Matt Miesnieks, who sold his computer vision startup 6D.ai to Niantic in the spring of 2020, announced that he’s teaming with former Magic Leap SVP John Gaeta and Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley to create a new company, LivingCities.xyz. Its goal is to “connect real places to digital-twins, bringing life to the mirror world… We’re building a social layer intertwining the Metaverse and reality, so we can more richly express who we are to each other.”
Each of the co-founders brings expertise in three respective areas critical to the Living Cities misson: computer vision (Miesnieks), Creative and Advanced VFX (Gaeta), and real-world connected social software (Crowley). “Alongside the three of us we have a small team including talent from Apple, award-winning Nexus Studios, Meow Wolf, and Zaha Hadid’s architectural firm, as well as veteran crypto developers,” Miesnieks wrote in his blog.
Gaeta, who will be in charge of the company’s “Imagineering,” literally built The Matrix (and won an Oscar for it). He was a senior strategy executive at Magic Leap, and most recently he was an Executive Creative Producer on Epic’s Matrix Awakens. He emphasized that the technology is not the point of the company. “What we’re talking about today is not a product yet. It’s a company that is on a particular path to figure out how to evoke the spirit of places, not just the containers and not only in a digital sense. So the real world can drive the virtual. That’s the simple premise. The real world can drive and the virtual can answer back.”
The spark for the idea came to Miesniek’s observation of the social behavior of his young teenage sons during lockdown. The kids would meet their friends in Fortnite, but not to play the game. “What really caught my attention,” said Miesnieks in our interview, “was that all of their socializing was happening in 3D spaces. It wasn’t happening in 2D timelines. They weren’t on Twitter or Instagram or Snap. They weren’t using newsfeeds. It was a 3D game world in terms of the user experience, but it was a social place.
“When I was describing the Living Cities concept to the kids,” Miesnieks continued, “they were like, oh man, you mean, we could like sit around the altar in Notre Dame Cathedral and play Magic, The Gathering? I said yeah, that’s the sort of idea that we’re thinking about. The real place can affect how we feel and how we socialize”.
Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley will be in charge of the product. Foursquare was the first app to leverage geolocation in smartphones. “I’ve spent a good chunk of my career building software that helps people connect with the real world in new and novel ways.” Said Crowley in an email. “Every time there’s a major change in consumer tech, I’ve had a chance to revisit this challenge. With Dodgeball we did it with text messaging, with Foursquare it was with apps and GPS. And with LivingCities, we have an amazing opportunity to reinvent the relationship between real-world and digital again with a whole new crop of emerging technologies.”
Living Cities raised $4 million in a seed round led by Data Collective and angels. They decided to go public with their venture as it will help their recruiting efforts. “We are close to having a demo ready in the next couple of months. And so we want it to start coming out of stealth and talking about the ideas, the vision, and bringing people on board now that we’ve got funding,” Miesnieks concluded.
Charlie Fink is an author and futurist focused on spatial computing. See his books here.