Welcome back to Spatial Beats. It’s not yet clear how the new round of layoffs at Meta will affect its metaverse division, Reality Labs. Meta says its XR product roadmap (Quest 3 later this year, a low-cost Quest in 2024, and see-through AR glasses in 2025) will remain unchanged. For now. As AI ascends the hype cycle and the Metaverse predictably descends into a trough of disillusion, the company is clearly reordering its priorities.
Adept AI Is A Unicorn. The startup, founded by former Google engineers, announced it has raised $350 M to use AI to develop enterprise applications. The funding comes less than a year after it raised $65 million. The Series B round was led by General Catalyst and Spark Capital. While their valuation was not officially announced, the scale of the investment suggests Adept AI is already worth over a billion dollars.
Tilia raises $22M to handle payments for digital economies. The company, which was spun out of Linden Lab, also appointed Brad Oberwager, previously executive chairman, as CEO, and Catherine Porter as the company’s first chief business officer. The funding comes from Seoul, South Korea-based fintech leader Dunamu, which is joining existing investor J.P. Morgan Payments. In 2021, Oberwager acquired Linden Lab, the company behind the “Second Life” metaverse. In October Linden announced it had partnered with J.P. Morgan Payments to spin out Tilia.
SXSW XR Award Winners. Consensus Gentium from writer and director Karen Palmer won the top prize, even though it isn’t technically an XR experience. The story takes place on your smartphone and leverages face tracking. You are cast as a dissident who has shunned the government surveillance app, but needs to download it to travel in order to attend to her mother. There were a few moments when I thought the messages I was reading on my smartphone were my own, an experience entirely unique to this new medium.
A Special Jury Award went to Body of Mine from Cameron Kostopoulos, an exploration of trans identity that allows you to fully become another gender, making a profound case for VR as an empathy machine. The piece combines interviews with transgender individuals with body, face, and hand tracking, allowing you to interact with your own skin to discover different stories.
Google Sunsets Glass 2.0. In what is nothing but good news for Vuzix, Realwear, Lenovo, and other vendors of wearable microdisplays, Google announced this week that as of September 15, it will no longer sell or upgrade Google Glass 2.0. Glass now joins Google’s graveyard of way-too-early XR projects like Daydream, Tilt Brush, and Poly. Google may not be done with glasses yet. Last fall they demonstrated a binocular see-through device, based on technology acquired by North, that can do everything Glass does – and way more. Glass is still used by hundreds of companies to support warehousing, manufacturing, and remote support.
Apple’s AR/VR headset is reportedly being pushed out due to ‘huge pressure to ship.’ There was a pile of articles this week about Tim Cook insisting on a June launch over the objections of his engineers. So many tech pundits have opined, we’ve created a special section below, and given it a clever name: Bobbing for Apple. It took Apple Watch a while to catch on, but it did not have the inflated expectations associated with XR, and the devices aren’t nearly as expensive. Between now and the launch in June, it’s going to be hard to manage expectations.
Otherside Bored Ape Metaverse to Launch ‘Second Trip’ on March 25. Daniel Alegre, CEO of Yuga Labs, which runs the Bored Ape Yacht Club, is spending over $300 M to build the Otherside metaverse. This second test of the massively multiplayer metaverse will take place on March 25th in the form of a guided experience simultaneously shared with 10,000 simultaneous uniques. “Second Trip” is open to owners of virtual land NFTs which represent yet-to-be-created land in the as-of-yet unreleased Otherside metaverse. Non-holders can also watch a live stream of the event on the company’s YouTube channel. I put it on my calendar.
Mighty Coconut’s Walkabout Mini Golf Announces Meow Wolf Partnership, and Mobile App. As SXSW got underway last Friday, they unveiled a creative collaboration with Meow Wolf for a new course coming in Q3; the Walkabout Mini-Golf Pocket Edition, an AR mini-golf game for iOS, coming this summer; and deals to bring the title to hundreds of arcades in the location-based entertainment industry.
Metavrse Mall Welcomes Mars’ Juicyverse, home to Starburst candy in the Metaverse. TheMall and STARBURST® have teamed up to announce the launch of their newest virtual world, the Starburst Juicyverse, in collaboration with MetaVRse and BambuMeta® Web3 Loyalty.
Psychedelics Meet Up With Virtual Reality at South by Southwest (Tiffany Kary/Bloomberg)
This Week in Schadenfreude
Mark Zuckerberg Ends the Tech Party (/The Street)
Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse ambitions are shrinking (Kali Hays/Insider)
Mark Zuckerberg Is Suddenly Weirdly Quiet about the Metaverse (Mary Harrison/Futurism)
Bobbing for Apple
From the iPhone 15 to an AR/VR Headset: Apple Products to Expect in 2023 (Lisa Eadicicco/CNet)
Mixed-reality distortion field: Is Tim Cook’s legacy doomed? (Macworld)
Tim Cook bets on Apple’s mixed-reality headset to secure his legacy (Patrick McGee and Tim Bradshaw /Financial Times)
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.