Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Meta Stock Soars After Earnings on Zuck Statements and Stock buy-back. “Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency,’ ” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call after his company’s fourth-quarter earnings report was released last night. Results were mixed, but the company announced a $40 B stock buy-back which drove shares up 20%. This even after Meta Reality Labs reported revenue of $727 M, 17% less than Q4, 2021. The company said it expects to spend about the same amount (~$13B) on Metaverse development next year. Meta stock is now trading at its highest price since July.
The US Will Drop Its Suit To Stop Meta’s Acquisition of Within. Unless appealed by the FTC, Meta can finally close its deal to acquire Within, the company behind the hit VR fitness app, Supernatural. As we explained in December, while some regulation of big tech may be necessary, this was the wrong fight for the FTC to pick.
Meta Shuts Down Popular Free Multiplayer Game Echo Arena. Meta just fired 13,000 people and is ready to let go of 1,000s more. Anything not tightly nailed to revenue is going overboard, including what is purportedly one of Zuck’s favorite games, Echo, a hit from the old Oculus Rift that simulated a zero-gravity version of water polo, something that could only be done in VR. Here’s a well-written requiem for Meta’s soon-to-be-shuttered Echo from Sonya Haskins, for whom this is personal.
Meta Drops Quest Pro Price to $1,100 for Limited Time. Having paid $1,500 for this device a few short months ago, I am miffed. Some say this is to compete with the new Vive Elite’s $1,100 price, but the word on the street is that the Quest Pro isn’t selling. I exclusively use the Pro now, it is better than the Quest, but the experiences are the same, creating a price/value mismatch, which I now feel even more acutely.
Horizon Worlds is Coming to Web & Mobile. Amidst all the blather about new private membership rooms in Horizon Worlds, was the announcement that Meta’s flagship social VR platform will open to web users, meaning all devices with a browser, including smartphones and game consoles. The release of Horizon Worlds outside of Quest would mean new users, more user-generated content, and the scale needed to support a thriving virtual economy.
Prisms of Reality, a VR math education app for Quest, announced a $12.5M Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz. The emerging learning platform is already in 100 school districts and in the Meta Quest Store. The funds will accelerate growth, expand programs, and reach more schools with more subjects.
Samsung, Google, and Qualcomm Announce They Will Work Together on an XR Device. The news was shared during Samsung’s Unpacked event in San Francisco on Wednesday. The announcement was characterized by TM Roh, president of Samsung’s mobile division, as “a declarative announcement.” Qualcomm’s CEO, Cristiano Amon, and Google’s SVP of Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer, appeared onstage with Roh. Lots of love, little explanation, not timelines. Roh did say the venture would involve partnerships with Meta and Microsoft.
Nreal Air: New Console Support, Mac OS Beta, and a Hands-On Review. The $379 assisted reality screen reflector turns your phone into an input device and your (slightly oversized) sunglasses into your display. The virtual screen appears as a 130” high-definition screen just a few feet in front of you. Great for media consumption and remote work as it tethers to any device (Android or iOS) and all game consoles.
Sony Slashes Sales Projections on PlayStation VR 2 after weak presales at CES. Bloomberg was the original source of the story which sounds so credible on its face that it was picked up by most tech news outlets (not us), but those who wrote about it heard from the Sony PR team. Sony Refutes report That It Cut PSVR 2 Production Forecast.
Anything World, an AI-enabled platform enables developers to build in 3D today launched its web gallery to showcase AI-built models. Seeing is believing, so I urge you to watch the YouTube demo above. The web-based platform features voice-driven creation of virtual worlds, filled with 3D assets, and an automatic animation system, which enables rigging and animations for any 3D model at any time. Models can be utilized in every position, angle, and movement in FBX, GLTF, GLB, Collada, and OBJ formats across 3D software across games, films, simulators, and other content-rich experiences. Anything World provides direct plugins with Unity.
Tom Hanks, Robin Wright to Be De-aged in Robert Zemeckis’ New Movie Using Metaphysic AI Tool. You know the deep fake of Tom Cruise that freaked everyone out last year. The company that made it has hit the big time. On Tuesday, artificial intelligence company Metaphysic announced that it has entered into a strategic partnership with CAA to develop generative AI tools and services for talent. The first application will be the de-aging of Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, and others in Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming movie Here, which follows the stars over many years.
Digs Raises $7M to Make Digital Twins of homes. This digital twin of your Digs becomes a platform for the builder, vendors, and suppliers, and is eventually handed off to the homeowner. Digs product is free and open to US builders today. The founder previously created the AR/Computer Vision app that they sold Streem to Front Door 18 months ago.
We’re Already Living in the Metaverse (Megan Garber/Atlantic)
Will the Metaverse Be Entertaining? Ask South Korea. (Jin Yu Young and Matt Stevens/NY Times)
Why the AI Explosion Has Huge Implications for the Metaverse (Andrew Chow/Time)
Apple Will Put Its Reputation on the Line With New Mixed-Reality Headset. Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, one of Apple’s keenest observers, said the headset represents a significant strategy shift for Apple. When it entered previous categories — music players, phones, tablets, and watches — there was already mainstream interest in the products. Apple’s goal was just to create something better and beat the competition. AR/VR headsets, in contrast, are still a nascent field. Consumers will need some coaxing just to get them to consider such a product.
Apple’s VR Vision Comes Into Focus (Boone Ashworth/Wired)
Apple’s rumored headset needs more than an Apple Store app in VR to become a hit (9to5 Mac)
Apple might use Siri to create apps for its mixed-reality headset (Alex Perry/Mashable)
iOS 17 Rumored to Support Apple’s AR/VR Headset (Zachary McAuliffe/Cnet)
The Metaverse Industry is Already Going Belly Up (Noor Al-Sibai/Futurism)
Can Snap make it as an AR company? (Antoinette Siu/Digiday)
This Week in XR is also a podcast hosted by Paramount’s Futurist Ted Schilowitz, Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz, 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.