Welcome back to Spatial Beats. We’re on our way to South by Southwest (SXSW) to join the jury of the Interactive Section of Austin’s world-famous film, music, and arts festival, which is a great honor. As you can see from our coverage last year, this is, along with Augmented World Expo, the must-attend XR event of the year. Last year, a brief COVID surge crushed festival attendance last year, but from social media and the insane number of press releases, it looks like SXSW is going to be bigger than ever.
AltSpaceVR will pass into history, may it rest in peace. Kudos to founder Eric Romo, who started the company in 2015. The site’s plans for corporate financial support fell flat, and so in 2017 the company failed to raise more money and was set to shutter. Microsoft stepped in at the last minute and acquired the company. Former Microsoft executive Alex Kipman and community manager Katie Kelly kept Altspace growing, introducing new tools and avatars, and supporting a robust slate of live events. Although buoyed by the launch of the Quest, Altspace never found a way to make money. With a bevy of free, well-funded competitors, in January of this year, Microsoft announced the pioneering social VR would finally close on March 10, 2023. Altspace tech will supposedly be used to support Mesh, Microsoft’s cross-platform collaboration tool.
Pimax Secures $30M Series C1 Funding to Expand & Support Rollout of Crystal & Portal VR Headsets. Pimax, a Chinese company with an 8K (4K per eye) 200-degree field of view (Quest and the new Vive Elite are 110) VR HMD, announced a $30 M series C1 financing round, led by Beijing-based investment firm Tuanmu Capital. The company toured its new Pimax Crystal and a hi-res Switch-like handheld for Steam games called Portal, in December, and showed them off at CES. This follows a $20 M series B in 2020, bringing the company’s total investment to $69 M.
‘Rec Room’ is Putting on Its First-ever ‘Rec Rocks’ Music Festival This Weekend. The cross platform game platform will present eight artists this weekend, March 11th & 12th, and feature headliners Tokyo Machine (EDM) and pianist/singer/songwriter Ethan Bortnick.
TikTok’s new face filters are alarmingly good — which could be pretty bad. Its Effects Studio introduced a Bold Glamour filter last month that turns everyone into a supermodel. It’s being criticized for feeding an epidemic of body dysmorphia that plagues young women and girls.
Niantic’s Virtual AR Pet Game Peridot Arrives May 9. Your own little virtual companion, from the maker of Pokemon Go. As with the old Tamgauchi, users raise “genetically unique” Dots (pets) that grow and learn and interact with you and the rest of the world, other people, and places. The company says the pets will enter phases; being a teenager and an adult. No word yet on aging beyond that. But who wants an old Tamaguchi?
The Quest Pro and 256GB Quest 2 are getting significant price cuts. The Meta Quest Pro going from $1,499.99 to $999.99. Likewise, the 256GB version of the Quest 2 will be going from $499.99 to $429.99. Meta says its goal is to “create hardware that’s affordable for as many people as possible” and that it’s lowering the Pro’s price to make its tech “available to even more businesses and professionals around the world” but clearly the company is trying to dump inventory before introducing the Quest 3 later this year. The price is infuriating customers who paid full price last month.
Bruce Vaughn Returns as Chief Creative Officer to co-lead Walt Disney Imagineering. The talented Mr. Vaughan, who headed the creative team that created Disneyland Shanghai, left the company in 2018 to head up Dreamscape Immersive, the location-based VR startup backed by the studios, Steven Speilberg, and AMC Theaters. When that company pivoted, Vaughn moved over to AirBnB to drive new travel experiences. No one needs to say that’s an investment a company can’t make in tough economic times, when profits are everything. Now he’s back home where he’ll be partnered with Walt Disney Imagineering President Barbara Bouza. As a former Disney executive myself, I can tell you they pay you a lot more to come back than they do to stay. Bruce is going to ensure XR is part of the location-based entertainment experience of the future.
Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson predicted the metaverse. What does he see next? (Peter Kafka/Vox)
The race to beat Elon Musk to put chips in people’s brains (Daniel Gilbert/Washington Post)
Quest has sold 20M units, so why isn’t VR mainstream yet? (Tony Vitillo/Skarred Ghost blog)
Meta has massive plans for VR, despite users not being that into it (Stan Schroeder/Mashable)
Mark Zuckerberg Quietly Buries the Metaverse (Luc Olinga/The Street)
Meta to push AR, VR headsets amid cost-cutting plans, layoffs (Yahoo Finance)
Meta doesn’t seem to know its VR headsets are game consoles (Alex Kranz/The Verge)
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.