Welcome back to Spatial Beats. ChatGPT wrote ten percent of our roundup this week. We tried to get it to summarize and analyze the stories we’re covering, but it just refused to cooperate, probably because we’re not very good prompt engineers. On one hand, I agree AI could be as transformative as the Internet or Mobile computing. On the other hand, it took the Internet, with a big boost from mobile, a good fifteen years to completely change… um… everything. And when we say everything in this context, we are actually understating the impact of the Internet over the past thirty years.
XRSPACE Raises $25M to Develop 3D Live Experiences in the Metaverse. The company was founded in 2017 by Peter Chou, the former CEO of HTC. In 2020, the company launched its first product, a VR headset dubbed XRSPACE Manova, followed by complementary apps PartyOn and GOXR in 2021. The company says PartyOn, its virtual music event platform, has 700,000 users who joined over 50,000 user-generated parties in the XRSPACE-powered metaverse. Users can also customize their own full-body 3D avatars that track their body motions.
Mytaverse Closes $7.6 M To Further Development of its Enterprise Metaverse Platform. The three-year-old Miami company uses cloud streaming to bring high-fidelity graphics to virtual worlds used for all kinds of business purposes, from training to big conferences. They also can accommodate thousands of simultaneous unique users. Blumberg Capital led the round, joined by Baselayer Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Accelerator Ventures, and others.
AI-driven social metaverse company Social Future raises $6M in funding. The company’s May. Social (MAY – “Meet Another You”) is built with blockchain and AI. The site features bespoke 3D spaces and avatars, NFT games, and AI-enabled companions. Social Future says since its launch in January they’ve enrolled more than 20,000 unique active wallets (UAW) per week. Crypto investors including SNZ, Everest Venture Group, Folius Ventures, Y2Z Ventures, Mask Network, Tess Ventures, Stratified Capital, and Mindfulness Capital participated in the funding.
‘Blacktop Hoops’ Studio Announces $5.1M Funding Round, Open Beta Now Live. Vinci Games, the studio behind the popular VR basketball game, was previously supported by Y Combinator, and also successfully completed a modest $60,000 Kickstarter campaign in September 2022. Blacktop Hoops is on Quest App Lab now, and offers 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4 matches. The round was led by Makers Fund, with participation from Y Combinator, Soma Capital, Pioneer Fund, Anorak Ventures, BonAngels, and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin.
MetaGravity Raises $9.5M to Build Metaverse Platform Capable of Supporting ONE MILLION simultaneous users. The round saw participation from Sino Global Capital, Spartan Group, Market One Capital, Gravity Fund, Perridon Holdings, Pancasila, Ex-Capital, Mulana, Cogent Ventures, Agrippa Capital, K5 Global Ventures, Moonpay, and Project Godijra.
SenseGlove has raised 3.25 million euros in a series A. The round was led by a Dutch Tech Fund Lumaux. Previously SenseGlove raised funding from various international investors, including Forward. One and Value Creation Capital. The company’s total funding raised to date is about EUR €5.5 million.
Apple Watcher Mark Gurman of Bloomberg Shares Apple Headset Details. Apple is said to be adapting millions of iPad apps for its upcoming mixed-reality headset, which will blend virtual and augmented reality. There are no controllers or external trackers. Hand tracking, gestures, and a virtual keyboard are the way users will manage the device. The new device is expected to include an optimized version of Safari, as well as Apple’s services for calendars, contacts, files, home control, mail, maps, messaging, notes, photos, reminders, music, news, stocks and weather apps, which will all look similar to their iPad counterparts. Its avatar chat will supposedly make it seem like the other person is in the room with you. Apple is also reportedly developing a version of Apple Books for the headset, which will allow users to read in virtual reality, as well as a camera app and an app for meditation. The company is also testing a version of its Fitness+ service for the headset, which will let users exercise while watching an instructor in VR. Gaming will be a central piece of the device’s appeal, too. The headset will run multiple apps. Macrumors’ favorite Apple Leaker Evan Blass, claims to know a person who has had opportunities to “demo” the headset and was “blown away” by the experience and the hardware. Scott Hayden published a sizable list of rumored Apple Reality HMD features in RoadtoVR.
