Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Connect developer conference keynote last week introduced the new $1,499 Meta Quest Pro, which is focused on first adopters/prosumers and enterprise users. It got great reviews from the press, notably CNet and RoadtoVR. Pre-orders are being accepted for an October 25th ship date.
The Quest Pro is smaller, thinner, and sleeker than the Quest 2, thanks to pancake optics, resulting in its 40% reduction in size. The battery has been relocated to the back of the headset, improving the ergonomics. There are new haptic self-tracking controllers, too. Outward-facing color cameras enable new mixed reality experiences. The device and controllers fit nicely together in a desktop charging pad. Face tracking will make avatars more expressive. This is also the first device to use the new Snapdragon XR2+ processor which is optimized for VR to run at 50% more power than Quest 2.
Meta emphasized that the Quest Pro is made for business. The new lenses make reading much easier. It has a stylus on the controllers to enhance writing while in Workrooms. The Meta CEO was met (virtually) by the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, to announce the integration of Horizon Workrooms with Microsoft Teams. It will also be integrated with Zoom.
Accenture CEO Julie Sweet dropped in to emphasize their commitment to VR’s role in the future of work. Over the last two years, Accenture has deployed 60,000 Quest 2 headsets and used them to help onboard new employees through a virtual campus called the “Nth Floor.” Co-created with Microsoft on AltspaceVR, Accenture’s virtual world has already welcomed 150,000 people to Accenture.
This year’s keynote was more restrained than last year’s dramatic visualizations of the Metaverse, climaxing with Facebook’s name change. Tuesday, the earnest, super sincere founder and CEO takes us on a two-hour tour of his Metaverse. He is joined by his version of the Disney Imagineers, led by his sideman CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth. They trotted out each piece of the hardware and software Meta says is necessary to solve the Metaverse puzzle. Topics included work and productivity, deals with Adobe and Autodesk, avatar updates, including much-requested legs, photorealistic avatars, fitness, entertainment, AR, capture technologies, game engines, developers, and future technologies. Meta will soon begin selling avatar clothing in Horizon. This could be the sleeper revenue bomb of Connect. Epic Games makes an estimated $5 Billion dollars a year selling avatar “skins” in Fortnite.
The Meta Quest app store has generated over $1.5 Billion dollars. One in three of its 400 titles has made more than a million dollars. 33 titles have made over $10M in gross revenue. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners has surpassed $50M in revenue on Quest alone, nearly double its revenue on all other platforms. In its first 24 hours, Resident Evil 4 made $2M. With games making that kind of dough, Meta notably revealed it had purchased three more of its best game developers.
The Meta haters were at work before Connect. Last Friday (Oct 6th) The NY Times dropped This Is Life in the Metaverse. Author Kashmir Hill acknowledged Meta’s challenges, while admitting she had a pretty good time chatting people up in Horizon and visiting a comedy club, although she encountered trolls and pre-teen children who should not be there. On the same day, Alex Heath’s story Meta’s flagship metaverse app is too buggy and employees are barely using it, says exec in charge went up in the Verge. Monday, the Times published this notably negative story, Skepticism, Confusion, Frustration: Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Struggle. Within an hour of Connect, Bloomberg fired this dart: A $1499 Headset Won’t Help Meta. Wired is already speculating on how face-tracking data can be used to violate our privacy.
Meanwhile, there was other (non-meta) news this week in XR…
Didimo raises $7.1M Series A. The Portuguese company makes realistic 3D avatars from 2D photos. Armilar Venture Partners led the round which included investment from Bright Pixel Capital, Portugal Ventures, and Techstars.
ORamaVR Raises $2.4M for VR Medical training tools. The Swiss startup, founded in 2020, provided a low/no-code platform for medical institutions to create training modules with increased speed and efficiency. The round was led by the European Union NextGenerationEU and Horizon Europe programmes, as well as the Geneva Foundation for Technology Innovation (Fongit) and FORTH-ICS.
Microsoft (MSFT) US Army HoloLens Goggles Gave Soldiers Nausea, Headaches. According to a summary of the exercise compiled by the Pentagon’s testing office, US soldiers using new goggles based on the HoloLens suffered “mission-affecting physical impairments.” Acceptance of the goggles by soldiers “remains low” and doesn’t “contribute to their ability to complete their mission.”
Epson announces launch of new Moverio Augmented Reality smart glasses. The company says its Moverio BT-45C and BT-45CS AR headsets have been designed to support remote collaboration, troubleshooting, maintenance, inspection, and training. It will be showing off the headset at the Augmented Enterprise Summit in San Diego next week.
Epic interview with FXG about Pico’s huge VR concerts in China (Tony Vitillo/Skarred Ghost Blog)
Apple’s AR or VR wearable device is now even closer to release (Adario Strange/Quartz)
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.