Welcome back to Spatial Beats. This week, we look at Niantic’s Lightship rollout, Unity’s big Weta purchase, Qualcomm’s new platform play and AWE wraps. Let’s dive in…

Augmented World Expo (AWE) wrapped their 12th edition, having attracted over 3,000 consegnati to Santa Clara live and in-person. There was also an online option, provided by Roooms. The conference and expo, which started as a meet up, still has that familiar, collegial vibe. Perhaps the most apt summation came from XR Pioneer Avi Bar-Zeev. “From the XR pros who made it to AWE this week, we all expressed joy, gratitude, even relief at seeing each other in person. I’m still bullish on the ability of XR to bring remote people together. But it’s clear that the technology is not yet providing the value of face-to-face.” At the end of his keynote Niantic co-founder and CEO John Hanke summed it up best. “Let’s build a world we want to live in, and not escape from.” That resonated with everyone.

Unity Buys Weta for $1.6B. Peter Jackson’s special effects powerhouse is selling its unique technology and engineering team to Unity, a company which can commercialize what they have built, and by so doing speed Unity’s entry into Hollywood.

Sure Signs Location Based VR (LBVR) is Back. Andressen’s a16z Fund adds another $37 M into Sandbox, which seems to have its pre-pandemic mojo back, attracting celebrity investors and top VCs. Dreamscape opens its Paramus, New Jersey location, which will be run by AMC. Virtuix, creators of the Omni Arena, and HP, are offering $100,000 in prizes to winners of its national VR multiplayer competition.

Niantic Launches Lightship AR Developer Kit. The Pokemon Go creators are offering developers tools with unprecedented power, going far beyond plane detection. The new SDK which plug into popular game engines enables occlusion, real-time mapping, precise geolocation, sharing of content in real-time, object recognition, scene understanding – a semantic understanding of the world. Niantic is pursuing several strategies to support Lightship developers. They plan to invest ten million dollars in grants through a new developer support fund, and build an education platform as Snap has done with Lens Studio.

Qualcomm Releases Shapes Developer Kit for XR HMD content developers. Complimenting Niantic’s new Lightship SDK, is Qualcomm Snapdragon Spaces, which will support developers building for Android smart glasses that use its Snapdragon chipset.

Justin Bieber to Stage Interactive Virtual Concert With Wave on November 18th. “Justin Bieber – An Interactive Virtual Experience.” will give fans a “futuristic look into the metaverse, merging gaming, real-time motion-capture, and live musical performance into an immersive interactive experience. Audiences will go on an epic and intimate musical journey with Bieber and see him perform songs from his #1 album Justice before kicking off his 2022 Justice World Tour.” The event is free. Fans can sign up on wave.watch and experience the event Thursday, November 18 at 6pm PT/9pm ET. Rebroadcasts will follow on November 20 and 21.

Award-winning ShapesXR Collaboration Tool Launches in Quest Store. The new app enables up to twelve participants, developers and, importantly, non-developers, to share a spatial VR environment where they can work together. Users can create their own content using ShapesXR premade scenes, or start from scratch, building and uploading their own 3D models in .obj format. Designers can introduce and manipulate simple shapes at scale, change color and materials, research user flows and review prototypes as 3D storyboards. The resulting design can then be imported into Unity with textures and properties intact for further refinement.

Vuzix announced today that that it has been named a multiple CES 2022 Innovation Awards Honoree for Vuzix Shield. Vuzix Shield is the first binocular AR smart glasses from Vuzix.

The real point isn’t to win or lose but to covet and acquire: An 8-Year-Old Explains the Metaverse. (Alex Williams/New York Times)

Gary Vee gets the greatest podcast guest of all time, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who talks about the potential VR (it’s here now, games first), and AR (end of the decade) and much, much more.

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.

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