Snap’s Partner Summit (SPS 2023) took place on Wednesday at and around the company’s Venice, CA, headquarters. Their stock has taken a thumping in this year’s tech correction, down 75% and kind of languishing there, due in part to a soft ad market. Recently Snap went through a painful RIF, and discontinued its Pixie drone, which was just launched last November. Despite these headwinds, Snap continues to grow its audience, now over 750M, most between 13-24, and revealed plans to take its technologies off the app into public settings.
Snap rolls out AI chatbot and augmented reality services for businesses. The AR features, called “Local Lenses,” allow businesses to create custom AR experiences for their physical locations. The chatbot service, called “Voice Commands,” allows users to interact with businesses using voice commands. Snap hopes these new services will help businesses engage with customers and drive revenue growth through e-commerce off its app and onto partner sites. The move is part of Snap’s efforts to expand its offerings beyond social media and advertising.
Snap is launching augmented-reality mirrors in stores. In a similar move off of the app and into the physical world, Snap is bringing AR tech to retailers so customers can try on virtual outfits and accessories, see themselves in different lighting conditions, and receive personalized recommendations. Naturally, customers are encouraged to share their virtual try-on experiences on social media.
As part of Snap’s multi-year partnership with concert promoter Live Nation, the company will bring AR experiences to 16 music festivals around the world, including Lollapalooza in Chicago and Governors Ball in New York.
More Layoffs Hit Meta this Week, Including Workers At Realty Labs. As Zuckerberg and company shift their attention to AI, investment is needed elsewhere, so it’s inevitable the pruning would finally reach overstaffed Reality Labs and its myriad XR ambitions, some of which are a decade or more away from realization.
Meta Horizon has been overrun by ten-year-olds. Now it’s official. The company announced that its social VR platform, Horizon Worlds, is now open to teenagers. Officially. Anyone using the social VR platform knows it’s been full of preteen kids since its launch. Followers of this column and its eponymous podcast have heard me say many times that despite Meta’s efforts to be a diligent policeman, they have created in Horizon a predator’s paradise. No parent would knowingly allow their school-age child to hang out with adult strangers, so they are seemingly incapable of monitoring their kids and instead are relying on Meta. This is not going to end well.
YouTube technology critic Dan Olson spanks Decentraland and the Metaverse so hard it hurt my butt in the physical world. Is the tech press too credulous? Of course we are. But then we turn on the hype we help create. We repudiate it. We ask who said this is so great The Metaverse is nothing but a made up word from a science fiction novel!
Gorillaz’s performance of Skinny Ape at Coachella 2023 is now live on YouTube. Watch the live AR below. Worth a look and a listen.
Augmented World Expo, now in its 13th year, announced speakers for its May 31-June 2nd Santa Clara, CA, conference. Among the four hundred speakers are Neal Stephenson (author, co-founder Lamina 1), Rony Abovitz (founder, Magic Leap), John Riccitello (CEO, Unity), Peggy Johnson (CEO Magic Leap), Chi Xu (Nreal), Philip Rosedale (founder, High Fidelity, and Second Life), Hugo Swart (VR, GM, XR), Tom Furness (U. Washington), Joanna Popper (CAA), Alvin Graylin (President HTC China), Ted Schiliowitz (Paramount Global Futurist), and Cathy Hackl (Journey). The conference, the world’s largest focused exclusively on XR and related technologies, expects over 5,000 attendees to its conference and expo.
Virtual reality provides real-world training for police. The police department in Warren County, Pennsylvania, is using virtual reality (VR) technology to train officers for real-world situations. The department is using a VR headset and a computer program called MILO Range, which simulates different scenarios that officers may encounter on duty. The program allows officers to make decisions based on the scenario and provides feedback on their performance. The department believes that VR training provides a more realistic and immersive experience than traditional training methods, allowing officers to better prepare for real-world situations.
The avatar doctor will see you now: NHS will use virtual-reality technology to help treat patients suffering from mental health issues. The UK National Health Service (NHS) is planning to use virtual reality technology to help patients suffering from mental health issues. The technology will allow patients to enter a virtual world and interact with computer-generated avatars that simulate real-life situations to help them manage their symptoms. The therapy could be used to treat a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The NHS plans to introduce the technology over the next few years, following successful trials.
Virtual Reality Supplementing Conventional Medical Treatments. The article reports on how virtual reality (VR) is being used as a supplemental tool to conventional medical treatments. It highlights examples of how VR technology is being used to help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and pain management. The article also discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in the use of VR technology in healthcare, particularly in telemedicine. VR technology is seen as a way to supplement traditional treatments and improve outcomes for patients.
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.