Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Kicking things off, Apple (AAPL) Shows Headset to Board in Sign It’s Reached Advanced Stage. Bloomberg’s exclusive story describes how Apple’s board was shown XR demos at their meeting last week, perhaps portending an imminent announcement, perhaps as soon as the company’s annual developer conference two weeks from now. The device, codenamed N301, can deliver both VR and AR experiences with a pass-through camera. The standalone headset is powered by Apple’s newest M-1 chips and has ultra-high-resolution screens, and will therefore be expensive, perhaps several thousand dollars. Apple VP Mike Rockwell and former head of hardware engineering, Dan Riccio, lead the Project Development Group (PDG) that developed N301. Their team of 2,000 engineers has offices off of the main Apple campus, in nearby Sunnyvale. They are reportedly working on other ambitious headsets that will be introduced later in the decade. 9to5mac and Road to VR dropped stories about why it’s taken this long.
Two Bit Circus Going Public via SPAC. A SPAC is a shell company created for the sole intention of acquiring or merging with another company and then taking that business public. For those being acquired, it provides a faster path toward public markets than an initial offering. In this case, there is a little more to it. First, the SPAC, Alpine Acquisition Corporation, will acquire LA-based Two Bit Circus (TBC) for $50M. TBC just announced its second location in Dallas. The company will then spend $65 million in cash and stock to purchase two full-service conference hotels located in Denver, CO and Stamford, CT, which will be renovated and rebranded as Reveler’s Resorts, which will be powered by Two Bit Circus Technology. The combined company is expected to be renamed “Two Bit Entertainment Corp.” and continue to be listed on NASDAQ under the symbol REVE. The transactions are expected to close in the 3rd quarter of 2022.
Z Space Also Going Public Through SPAC. Zspace makes 3D displays that can be shared by multiple students wearing polarized glasses. Over a million school children use the displays and licensed software every day. The combined company is expected to have an estimated post-transaction enterprise value of $195 million and will be listed on the NASDQ as ZSPX.
Nick Clegg, Meta’s President, Global Affairs, former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, and Zuckerberg confidante, dropped this metaverse manifesto on Medium. I have no idea why it was not on Meta’s website. The lengthy document is a whopping thirty-minute read so you may want to read Techcrunch’s venomous summary instead. I guess Clegg felt last October’s 70-minute rebranding movie was not enough explaining. Personally, I found the essay rather sad. Meta is in a lonely place. No one else really cares about VR or the Meta Metaverse. Well, Sony cares. They’re making the Playstation 2 VR and invested two billion dollars in Epic Games’ metaverse. Apple CEO Tim Cook has openly ridiculed the Metaverse. Everyone else, Epic, Google, Roblox, etc. are not presently interested in VR. Ironically, were it not for Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR in 2014, and its Facebook’s subsequent re-branding as Meta last October no one would be talking about the Metaverse. Clegg promised to be good about privacy, safety, and integrity, and outlined contributions the company is making to education and diversity. Apparently, no one ever told Clegg and his handlers at Meta that too much explaining can kill a good story.
Sony is positioned for combat in the Metaverse. At a strategy briefing earlier this week CEO Kenichiro Yoshida explained “The metaverse is at the same time a social space and live network space where games, music, movies, and anime intersect.” Sony has significant subsidiaries in each of those categories which position it to succeed in the metaverse, no matter how it develops.
Meet the Metaverse. This innovative site uses innovative avatars that are actually you – in a zoom chicklet. The browser-based 3D meeting platform offers 3D spaces for conferences, companies, and meetings.
Qualcomm launches new AR reference design for thinner and wireless glasses. Qualcomm is introducing a wireless version of its augmented reality Smart Viewer, a reference design that manufacturers could adapt into commercial headsets. The Wireless AR Smart Viewer updates Qualcomm’s earlier design with a higher-powered chipset, plus a tethering system that uses Wi-Fi 6 / 6E and Bluetooth instead of a USB-C cable. The new Smart Viewer was developed by Goertek. It’s currently available to a few manufacturing partners with plans to expand access in the coming months.
Mouth Haptics Let You Kiss, Smoke, And Eat Spiders In VR. Researchers working for Carnegie Melon University’s Future Interfaces Group have developed a new haptic feedback device that utilizes ultrasonic transducers to simulate a realistic sense of touch on your mouth.
Stevie Wonder Samples Smart Glasses Made By Dutch High-Tech Company Helping the Blind. Envision created the glasses and an app that translates images into words for the blind. The glasses have a built-in camera with audio that photographs an object and describes the image for the wearer.
Horizon Worlds Adds 100+ Pre-Made Items With Asset Library. The company continues to build the toolset creators need to craft compelling spaces quickly. Users can’t upload and sell assets. Yet.
A showcase of 27 experiments in AR-enhanced journalism by the NY Times, created with Meta’s web-based no-code SparkAR creation and publishing tool, was shared on the newspaper’s website. Spatial data, real-scale explainers, interactive visual stories, 3D art, and immersive environments augment stories from the sports desk to the climate beat. Check them out here.
VR Attraction Zero Latency Ditches Backpack PCs in Favor of Vive Focus 3 & Wireless Rendering. Instead, the company will do remote rendering and a local computer. The new platform is currently available in Melbourne, Australia at Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq in the Docklands, closely followed by select sites in the United States and Europe starting this summer. Pricing in Melbourne starts at $39 AUD per person for 30 minutes. Individual experiences range from 15 to 30 minutes and can support as many as eight players at a time.
Augmented World Expo, The World’s Leading XR Conference in Santa Clara June 1st – 3rd. The conference, now in its 13th year, brings together hardware manufacturers, software companies, XR professionals, journalists, investors, and students. There are over 250 vendors on the show floor, which includes AWE’s Playground, with experiential entertainment offerings. People who can’t attend will be able to watch the main stage presentations online at AWE.live for free. The conference, which features twelve agenda tracks and 400 speakers, will be keynoted by John Riccitello, CEO of Unity, and Hugo Swart, VP & GM of XR and Metaverse at Qualcomm. All sessions, including the tracks, are recorded and posted on YouTube after the show. Conference organizer and CEO of AWE, Ori Inbar, told us the conference may exceed 2019’s record 7,000 attendees.
Are ‘Captions for the Physical World’ AR’s Killer App? (Mike Boland/ARInsider)
7 Essential Ingredients of a Metaverse (Liz Harkavy, Eddy Lazzarin, Arianna Simpson/a16z.com)
iPod Creator Tony Fadell Isn’t Buying the Metaverse Hype (Lisa Eadicicco/Cnet)
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.