Welcome back to Spatial Beats. This week, happy Birthday Pong! The venerated Atari game turned 50. Its storied history began on the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. Through many iterations, clones and lawsuits, Pong remains a seminal, iconic video game. Because of its cultural impact, the game is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The Meta schadenfreude seems to have died down this week, even as they were hit with a $275 M fine for breaking EU data privacy laws. The penalty, imposed by Irish regulators this time, brings total European fines to more than $900 million since last year. Some analysts have suggested the stock has fallen so far it’s now a bargain.
Sony steps into the Metaverse with the ‘Mocopi’ motion tracking system. The Mocopi app allows content creators to capture subjects wearing six motion-tracking bands. The capture can be used to animate avatars in a game or in a simulation like VR Chat. This will free V-Tubers of time and place constraints and enable real-time avateering for animation that can be used anywhere. Mocopi with six bands costs $350. Sony will release a Mocopi SDK in two weeks which will enable developers to import captured content with the Unity game engine and Autodesk’s animation/mocap app MotionBuilder.
Sony Acquires 3D Animation Company Beyond Sports for $70M. This technology, integrated with previously acquired Hawk-Eye Innovations, allows Sony to capture and translate real-time data from pro basketball, baseball, tennis, and football games and turn it into animation. This would create a new, spatial way of consuming sports content that could be viewed from any angle, including on the field, or in god mode, and shared with other simultaneous users. Sony is calling this a “metaverse representation” of the game. We wrote about similar technology we saw in the lab in 2018. The acquisition is estimated by analysts to cost $70M.
Common Ground Raises $25M for TrueSelf Scan creation app on the iPhone. The app enables photorealistic video conferences. Users can scan themselves, then invite participants to a meeting, where each attendee’s avatar is seated around a virtual table, mirroring (via their computer’s camera) the facial expressions and critical body language of each user. The round was led by Marius Nacht, one of Israel’s leading serial tech entrepreneurs, and also includes Matrix Partners, Grove Ventures, and StageOne Ventures, bringing the Israeli company’s total raise to $45M.
BeFake app uses stable diffusion to create different versions of you. BeFake is the first mobile app that lets you use the latest AI model stable diffusion on faces. With a little help from AI, which tunes billions of parameters. users can become cartoon superheroes, Renaissance paintings, or anything. The app was developed by a team of three – Alfred Wahlforss, Florian Juengermann, and Axel Backlund – in two weeks. I gave them a hard time for charging me six bucks, but they say the app requires a ridiculous amount of processing power, which creates a huge hosting bill. Look at that picture and tell me it was not worth six dollars. You can find BeFake in the app store.
BAE, and Red 6 to Integrate AR in Hawk Trainer. If the company behind new AR training for real pilots in real fighters were any hotter, they’d burn through this page. Virtually. BAE Systems and Red 6 announced at I/ITSEC in Orlando, that they will “explore” the integration of Red 6’s Advanced Tactical Augmented Reality Systems (ATARS) onto the Hawk fast jet trainer aircraft.
Disney’s new neural network can change an actor’s age with ease. Disney just published an academic paper, Production-Ready Face Re-Aging for Visual Effects which shows how machine learning can be used to age, or de-age, a performer in a motion picture. After Benjamin Button and DeNiro’s de-aging in The Irishman, I thought we could already do this, and we can, but by applying thousands of man-hours. This way, it’s all automatic.
Mozilla Acquires Startups Pulse and Active Replica, Introduces Hubs Subscription Tier. Active Replica of Vancouver is a virtual event company specializing in custom venue design, event planning, live entertainment, and tech support. Active’s co-founders Jacob Ervin and Valerian Denis are now senior engineering manager and product lead, respectively. Hubs now offers a $20/month subscription which gets you your own dedicated Hub that can hold up to 25 people, environments, avatars, and themed packs, and 2GB of asset storage. Pulse, also based in Canada, provides automated status update integrations for Slack.
In celebration of its one-year “Meta-versary,” Forever 21 is launching its first-ever virtual-physical crossover F21 Metaverse Collection, featuring real-life hoodies and t-shirts matching the brand’s virtual offerings on Roblox. This limited edition F21 Metaverse Collection will be available in-store and online, with products starting at $14.99. Producer VBG has also created successful Metaverse experiences for Barbie/Mattel and most recently, The Voice!
Step Inside Ramses the Great’s Ancient Egypt With Dazzling Immersive Tour “Beyond King Tut.” The immersive exhibit, organized by National Geographic, features a VR experience by City Lights called “Tutankhamun, Enter The Tomb,” which is experienced in a haptic Positron Chair. CNet reviewer Leslie Katz said the “comfy pod-chairs that twist, turn and shake make it almost impossible to believe you’re not actually floating through the entrance to the massive rock-cut temples at Abu Simbel.” More on how to see the exhibit in LA, NY, or SF.
‘Extinction is on the table’: Jaron Lanier warns of tech’s existential threat to humanity (The Guardian)
What are all those “chief metaverse officers” actually doing? (Alex Fitzpatrick/Axios)
The metaverse is happening without Meta’s permission (Alex Herrity/CoinTelegraph)
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.