Welcome back to Spatial Beats. The press was not impressed with the kind of Metaverse Meta showed at its Connect developer conference last week, so the skewering of Meta continued unabated this week, almost becoming news itself. No wonder Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he feels like he’s being punched in the stomach when he opens his phone in the morning. They’ve brought this on themselves but not on purpose. The company leads the social media industry in unforced errors, and its leaders live in a billionaire bubble, making it especially hard to resist punching the bobo doll. On the other hand, Zuckerberg is willing a new medium into existence, one which will benefit us all. He’s taking a historic business risk I don’t think anyone else would take. Not like this. So today I’m relegating our tribal beatings of Meta to a new section, “This Week in Schadenfreude,” which will appear at the bottom of this column. Flame on, fellow pundits. There is a place for you here.
Stable Diffusion, an open-source text-to-image AI program, announced a $101M seed round at Techcrunch Disrupt. You tell the app what you want it to create in text and it returns art, usually a mash-up that passes. With this round, led by Coatue and Lightspeed Venture Partners, Stability AI should be able to pay its massive annual ~$50M AWS hosting fees for a couple of years. The investment values the company at $1 billion post-money. Stability AI’s open-source system has been downloaded over 200,000 times.
VITURE Raises $10M For Headworn Media Viewer. The VITURE One XR Glasses are like a portable projector for your face that connects to a compatible smartphone, laptop, or game console. The HD OLED displays simulate a 120” screen. The Series A funding round was led by BAI Capital and Verity Ventures. It will help the company mass produce its VITURE One glasses.
Tilia Secures Strategic Investment From J.P. Morgan, Spins Out Of Linden Lab. On Wednesday, Linden Lab announced the spin-off of its proprietary finance engine Tilia. Tilia’s solution, built for game, virtual world, and mobile application developers handles payment processing, in-game transactions, as well as payouts to creators by converting in-world tokens to fiat currency including USD serving as the backbone of any functioning virtual economy. Oh, and JP Morgan is the world’s biggest bank. Last year Second Life generated $86M in revenue using Tilia. Now the two companies will share the revenue, which Tilia hopes to do with many other game worlds.
Shapeyard Raises $2 Million To Bring 3D Content Interoperability To The Metaverse. The 3D modeling app for iPads compares with Blender, Maya, +3ds Max which are available only on desktop. The app is currently available in alpha stage on iOS.
Pico 4 VR Headset Review: Meta Quest 2 Has Competition. Scott Stein of CNet took the new headset for a spin and concluded it’s pretty much the same, “a possible sign that standalone VR headsets in the next few years may see more hardware options. But it still may not be a better choice. At least, not for me.” The Pico 4 isn’t available in the US yet. Blogger Tony “Skarred Ghost” Vitillo took an even deeper dive at AWE Europe in Lisbon this week. Pico won best in show at AWE this week.
Dapp Radar Says There’s Almost No One in Decentraland or Sandbox, and according to The Verge and Bloomberg, it may be true. Decentraland, Sandbox Virtual Land in Metaverse Is Cheap and Very Risky writes Carly Wanna in Bloomberg. Decentraland has a $1 billion valuation but only 8,000 daily users, says The Verge’s Richard Lawler.
Berlin-based SyncReality comes out of stealth at AWE in Lisbon, revealing an alpha version of its responsive spatial design tool for developers. In this video the company demonstrates how its software can “tear down” digital guardian fences. Instead, it scans your surroundings and adapts to local conditions (e.g. a chair is rock). SyncReality is bootstrapping it right now, but has been able to attract an advisory team consisting of former executives from Matterport, Wikitude, and Magic Leap.
Rec Room launches “House of Terror” Halloween experience. Rec Room players enter “The House of Terror” through the all-new Haunt Society-themed room. Haunt Society is a well-regarded directory of Haunted Houses. The experience itself is a journey through a maze which leads to an abandoned space station haunted by ghosts. ”House of Terror is both single-player and multipalyer immersive experience that runs for a minimum of 15 minutes, and can be accessed by visiting Rec Room’s new “Haunt Society” room.
Valkyrie EIR armbands simulate muscle resistance in VR fitness games. The company announced that it has opened preorders for Valkyrie EIR, a set of haptic armbands that provides unprecedented interactive resistance for the arm muscles. The armbands pair with EIR Training, the first VR training experience that takes full advantage of the hardware. The armbands will start shipping summer 2023.
On Oct 25-26, GamesBeat Summit Next hosts more than 500 industry leaders in San Francisco. Attendees will hear from experts on topics like user-generated content (UGC), the elusive Metaverse, and the future of the big TV screen. Celebrity speakers include author Neal Stephenson, author Matthew Ball, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, and Manuel Bronstein, CPO of Roblox. Click here to register for GamesBeat Summit Next.
Infinity Festival Returns To Explore The Edges Of Tech, Art, Media & Entertainment. The festival’s focus is the intersection of film, games, and new media. Real time game engines, invented to create video games, can also merge special effects with real time cinematography. It’s so convincing, location shooting might become a rarity. This year’s gathering, the fifth, runs from Nov. 2 – 5 is again at the Goya Studios in Hollywood.
FIVARS (Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories) launches its 10th show. The festival will run for a 3-day pop-up in Toronto (Oct 28th-30th) and features exclusive content and world premieres. For those who can’t attend in person the festival also offers a wide variety of immersive video content in a 5.7K 3D stereoscopic (360-degree) virtual theatre in Web3D, live virtual performances, creator talks, and special events online from Oct 28th to November 16th. See the FIVARS in FALL Selections here.
*NEW* This Week in Schadenfreude
It’s painful how hellbent Mark Zuckerberg is on convincing us that VR is a thing (Darrell Etherington/Techcrunch)
What If the Metaverse Is Better Without Virtual Reality? (Steven Levy/Wired)
Facebook’s Metaverse Is Apparently Filled With Mostly Empty ‘Sad’ Worlds (Zack Zwiezen/Kotaku)
Meta’s flagship metaverse Horizon Worlds struggling to attract and retain users (James Batchelor/GameIndustry.biz)
Meta’s $10B metaverse investment is ‘not enough’ according to Animoca Brands’ Yat Siu (Romain Dillet/Techcrunch)
UK Regulators Forcing Meta to Sell Giphy (Sara Morrison/Vox)
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.