorithm that turned him into Mr. Hyde. When he realized he couldn’t stop it, the only way out was suicide.
Light Field Lab’s New Naked-Eye Holograms. No glasses are needed to see realistic holograms, objects seemingly solid, but made out of light, blended perfectly into the physical world. Founded by Lytro veterans, Light Field Lab raised $35 million in 2019. The company is focusing on the $36 Billion dollar market for video walls, but the applications are vast.
A Catastrophe at Twitch. The code base, the operating system, for Amazon’s popular live streaming service was stolen and posted on the Internet. “Jeff Bezos paid $970 million for this,” the cyber thief wrote in a forum post. “We’re giving it away FOR FREE.”
The Void Is Back. Maybe. Assets of the failed free roam VR chain have been acquired by a group that includes its former employees.
Netflix Hit Series ‘Squid Game’ Is Now A VR Game. In Red Light Green Light, available free on SideQuest. Anyone seen moving during the red light phase is elimitated from competion. Unlike the TV series, the user lives to play another game.
Congrats to our friend, storied executive Kim Adams, one of the co-founders of Adventure Lab and a former Oculus executive producer. She’s joining Nexus Studios to head up real-time production. Nexus is developing original stories and interactive characters.
What is the Metaverse and do I have to Care? This clever piece in the Verge by Adi Robinson and Jay Peters is “one part definition, one part aspiration, one part hype.”
This Week in XR is now a podcast hosted by Paramount’s Futurist Ted Schilowitz and Charlie Fink, the author of this weekly column. You can find it on podcasting platforms Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube. Watch the latest episode below.
Charlie Fink is an author and futurist focused on spatial computing. See his books here. Spatial Beats contains insights and inputs from Fink’s collaborators including Paramount Pictures futurist Ted Shilowitz.