Welcome back to Spatial Beats. First up in our roundup, Ready Player Me Cross-Platform Avatar System Raised $56 million. The round was led by Andressen Horowitz. This follows a December 2021 raise of $13M. The Estonian company’s avatars have been integrated into 3,000 apps including VRChat, Spatial, and Somnimum Space. Once cross-platform teleportation protocol is developed, we anticipate Avatars-as-a-Service will grow exponentially. Facebook and Epic are developing similar products but, for the time being, they are behind the seven year old start-up that started life as character contractor Wolf3D.
Inworld AI raises $50M to populate games and the metaverse with smart characters. This brings their total funding to date to $70M. Academy award winner for SFX (The Matrix) John Gaeta has been named Chief Creative Officer. He will also be a guest today on the “This Week in XR” podcast. We saw a demo of InWorld AI at AWE in June. NPC’s (non-player characters) are fixtures in the video game world, but they’ve lacked the context and language recognition needed to carry on longer conversations. The funds will be used to build out the Inworld developer platform. Section 32 and Intel Capital led the round, which also included investments from Founders Fund, Accelerator Investments, First Spark Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Bitkraft Ventures, CRV, Microsoft’s M12 fund, Micron Ventures, LG Technology Ventures, SK Telecom Venture Capital, and The Venture Reality Fund.
Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster jazzes up China’s AR startup Nreal with $15M funding. Korean sunglasses brand Gentle Monster’s parent company, IICOMBINED (sic), brings the Chinese AR smart glasses company’s total haul since its 2017 founding by former Magic Leap engineer Chi Xu to $240M.
The Metaverse Is Added To The Gartner Hype Cycle. But with a 10+ year outlook, and a trough of disillusion in the near term. On the other hand… what is a metaverse? Nike says its Roblox.
Nearly 7 million people have visited Nike’s store in Roblox. No word on how much engagement this yielded. Roblox has 43M daily active users. The most remarkable thing about this announcement is that Nike characterizes this as their “metaverse” (smh) but it is big validation of the strategy of building branded “places” inside game metaverses. If I were Nike, I’d be looking at Fortnite, Rec Room, VR Chat, Horizon, etc.
The Selfie That Launched A Thousand Trolls leads to an important upgrade announcement. You may remember in the distant past (last week), to celebrate the launch of Horizon Worlds in France, the Meta CEO took a selfie inside Horizon with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Selfies taken inside Horizon do not come out well. The Wii had better graphics, groused one critic. In response, Zuckerberg rolled out some of the graphics upgrades ahead for Horizon. Take that, haters!
Vuzix Launches Vuzix Blade 2 Smart Glasses. The second generation of the $1299 smart glasses for enterprise will be available on the Vuzix website September 1st. Features include head tracking, a touchpad and voice commands, see-what-I-see virtual assist and collaboration software, real-time data, work instructions, mixed reality, HD photography and video streaming. The waveguide optics provide a private, ultrabright display that delivers 24-bit full-color images indoors and out.
Sony Confirms Playstation 2 VR Launching in Early 2023. The headset has outstanding features, 2K per eye OLED, internal and external facing cameras for pass-through. It is not backwards compatible, meaning it will only work with the PS5, which is finally widely available.
New Meta HMD confirmed for Oct launch. Speaking to Joe Rogan, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the headset formerly known as Cambria would be released in October, presumably as the Quest Pro.
Hamish Hector tried Starburst, an experimental VR headset which Meta Reality Labs exhibited at computer graphics convention Siggraph earlier this month. The futuristic HMD ran on a powerful PC, and weighed so much it had to be attached to a boom arm. Starburst is 200 times brighter than the Oculus Quest 2.
iHeartMedia Plans to Host Metaverse Concerts In Fortnite. On September 9 Charlie Puth will be the first of twenty shows iHeart plans to produce on the platform, which famously hosted huge shows with superstars like Travis Scott and Arianna Grande last year. In addition to the main stage, iHeartLand in Fortnite includes mini-games, a recording studio, a virtual red carpet and a replica of iHeart’s headquarters in New York City.
VR Studio Felix and Paul to Livestream the launch of NASA Artemis in 360 in Virtual Reality on Meta Quest, on 360 Facebook Live, in Domes and Planetariums, and via Mobile apps.
Game Of Thrones Prequel Gets The AR Treatment. Snap launched a series of AR-powered Lenses inspired by House of Dragons last Sunday. This includes a selfie Lens that turns you into a fire-breathing dragon as well as a unique worldview Lens that utilizes sky segmentation technology to fill the sky with terrifying flying beasts. Snapchat hired its creators around the world to create high-quality location-based experiences in Chennai, India, London, UK, Venice Beach Grand Canals – Los Angeles, California, Mumbai, India, Prague, Czech Republic and Rio De Janeiro.
“Nerf Ultimate Championship” Launching On Quest 2. In VR, you don’t have to chase down spent ammo (or make your brother do it) in order to continue the game. For $14.99, this 4v4 multiplayer arena shooter from Canadian VR Studio Secret Location, features multiple modes, including point capture, king of the hill, and 4v4 team-based battle.
City Builder Deisim Moving From App Lab To Quest Store. The popular VR city builder launched as a PC title in 2018. In spite of moving to the official Meta Quest store the $14.99 price will be unchanged and all previous purchases, including the PC title, will include the new platform.
Metaverse author Matthew Ball is not done talking about the Metaverse.
‘Phantom Touch’ and the (Real) Pleasures of Virtual Dating: Just a girl looking for love in the metaverse. (Madeleine Aggeler/NYTimes)
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.