Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Happy holidays to family, friends, students, colleagues, and all readers of this weekly column. This year our friends at web XR pioneer 8th Wall have provided a one-click See Santa Fly experience.

As surely as 2022 was the year of the Metaverse, 2023 will be the year of AI. It could disrupt a lot of things, including search. Google, which made $81 billion from search last year, is understandably freaking out. As if on cue, OpenAI released POINT-E which can produce 3D point clouds from text prompts. The Elon Musk-founded AI startup is also behind the popular DALL-E text-to-image generator. Welcome to 2023.

Gorillaz’ Live AR Show Did Not Disappoint. The concert used computer vision to place the cartoon musicians in and around local buildings and landmarks, blending, sometimes obscuring, physical reality. The enrapt viewers drew the attention of passers-by who joined in. By the end of the video, it seemed like hundreds of people were watching the show through their smartphone cameras. The AR performances were directed by Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett and Fx Goby and created by Nexus Studios using Google’s AR tech.

On December 16th, John Carmack said his final, frustrated goodbye to Meta and Oculus. “This is the end of my decade in VR,” Carmack said. It was his endorsement of the primitive Oculus headset at E3 in 2012 that made it the hottest startup in tech, and attracted powerful investors like Brendan Iribe, who brought in Andressen, who brought in Facebook. Carmack is effectively the co-founder of consumer VR. No Carmack, no Oculus. No Oculus, No Meta.

Meta CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, Zuck’s wingman, put a different spin on things in this post on the company blog “Why We Still Believe in the Future.” “There’s been a really bad misunderstanding of the business and the fact that 80 percent of the investment that we’re making is an investment in the core business,” said Boz. “And if you ask the average person, isn’t it reasonable for a company to invest some percentage, maybe even 20 percent, in its future?” Of course, when profits slip, that percentage goes up.

Boz went on to praise the company’s progress in both its core social media businesses, but also advances like the recently released Quest Pro, and next year’s Quest 3. You gotta admit, the AR effects artists are making with Meta’s no-code AR development platform, SparkAR, are pretty spectacular. Remote advisor Carmak, who already had his foot out the door, didn’t have to say anything. His bitter goodbye was another blow to the company’s continuing public relations disaster. This week they agreed to pay a fine of $725 Million dollars for allowing Cambridge Analytica and others to capture users’ data without consent. Now they’re facing a new $1.6 billion lawsuit alleging Facebook’s inaction fueled violence in Ethiopia. Yikes.

Donald Trump’s “cringey” NFT collection makes him, unexpectedly (of course), the first former US President to jump the shark with a bizarre, cheap and garish NFT collection, if that’s what it was. Twitter theorists are saying this could also be a covert, untraceable way for a foreign government to pay for state secrets.

Activision Blizzard’s President to Join Bored Ape Yacht Club as CEO. Daniel Alegre will be coming on board as BAYC creator Yuga Labs ramps up Otherside, a metaverse game being developed for PC and mobile browsers. Daniel Van Boom of CNet gets the inside dope from the founders, Greg Solano and Wylie Aronow.

Meta, Microsoft, AWS and TomTom launch the Overture Maps Foundation to develop interoperable open map data to counter Google’s dominance in the mapping realm. The new effort is called The Overture Maps Foundation. The program is driven by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Meta, Microsoft and Dutch mapping company TomTom. Overture Maps will enable new map products through open datasets that can be used and reused across applications and businesses, with each member throwing their own data and resources into the mix.

Congrats to the winners of Road to VR’s 2022 Game of the Year Awards. The Last Clockwinder (Pontoco), Moss (Polyarc), Book 2, and Red Matter 2 (Vertical Robot). More awards here.

Tim Sweeney wants Epic to help build a metaverse that’s actually positive (Jay Peters/The Verge)

The Metaverse Doesn’t Have a Leg to Stand On (Wired)

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.

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