Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Except for the editorial introduction to the week’s top stories and what it may mean at the top of the roundup, the summaries below were 30% written by ChatGPT and 70% by me. Much better than last week, but still has not really saved preparation time or made a qualitative difference in quality.
It’s quarterly earnings season when companies have to explain themselves with numbers. While 2022 has led us to expect the worst, there was actually some enthusiasm about this week’s results. Google and Microsoft profits were boosted by AI’s thirst for cloud computing power boosting the bottom line, leading to bumps of 2% and 5% respectively. Meta exceeded expectations and went up even more. Facebook growth is back on track, and Instagram reels is clawing back hours stolen by Tik Tok. Investors rewarded Zuck with a 10% bump in share price for tamping down the metaverse talk in favor of AI and efficiency. Meta asserted its commitment to the Meverse for the umpteen-hundredth time despite Reality Lab’s multi-billion dollar quarterly loss. Reuters says they are all hiding poor results under AI hype.
Meta’s Cost-Cutting Did Not Spare its loss-leading XR division, Reality Labs. Captive VR studios Ready at Dawn, whose popular free multiplayer game Echo Arena was shut down recently, laid off forty people, including studio head Mark Almeida. Downpour Interactive, the company behind the military simulation “Onward” was similarly affected. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in March that 10,000 employees would be laid off as part of the company’s “year of efficiency.”
Apple emerged victorious in a closely-watched case involving Epic Games over its app store policies. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that found Apple is not a monopolist in distributing iOS apps and did not violate antitrust laws by requiring app developers to use its proprietary in-app payment systems. However, the court also held that Apple violated California’s unfair competition law when it forbade Epic from informing iOS users about other ways to pay for in-game virtual currency besides using Apple’s in-app payment system. Both sides have several weeks to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. Because of the EU’s earlier ruling, the app store has to open up overseas.
UK Regulators Block Microsoft-Activision Deal. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked the deal on fears Microsoft would be motivated to make Activision’s games exclusive to its cloud gaming service.
3D Virtual Office Katmai Scores $22M Series A. The company emerged from stealth mode today with a browser-based app to enable video conferencing with a real-time 3D engine, bringing people together within immersive, customized, photorealistic environments that foster authentic human interactions. Being web-based, with one-click invitations and screen sharing, is an advantage over app-based competitors in this space. The pandemic may be over, says founder Erik Braund, but fully remote and hybrid work is here to stay. The Series A round was led by Starr Insurance Companies.
Felix & Paul, the VR studio, will launch the first episode of its new VR trilogy called Space Explorers – Blue Marble, shot from the International Space Station (ISS), which offers stunning views of Earth from low orbit. The trilogy will be available for free on Meta Quest and Quest 2 headsets, aiming to give viewers a deeper understanding of our planet’s place in the universe and the importance of protecting it. The first episode will offer an unobstructed 360-degree view of Earth, filmed at the nadir of the ISS, where viewers can experience a profound shift in their perspective and understanding of the planet. The immersive film series is set to launch on Earth Day, April 22nd.
Sheffield has launched an augmented reality art trail that enables users to scan QR codes and view digital artworks that appear on the roofs of iconic buildings in the city center. The trail, called “Look Up!”, features four buildings, each with a QR code on the pavement below. Viewers can scan the code using a free app to follow animated arrows that lead their gaze upwards, where they can watch various visual presentations through their phone screens. The initiative was created by local firms Megaverse, Universal Everything, and Human Studio, and aims to boost residents’ engagement with their city. The John Lewis department store, which was bought by the council as part of a regeneration project, was the inspiration for the project.
Fidelity Investments has announced two new Metaverse efforts designed to teach kids financial skills. Pancake Empire Tower Tycoon on Roblox and Fidelity’s Bloom-o-rama in Decentraland were created to help young investors grow their financial knowledge and develop healthier money habits. Pancake Empire Tower Tycoon is an educational experience on Roblox that combines financial education with entertaining gameplay, allowing users to practice spending, saving, and investing using pancakes. Fidelity’s Bloom-o-rama is a new metaverse experience in Decentraland guiding users through quests and challenges to cultivate a more mindful approach to money. Visitors to Bloom-o-rama will navigate a hedge maze to gather saving, spending, and investing tips and learn helpful money mantras from bull and bear topiaries, while successfully completing all the tasks will earn them a chance to win $25,000 in a Fidelity Bloom Save account through an exclusive sweepstakes.
AI Weekly: Replit Raises $97 Million For AI Coding, Hugging Face Takes Aim At ChatGPT. We built the twin sister of this column on the topic of AI. Feels like 1996. People are running so fast, it’s hard to keep up.
Snapchat’s Invisible AR Moves Hint at Where We’re All Heading (Scott Stein/Cnet)
The Owner’s Guide to the Future (Rob Tercek/Substack)
With Its Headset, Apple Can Singlehandedly Turn VR Into a Thing (Will Greenwald/PC Mag)
Apple Will Take Scattershot Approach to Pitching AR/VR Headset (Mark Gurman/Bloomberg)
Apple’s mixed reality headset could connect to a battery pack that looks like the iPhone’s (Jon Porter/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.