Welcome back to Spatial Beats. It wouldn’t be a week in XR unless Meta was making news. This week finds Meta in the federal courthouse in San Jose. The FTC sued to block Meta’s acquisition of Within, the VR company behind the hit fitness game “Supernatural,” for $400M. Now they finally have their day(s) in court. It’s been a while since there’s been any kind of real enforcement of antitrust laws in tech. This is a weird place to start. The nascent VR market is so small. Meta’s acquisition was a godsend for the venture-backed Within, which had pivoted several times since it was founded by director Chris Milk in 2014.
The FTC just sued to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision. Is it possible the FTC is looking at the Meta-Within deal as a sort of amuse bouche before taking on the $69 BILLION Microsoft-Activision deal, which involves the second biggest game company in the world (Microsoft) buying the fifth largest (Activision) to create the world’s largest game company? Meta would rank fortieth on that list of game companies. Within wouldn’t be on the list.
Writers have not stopped finding ways to kick Meta while it’s down. This Week in Schadenfreude is below.
Epic Games rolls out limited accounts to protect young ‘Fortnite’ Players In the Metaverse. The kids’ account requires parental consent before making purchases in the Fortnite store, or using voice chat. Good on Epic for addressing the elephant in the room. Children, young teens, are hanging out in the Metaverse with adult strangers, something their parents would never condone in the physical world. Child advocates are on the case.
Gorillaz announced a Free live performance in Augmented Reality next week in New York’s Times Square (2:30 p.m. Eastern on December 17) and Piccadilly Circus in London (2 p.m. GMT on December 18). Users in those locations at those precise times can use their smartphone cameras to see the cartoon band, which has always performed as avatars. The AR performances will be directed by Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett and Fx Goby, and created by Nexus Studios using Google’s AR tech.
The Big Theme of Snap’s Lens Fest Developer Conference was Monetization. Some creators will now be able to make money off in-app lenses. It’s the start of a business Snap hopes will make its platform the center of an AR universe. They’re trying to build a creator economy to reward the most popular of its 300,000 lens developers before they decide to develop elsewhere.
Samsung’s New XR HMD May Launch Dev Kit Next Year just a rumor, but with some credibility. Samsung has been working with Meta since 2014, first on its GearVR, which reached its peak of 5M users in 2016. It was officially discontinued in 2020. Their last stab at making their own VR device was in 2018, when they released the Odyssey for WindowsMR.
Epic Games’ RealityScan app turns photos into 3D models now available FREE on iOS. If you’re a fan of Polycam, Metascan, Scnady, Trnio, or one of the other apps for making volumetric captures, then you’re going to love this app. It lets you see your scan in real time, so parts of the scan aren’t missing or distorted, generating more usable scans more of the time. The scans can be uploaded to Epic’s Sketchfab, adding to an immense library of high-quality digital twins that Epic connects to its popular world-building tool, Unreal Engine.
Howie Mandel gets a digital twin from DeepBrain AI. The company applies deep-learning technology to create hyper-realistic virtual humans through its AI Studios and AI Human platforms. These virtual humans are digital twins of the real person, with the same appearance, voice, gestures, and subtle mannerisms.
Shapeyard, a new 3D model creation app for iPhones, is offering free lifetime premium subscriptions that usually go for $124.99 per year, to 1600 creators to jump start its modeling community. The company was a recent graduate of the Nvidia accelerator program. Shapeyard execs say their goal is to grow into a network of high-quality 3D assets available for implementation in the rapidly growing metaverse space.
Golf+ Adds Pebble Beach to the list of world-class golf courses you can play in VR. Sports simulation games are among the most popular in the Quest store. Since its launch one year ago, Golf+ CEO Ryan Engle says over 550M shots have been hit and over 6M rounds have been played. Golf+ launched the famous Pinehurst #2 today as well. Kiawah came out in May, which brings the total to eight 18-hole courses. Five are digital twins of real-world championship courses. Golf+ added celebrity investors like Rory McIroy and Jordan Speith in its recent funding round.
Fashion in the Metaverse from DressX (Katherine Dill/Wall St. Journal)
This Week in Schadenfreude
How Web Platforms Collapse: The Facebook Case Study (Ted Gioia/Honest Broker)
Meta’s Cringey Avatars Are Finally Headed to WhatsApp (Kyle Barr/Gizmodo)
‘The metaverse will be our slow death!’ Is Facebook losing its $100bn gamble on virtual reality? (Steve Rose/The Irish Times)
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.