Welcome back to Spatial Beats. New names and old ones round out this week in XR with big funding for Magic Leap, and Sky Mavis, a Vietnamese company whose fast growing blockchain game, Axie Infinity, is now valued at $3 Billion following Andreesen’s $152 M investment. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s deal to provide the Army with its own infantry HoloLens seems to have run aground, endangering a contract potentially worth $22 Billion.
Magic Leap Is On The Comeback Trail With $500M in funding and a new AR headset. CEO Peggy Johnson broke the news during a daytime appearance on CNBC. The big raise values the company at $2 B. The original investors had largely written their three billion dollar investment off last year. The Magic Leap 2 is a slightly sleeker than the Magic Leap 1 Creators’ Edition. It’s still tethered to an external drive, or “puck.” The design took us by surprise, since one of the objections to the first headset was its occlusion or the physical world made it unsuitable to front line workers who have to navigate a factory floor with its attendant safety concerns.
Axie Infinity Changing The Game With $152M Of New Funding. Just five months after raising a $7.5 Series A funding round, Vietnamese developer Sky Mavis added an additional $152 million Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz valuing the young company at $3 billion. Axie is a new breed of online game in which users can acquire cryptocurrency by playing. It’s a little like Pokémon on the blockchain, where users play on teams of cartoon monsters, known as Axies, which are stored on its own blockchain. By winning battles in the game or selling Axies users earn real money.
Microsoft’s Vaunted AR Combat System On Shaky Ground. The U.S. Army has reportedly paused the acquisition of AR headsets based on the Microsoft HoloLens. This comes less than a year after the Army announced a contract potentially worth $22 B to produce tens of thousands of these Integrated Visual Augmentation Systems (IVAS) for dismounted infantry.
HTC Introduces New Flow VR Headset. The new $499 stand alone, lightweight headset is made for relaxation, productivity and light entertainment. There are no controllers as the device had advanced hand-tracking capabilities. HTC is targeting consumers more interested in watching movies and tv shows than playing games. In doing so, they are trying to create a new market, which is a huge challenge for even its deepest pocketed rivals.
SideQuest Raises $3M To Help VR Developers Go Multi-Platform. The company raised $650K in a seed round last year for their unofficial Oculus Quest app store. PROfounders led the investment which includes Ada Ventures, Connect Ventures, Ascension, and SCNE.
Stage 11 Raises $ 5.77 M To Combine Music, Games, MR, and NFTs. The French startup has partnerships with Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Snoop Dogg, Ne-Yo, Akon, Salif Gueye, and the fashion house Institut Français de la Mode. European VC Otium Capital led the round.
Labster Acquires UbiSim. Labster, which develops laboratory simulations for education, announced it will acquire VR training platform UbiSim, which is used to train nurses.
Acer’s glasses-free 3D SpatialLabs laptop arrives this winter. Acer announced today its “ConceptD 7 SpatialLab Edition laptop” will launch in the US next year. The laptop uses a stereoscopic 3D display and eye-tracking cameras to help create the illusion that objects on the screen appear in three dimensions.
Bank Of America Turns To VR For Soft Skills Training. Starting next year, the bank will begin using VR to train its 50,000 employees in client interactions they encounter on a daily basis. Employees will access a variety of simulations created by its internal development shop, The Academy. A successful pilot program with 400 employees revealed an astonishing 97% of the participants left feeling more confident in their abilities.
New Tap XR Bracelet Enables Typing Without A Keyboard. Tap Systems, Inc. has demonstrated the TapXR, a bracelet that detects finger movements, or taps, on any solid surface. Tap’s first product, the Tap Strap, a finger wearable keyboard, mouse and controller, launched in 2018, and has tens of thousands of users.
Ready Player Me’s Dune Avatars. Users can now make a Dune-themed avatar using a selfie. The resulting avatar can be used in many VR games, including VRChat.
MVP Football: The Patrick Mahomes Experience Is Now Available on Oculus Quest. CityLights producers Joel Newton and Travis Cloyd partnered with Free Range Games and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes to create an experience that allows users to walk in the cleats of an elite QB, progressing from high school all the way to the Super Bowl.
What it’s like to dance at a VR strip club? (Morgan Sung/Mashable)
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.