Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Twenty-five thousand people attended the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this week, the first entirely in-person event since 2019, which was about half this size, a record at the time. I guess you could say there was some pent-up demand.
GDC is known for its dealmaking and networking at a scale found nowhere else in the industry. The conference is notorious for the large number of parties put on by companies looking for developers, who are busy networking among themselves. The panels are all inside baseball unless you’re in the business of making games
Tim Sweeny, founder and CEO of Epic Games delivered his highly anticipated annual “State of Unreal” keynote. As the owner of the dominant game creation platform, Unreal Engine, and with 350M monthly users of Fortnite, Epic is possibly the most powerful company in the game industry and is best positioned to benefit from an expanding Metaverse, which Sweeny believes is now upon us. Fortnite Creative, introduced in 2018, has allowed users to build more than a million “islands” using a proprietary toolset. More than 40% of player time in Fortnite is now spent in user-generated worlds. Yesterday, Epic introduced the Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN), and launched its Public Beta.
UEFN is a version of Unreal Editor that can create and publish places and experiences directly to Fortnite with many of Unreal Engine 5’s powerful features using a new programming language called “Verse.” Epic hopes to see Verse widely adopted as a programming language for the Metaverse.
Epic launched a new asset marketplace, Fab, to which it has added to the Kit Bash library of popular virtual world assets, which appear in numerous AAA games and Hollywood productions. Soon to be added are the Unreal Engine Marketplace, Quixel Bridge, and the ArtStation Marketplace. Users can check out the Alpha version of Fab as a plugin for UEFN today. This represents a significant development. There is money to be made in asset stores, where users sell assets to one another, and Epic will skim a little vigorish of the top of each sale. Second Life makes over $60M a year doing this, and it has less than 1% of the number of users that Fortnite has.
Spatial Launches Creator Toolkit SDK for Unity. With the launch of the Creator Toolkit powered by Unity, the 3D social and co-experience platform has made it easier for creatives to build and share interactive online worlds. Spatial can now support gamification and enhanced multiplayer interaction. The latest gaming components include visual scripting, custom avatars, a world-linking system, and the ability to set up quests and rewards.
Luma AI Raises $20 M Series A led by David Beyer and Mike Dauber of Amplify Partners. The company has developed a new neural rendering technology that makes it possible to take a small number of photos to generate, shade, and render a photo-realistic 3D model of a product. Also participating in the round are NVIDIA (NVentures), General Catalyst, and existing investors, who did a $4.3 M seed round in 2021.
The 20-year-old metaverse game ‘Second Life’ is getting a mobile app. The company was responsible for so many firsts – the first open-world metaverse, the first social network, the first creator economy – it’s surprising they missed the shift to mobile. While it once was a unicorn with twenty million users, Second Life remains a vibrant million-user community today, sustained by its social ties and robust creator economy, which generates over half a billion dollars in transactions every year.
Nvidia Teams Up With Microsoft On Industrial Metaverse. The Azure cloud computing platform will host Nvidia’s suite of internet services for building and operating hyper-realistic virtual worlds called Omniverse Cloud, as well as Nvidia DGX Cloud. The latter is a new offering described as an artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputing service that gives enterprises instant access to the infrastructure and software needed to train advanced models for generative AI.
Virtuix’s Omni One VR treadmill, the $2,595 Omni Directional VR Dish, is now shipping to early supporters. Users don overshoes with ball bearings and run in a hard plastic dish held in place with a stabilizing strap. Your feet, in other words, are a controller. The company says it has 35,000 people on its waitlist. Currently, around 50 VR games are compatible with Omni.
AREA15 was named the most visited attraction in the US in 2022. The Las Vegas entertainment destination welcomed over three million visitors last year, according to data analytics firm Placer.ai. Meow Wolf’s parody supermarket, Mega Mart, is Area 15’s anchor tenant.
Adobe introduces Generative AI, Adobe Firefly. At its annual Summit in Las Vegas the company says this new family of creative generative AI models, with the first model being trained on Adobe Stock images, openly licensed content, and public domain content where the copyright has expired, and focused on image generation and text effects for safe commercial use. Adobe Firefly is available today as a public beta.
SXSW Journal: Serendipity, FOMO & Joy was My story about my SXSW experience. Along with Judging SXSW 2023 XR Experiences, This Week in XR, and three episodes of the podcast, this is my 6th piece of media around the venerated music-movies-tech-media and everything show.
What is an Industrial Metaverse? An Introduction (Rebekah Carter/XR Today)
Who’s still buying real estate in the metaverse? (Chris Morris/Fast Company)
Who Is Still Inside the Metaverse? (Paul Murray/NY Mag)
Virtual Reality Is Still Trying to Get Game (Dan Gallagher/Wall St. Journal)
Meta’s pivot from ‘irresponsible’ metaverse spending earns stock an upgrade (Emily Bary/Marketwatch)
Meta’s metaverse is on the back burner (Peter Allen Clark/Axios)
Comedians are trying to make the metaverse cool, but it won’t let them (Jay Peters/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.