Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Disappointing sales of Pico’s well-reviewed VR headset caused Byte Dance to lay off staff. The company is reportedly planning to lay off a third of its VR staff just months after Byte Dance (which also owns TikTok) launched the Pico 4 stand-alone VR headset. The meager marketing effort behind the headset yielded predictably disappointing results. ByteDance acquired the headset maker in 2021, hoping to do to Meta’s VR business what it has done to its social media platforms.
Healium Lands $3.6 M Seed Funding. At the same time, the company announced a strategic investment by the Mayo Clinic with the KCRise Fund and the Missouri Technology Corporation. Healium’s technology uses generative AI to create customized immersive content in real time based on a user’s biofeedback. Also investing in Healium’s new seed round are Ambition Fund II, Captain Partners & Astronaut Holdings, Citrine Angels, Coact Capital, Gaingels, Impact Venture Capital, QRM Capital, Stadia Ventures, Tidewater Capital, and Underdog Ventures.
In a boost for the metaverse, Roblox stock pops 25% after strong Q4 earnings. Despite the putative Metaverse being deposed as the topic de jour by AI, Metaverse poster child Roblox reported it has 58.8 million average daily active users (DAUs), up 19% year-over-year. Roblox shares popped 25% on the good news.
Tencent scraps plans for its own VR hardware and is reportedly in talks with Meta to sell Quest VR headsets in China.
The PlayStation2 Goggles Are a Win for Gamers. Not for the Metaverse, declared the NY Times. “Sony’s new $550 headset offers best-in-class virtual reality gaming, but it’s still hard to see why we need VR goggles at all.” VR skeptics notwithstanding, the headset has been winning kudos, and some of its new titles showcase the graphic power of the new PlayStation 5. Gran Turismo 7 VR might make you a PSVR 2 believer, says The Verge.
VR Studio Secret Location Shutters. It was acquired by Canada’s Entertainment One (eOne), which itself was acquired by Hasbro for $4B in 2019. Hasbro had plans to build itself into an intellectual property powerhouse, like Disney. It didn’t take long for that idea to go south. Now everything associated with the old strategy is going overboard. Secret Location won a primetime Emmy for a VR project for its VR experience tied into the show “Sleepy Hollow.” Its other credits include the popular VR games Nerf Ultimate Championship, Blasters of the Universe, and the VR film “The Great C”. In a LinkedIn post, president and co-founder Ryan Andal said he is leaving the company.
Ryff Secures Pilot with Comcast. After winning the LIFToff VideoAI Challenge. Ryff uses AI to find and replace assets in a video with product placements, such as a car, or a can of soda, or items on a kitchen counter in a sitcom. The LIFToff program, developed by Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs, identifies opportunities for partnerships between the company and startups on the verge of large-scale commercialization.
The Next Hot Housing Market Is Out of This World. It’s in the Metaverse (Debra Kamin/NY Times)
When the Movies Pictured A.I., They Imagined the Wrong Disaster. NY Times’ Film Critic A.O. Scott on the banality of sentience.
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.