Welcome back to Spatial Beats. This week, we look at Meta’s big moves and other news from the spatial spectrum.
Mark Zuckerberg’s online keynote at his Facebook Connect 2021 developer conference laid out the company’s expansive Metaverse strategy. In a slickly produced seventy minute video, Zuck and senior members of his executive team used animation and special effects to illustrate the company’s expansive vision for blending the physical and digital while bringing people closer together. If you have anything to do with XR, the keynote is a must-see.
Zuckerberg took great pains to describe the Metaverse, the successor to today’s internet, in words he’d used before: “an embodied internet” that you are inside of. The Meta CEO shared his vision of avatars teleporting from one place to another using a system like hyperlinks (not invented yet), persistent avatars and digital goods, and a digital economy like Roblox that would incentivize creators to create services and build things. Zuck admitted this could take five or ten years. “There’s a ton we don’t know yet, but we’re committed to this,” he said. One thing is clear, ten billion dollars is just a downpayment on everything they are trying to accomplish.
The AR tech demoed was truly amazing, but decidedly developmental. Michael Ambrash, FRL’s head of future technology, talked about the challenges of miniaturization. We got another look the bracelet that detects nerve impulses. The need for a visual operating system, AI, and advanced computer vision make this aspect of the developing metaverse one of the biggest tech challenges in the metaversal vision.
Among the many compelling initiatives reviewed was Cambria, a new stand alone VR head mounted display, with an ultra high resolution pass-through camera, slimmer form (thanks to pancake optics) and tons of sensors that track the eyes and facial expressions. The new Cambria HMD will be available sometime in 2022. Zuck apologized in advance for its price, without saying what that price is. Cambria does not replace the Quest 2, but represents an addition to a product line with multiple headsets at different price points.
Those are the highlights. Expect to hear a lot about the low lights over the next few days as the tech press digests the enormous amount of information presented by the company. Facebook, er, Meta, used words like humility and transparency a lot, making you wonder if there really is any. I cringed every time someone said,“AI,” because it reminds me how badly they’ve dealt with the unintended consequences of their social media products. Also, and this is a small thing, I guess. You can’t bring Grand Theft Auto San Andreas to the Quest and congratulate yourself for making the world a better place. Please shareholders. Check. Please gamers. Check. World a better place? Not so much.
There was other news in XR this week, Abba is getting back together to perform – as avatars!
Pimax Announces Wildly Ambitious New Standalone VR Headset with a Price to Match, $2,400. The company raised $20M last year.
LA’s Infinity Festival Is Where Hollywood, Games And Silicon Valley Meet, Nov. 2-4 The annual multi-day event celebrates “Story Enabled by Technology.”
Augmented World Expo is on in Santa Clara, November 9-11. The granddaddy of Immersive Media Festivals is back in the real (and online) with over 5,000 fully vaxxed and masked humans live and in person. The conference features over 300 speakers and a 100,000 sf expo floor.
Seven Rules for the Metaverse (Tony Parisi/Medium)
History Will Not Judge Us Kindly. Thousands of pages of internal documents offer the clearest picture yet of how Facebook endangers American democracy—and show that the company’s own employees know it. (Adrienne LaFrance/The Atlantic)
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.