Welcome back to Spatial Beats. The Metaverse is ready now, said Epic Games’ founder and CEO Tim Sweeney at the Game Developer’s Conference, which wrapped last week. They made a slew of big announcements, starting with a massive revenue share with users who create engaging content. They are bringing the power of their Unreal Engine 5 content creation platform to Fortnite, and also creating Fab, the world’s biggest 3D asset store, where Fortnite creators can acquire 3D assets from one another in order create new worlds. Sweeny and his VP of Product, Saxs Persson, spoke with Verge entertainment editor Andrew Webster after their GDC keynote “State of Unreal” and explained their plans to build… well… The OASIS from Ready Player One, the version of the Metaverse familiar to most people. No headset required.
Disney Eliminates Its Metaverse Division. Hi, Mike? It’s me, Bob. Thanks. It’s good to be back. You know that Metaverse thing we were talking about? We’re not talking about that anymore. Fire everyone in your little department and we’ll find something productive for you to do.
Pico Delayed GDC Announcement. Pico’s booth at GDC was all dressed up for a big US launch announcement. The VR company was acquired by Bytedance, owner of Tik Tok, over a year ago, and is poised to compete with Meta in the Metaverse, too. Pico skipped CES in favor of announcing at GDC, but the US Congress foiled the plan by dragging Bytedance CEO Shou Zi Chew in for a made-for-tv grilling. It was probably a good move, given Chew’s lackluster performance. If Tik Tok is banned in the US Pico is likely to be collateral damage.
Apple to Reveal Its New MR Headset At Its Developer Conference June 5th. The week was throbbing with breathless news about tech’s best-kept secret: Apple’s new headset. Reportedly, the highly anticipated new device was shown to Apple execs throughout the company, a sure sign this time the launch is the real deal. It’s not all rainbows and roses, though. People on the engineering team think it’s not ready, a rare sign of dissent in the secretive tech company, the most valuable in the world. More on Apple’s supposedly $3,000 HMD below.
Hadean raises $5M for metaverse infrastructure. The British company is addressing problems of scaling and latency, having supported large-scale, high-numbers events before, such as the EVE Online Aether Wars event. The company completed a $30M Series A round of financing in September 2022 from investors that included Epic Games and Tencent. Ericsson Ventures, Metrea Discovery, VU Venture Partners, Sanctor Capital and Tirta Ventures all contributed to the new round.
Bored Apes owner Yuga Labs launches 2nd Trip Otherside metaverse experience. The Second Trip builds on last summer’s First Trip, where Yuga Labs and Improbable were able to squish 4,500 people into the same real-time 3D world with 3D audio using software from Cambridge, England-based Improbable.
The Fat Boy Slim 45 Minute Concert in Engage, “Eat Sleep VR Repeat,” Is one of the Best Things I’ve Ever Seen in VR. A veritable who’s who of XR press, executives and influencers gathered in VR to experience what was billed as a “journey into the mind” of DJ Fat Boy Slim (Norman Cook). As we danced to club versions of classics “Rockafeller Skank,” “Praise You,” and “Weapon of Choice,” Engage’s VR studio director David James transported us into unexpected, impossible and wonderfully imaginative interactive places. Jaded technorati gasped in unison as every new environment was revealed. And in every new environment we did things you can only do in VR. And we did it with fifty other people. Producer and Engage CEO David Whelan has no distribution plans, but now that he knows what they’ve got, I’m hoping there soon will be. More on this here.
ChatGPT Comes To 3D Characters in Looking Glass Display. Holographic display maker Looking Glass today debuted “Uncle Rabbit,” a 3D cartoon rabbit that can operate on the company’s products. It’s able to hold a conversation like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
— Shawn Frayne (@shawninvents) March 29, 2023
Roblox and Its Generative AI: How Game Creation, and the Metaverse, May Be Changing. The game platform just released two new AI tools in the past week, but both are only showing up in the creator-focused Roblox Studio: a coding tool that lets anyone use conversational AI to generate code on the fly; and a way to create material designs just by describing what you want. The tools are “in line with what generative AI tools like Midjourney, Dall-E 2 and ChatGPT can already do,” says Scott Stein of CNet.
Generating ChatGPT’s Thoughts and Dreams. All the images in the video above were generated by a neural network that VR developer Dimitri Pirnay, who runs a VR simulation production company in Belgium, OneBonsai, set up on his gaming PC. He recorded the thought process of ChatGPT, starting with the query “what are the Business applications of VR.” It took the AI eight seconds to write one page of text answering the question. Then it took two hours to generate 14.000 unique drawings in HD resolution based on this text. It took two minutes to render a video with the assembled frames, and then an hour of human labor to add the music and edit the video. “It took us some time to set up the AI on our local machine, establish a pipeline for asking questions to the AI and generating good looking images.” Pirnay said. “But what is mind blowing to us is that now we can generate and post the AI’s thoughts and dreams.”
I love this use case. Denny’s has created a mobile AR enabled menu, It’s Diner Time, where animation, ads and entertainment literally jumps off the page. Produced by QReal using Niantic’s 8th Wall technology (no app is required), the AR menu will be in all of Denny’s 1,600+ restaurants.
Behind the Scenes: How “Body of Mine” VR Experience Won a Jury Prize at SXSW (Charles Anderson/Vanishing Point/Substack)
11 Fortnite Creative 2.0 Maps You Should Try Right Now (Phil Own/Gamespot)
This Week in Schadenfreude
Bobbing for Apples
If you think Apple is fumbling its AR/VR headset, you don’t know Apple like I do (Lawrence Ulanoff/Techradar)
Why Apple’s First VR Headset May Not Be the One You Buy (Scott Stein/CNet)
Sorry Apple, here’s why I’m convinced your VR headset will be a high-profile flop (Hamish Hector/Techradar)
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.