Welcome back to Spatial Beats. This week, Meta opens Horizon Worlds. Announced with great fanfare more than two long years ago, and in closed beta for over a year, Meta’s highly anticipated social VR world Horizon Worlds, is now open and free for anyone with a Meta Quest. As a beta user I saw first hand how Meta spent the past year honing the Horizon avatar system and creative building tools. This massive undertaking is in many ways the apotheosis of the Meta metaverse strategy.
Horizon Worlds is pleasing to the eye. It’s Disney-clean and light, with a carefully crafted interface, palette and design. It’s a sweet, thoughtful and professional job.
Meta has created the most compelling avatar system in all of XR. You actually believe the cartoon avatar you are talking to is looking you in the eyes. The hand gestures are just about perfect.
Meta is determined to build a creator economy in Horizon World. This way creators will be compensated for building places, events, and community. Then when you go to Horizon Worlds, there is a plethora of things to do and places to visit. While that’s developing, Meta is going to be underwriting things. They recently announced a ten million dollar maker fund to reward the best content creators in Horizon Worlds. Meta execs told me they are working on an asset store, which will provide a near-term source of revenue for their builder community while making content creation a little easier.
There’s plenty not to like about a closed system which does not integrate with popular game engines. Content creators can’t use tools like Blender or Maya. Builders can’t bring in their own 3D models, or assets from Sketchfab or TurboQuid. Creators are locked into Meta’s aesthetic and, for now, can only build with only Meta’s tools. Meta says it wants an open Metaverse, but its biggest social VR project is exclusively for Quest owners.
Epic Games releases a FREE UE5-based 3D virtual world, ready for games and exploration. To accompany the upcoming release of the new The Matrix Awakens movie, Epic Games’ has released a free video game for for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Built with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5r, the virtual city that is the set of this adventure will be available to all developers for free next year. The city is 4.138 km wide and 4.968 km long, slightly larger than the size of downtown L.A. It has 260 km of roads, 512 km of sidewalks, 1,248 intersections, 17,000 simulated traffic vehicles on the road that are destructible (via UE 5’s “chaos engine”) and 45,073 parked cars. Developers can toggle into night mode, where nearly all lighting comes from the millions of emissive building windows.
Apple’s mixed reality headset to focus on gaming, media consumption, and communication. Says analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. He says an Apple XR product will finally debut in the second half of 2022, with Apple selling about 2.5-3.5 million units of the expensive first-gen HMD in 2023. Kuo says a 2nd gen device would launch the following year. Apple has not yet officially confirmed the existence of the AR/VR headset.
At ‘Lens Fest,’ Snap debuts creations tools for more sophisticated augmented reality experiences. It’s all about the creators at Snapchat, too, and the company is laser focused on support them and making sure the best can make money.
Real Med Students, Virtual Patients. GigXR is providing XR training with the University of Michigan to “use holographic content to take some of the most complex parts of training doctors and nurses,” says David King Lassman, GigXR’s CEO, “and make it easier through mixed and extended reality.”
Virbela Hosts Its First Virtual Wedding. There’s no better symbol that a social platform has arrived than its first virtual wedding. Virbela is a 3D virtual world you navigate like a video game with the keypad of your computer. It’s like the Sims or Second Life, but for business. Virbela’s parent company, the public EXP Realty (EXPI), has offices exclusively in their own bespoke virtual building on the Virbela platform. Hundreds of other companies do, too. Virbela is also used for massive online conferences and expos with thousands of avatars sharing the same instance of the simulation.
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.