Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Assisted Reality headsets are basically Android smartphones with a wearable microdisplay, allowing workers’ hands to remain free, and eyes on the task. They’re not the sort of thing you’d wear in public. Even the most advanced assisted reality headsets are still a bit bulky, but they make the screen of your mobile phone appear to be a 140”-200” monitor. As we noted in our CES 2023 coverage, a number of these screen extenders are coming to consumers this year. Three of the most promising products, The Nreal Air AR glasses, Rokid Max, and TCL’s NXTWEAR are already here. These early iterations are going to get a lot better, and quickly. I know TCL has a sleeker model on the way later this year.
Meanwhile, the manufactured drama around Apple’s XR glasses launch at its annual developer’s conference (WWDC) June 5th is getting to be like CNN commentators narrating the movement of the Trump motorcade. I put all these stories at the bottom of this column, in their own section, “Bobbing for Apples,” which sounds terribly unsanitary when you say it today.
Mojo Vision raises $22.4M as it pivots into micro-LEDs. The company pivoted away from its original ambition to make AR contact lenses in January, laying off 75% of its staff. With the $22M comes a new CEO, Nikhil Balram, and a new plan: commercialize the tiny micro-LED Mojo developed. Existing investors NEA and Khosla Ventures led the round, with participation from Dolby Family Ventures, Liberty Global Ventures, Fusion Fund, Drew Perkins, Open Field Capital, and Edge.
AR display technology startup OQmented closes $20M in Series A funding led by Sharp. The German company said this was a strategic investment by Sharp Devices Europe. As one of the world’s leading electronic display manufacturers, Sharp is in a position to commercialize OQmented’s sophisticated technology, which uses MEMS mirrors, proprietary electronics, and software to power AR glasses. Existing investors Salvia, and Vsquared Ventures also participated. Yes, I also had to look up MEMS.
Psychic VR Lab Co, the creator of XR metaverse platform STYLY Closes $3.7M funding round, bringing the company’s total funding amount to $19.7.M. Psychic VR Lab is the company behind the real-world metaverse platform STYLY, which utilizes 3D geomap data of cities as digital twins upon which XR content can be distributed and findable locally. The company has developed maps for parts of Tokyo’s Shibuya, Shinjuku, Kumamoto, Niigata, Tsukuba districts, New York’s Times Square, the Barcelona Sagrada Familia, and other urban spaces around the world. The round was led by J. CVC fund, and includes Front Retailing, Nippon Steel Kowa Real Estate Co., TV Asahi Holdings, JR West Japan Innovations., Tokyu Fudosan Holdings, and SBI Investment Co.
‘VRChat’ Now in Development for Android and iOS Devices. The popular social VR platform must have been watching and taking notes while rival Rec Room went to game consoles and then mobile on its way to a billion-dollar valuation and a million-user mark. After its $80M series D round in the fall of 2021, VR Chat’s valuation was $1.25B. They have been available to Steam-compatible PCs since they launched in 2016.
Accessible QR Code From Zappar Makes Packaging Talk To The Blind. The enhanced QR code uses a small printing variation to make the codes readable at 15 feet and activate a voice description of the product. Unilever has it on just two packages right now but is working with The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to start a movement toward the new QR codes.
Fatboy Slim’s ‘Eat Sleep VR Repeat’ A Jaw-Dropping Musical Journey. Here’s the full review of the experience we promised last week. ENGAGE created this original VR concert with the venerated DJ and musician Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook) to show off the capabilities of its new next-gen ENGAGE LINK, which will power its education and business Metaverse. There were just a few showings of this event, and there are no plans for more, at least right now.
Tommy Hilfiger Lets Shoppers Try on Clothes in AR With Zero10, which helped the fashion brand bring AR try-on experiences to its stores in London, Milan, and Berlin. People around the world will also be able to try on the digital collection in AR through the Zero10 mobile application, which is available to download for free on iOS devices. Zero10’s AR Mirror technology lets shoppers try on clothing virtually, using 3D body tracking, multiclass segmentation, and cloth simulation to enhance realism.
Sony Electronics Introduces New Generation Spatial Reality Display. The $5,000 display is after the nascent spatial display market now dominated by Leia and LookingGlass. Available new month, the display will be featured in Sony’s booth at NAB in Las Vegas, starting April 15th.
American teens aren’t excited about virtual reality, with only 4% using it daily. While 29% percent of teens polled owned a VR device — versus 87% who own iPhones — only 4% of headset owners used it daily, the investment firm found, and 14% used them weekly. “To us, the lukewarm usage demonstrates that VR remains ‘early days’ and that these devices are less important than smartphones,” Piper Sandler analysts wrote.
NuEyes introduced their next generation of smart glasses, NuLoupes, which are aimed at the medical and dental market. NuLoupes provide variable digital magnification, 3D stereoscopic imaging and streaming, depth perception, and object recognition. Their goal is to take the loupes clinicians currently use and make them much much better.
Metaverse Fashion Week had big brands but few people. The event was long on hype and cool on content from some of fashion’s leading brands. Unfortunately, said The Verge’s Jay Peters, it was boring and no one was there.
Golf+ Sunsets Proputt. The popular golf simulation, now the official VR golf partner of the PGA, is saying goodbye to its popular variation on mini-golf, the superbly crafted Proputt, which started their VR golf empire. Sunsetting with it is Quest 1 compatibility. CEO Ryan Engle told me it’s too much work for not enough upside to keep Proputt going. As popular as Proputt was, people want the full sport simulation. In the fall of 2022, Golf+ added Pro Golfers Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth as investors along with Tom Brady, Steph Curry, and Mike Trout.
Building a Great Customer Experience in the Metaverse (Mark Purdy/Harvard Business Review)
This Week in Schadenfreude
Meta Quest Pro, Half a Year Later: Caught Between Quest 2 and Quest 3 (Scott Stein/CNet)
Tim Cook’s Apple is coming for Zuckerberg’s metaverse (Daniel Howley/Yahoo News)
Meta, Microsoft, and Disney are reversing their bets on the metaverse (Faustine Ngila/Quartz)
Bobbing for Apples
Tim Cook on Shaping the Future of Apple (Zack Baron/GQ)
Apple might be getting into VR at the worst possible time (Jay Peters/The Verge)
Apple Smart Goggle might Be The Shot in the Arm XR Needs (Asia Martin/Yahoo News)
Apple CEO Tim Cook is Hyping XR Ahead of WWDC (Ben Lang/RoadtoVR)
Will Apple Show AR/VR Headset at WWDC? Delays Add ‘Uncertainty,’ Analyst Says (Meara Isenberg/CNet)
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.