Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Apple’s unveiling of the Vision Pro XR headset continues to dominate tech news. This is pretty incredible when you consider this is another record-breaking week for AI startup investments. A four-week-old French AI company just raised $113 M at a $260M valuation. And that wasn’t the largest investment of the week.
Apple’s Vision Pro reveal video has just become their most viewed YouTube video of the year with 50 MILLION views in just over a week.
Scott Stein of CNet raved about the experience but also noted that killer apps are still absent. The company is just now releasing resources to developers. As I predicted last week, with additional battery pack(s), $600 Zeiss corrective lens inserts, AppleCare, a carrying case, and local sales tax, your new Vision Pro is likely to be over $5,000. Insiders report Apple is currently aiming to release a more affordable AR/VR spatial computer product by the end of 2025. CNN Business says Cook is betting his legacy on AR.
Mark Zuckerberg has a lot to say about Apple’s Vision Pro. In a companywide meeting last week he said “I think that their announcement really showcases the difference in the values and the vision that our companies bring to this in a way that I think is really important.”
Of course, no story about spatial computing would be complete without acknowledging the naysayers, who certainly make a racket at times like this. Entrepreneur, author, and professor Scott Galloway is among the most vocal critics, calling Apple’s expensive Vision Pro “the final nail in the coffin” of the entire industry. My Forbes colleague, Senior Contributor Paul Tassi, says the big tech companies don’t get it. People clearly don’t want to wear things on their face. Of course, as Henry Ford famously said, “if I had asked what people wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Nvidia invests in Google-linked generative A.I. startup Cohere. Oracle and Salesforce are also joining a $270 M round for the generative AI startup, whose founders came from Google Brain where they worked on large language models. Cohere is focused on gen AI for enterprise licensing, and sees an opportunity to provide firms with a gen AI service that eliminates proprietary data concerns about Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s model. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said in a release about the deal, “The team at Cohere has made foundational contributions to generative AI. Their service will help enterprises around the world harness these capabilities to automate and accelerate.”
Four Week Old French AI Company Mistral Raises $113M Seed Round Co-founded by former Meta and Google alums they plan to take on OpenAI by making AI “useful,” per CEO Arthur Mensch. The company, now valued at $260 M, plans to release its first text-based generative AI models next year. Lightspeed Venture Partners is leading this round, with Redpoint, Index Ventures, Xavier Niel, JCDecaux Holding, Rodolphe Saadé and Motier Ventures in France, La Famiglia and Headline in Germany, Exor Ventures in Italy, Sofina in Belgium, and First Minute Capital and LocalGlobe in the UK all also participating. French investment bank Bpifrance and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt are also shareholders.
Synthesia AI Raises $90 M. The UK-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup, said on Tuesday it has raised $90 M at a valuation of $1 billion in a funding round led by venture capital firms Accel and Nvidia’s NVentures. The startup’s technology helps more than 50,000 businesses including Amazon.com in creating custom AI avatars used in instructional and corporate videos.
Medivis Lands $20M to Bring XRay Vision To HoloLens. Their FDA-approved software enables the Hololens to anchor CT scans and X-rays onto the patients’ anatomy with pinpoint accuracy. The Series A funding round was led by Thrive Capital, with participation from Initialized Capital and Mayo Clinic. Additional investors include Bob Iger, Kevin Durant, Dr. Robert Spetzler, Hugo Barra and Coalition Operators.
Versed Raises $1.7M for AI To Help Users Make RPGs. The Dutch company, led by Google alum turned entrepreneur Robert Gaal, has scored an investment from Google’s Gradient Ventures. Versed enables users to create original role-playing games (RPG) by writing text prompts.
Paul McCartney Finishes Last Beatles’ Song With Gen AI. He was able to restore Lennon’s vocals from a ‘ropey little bit of cassette’ “We were able to use that kind of thing when Peter Jackson did the film Get Back where it was us making the Let It Be album,” said McCartney. “He was able to extract John’s voice from a ropey little bit of cassette where it had John’s voice and a piano. He can separate them with AI.”
Meta’s Open Source Music Gen is Free On Hugging Face. Meta says the model was trained on 20,000 hours of music, including 10,000 “high-quality” licensed tracks and 390,000 instrumental tracks from Shutterstock and Pond5. The best part. It’s free. You don’t even have to sign in to try it.
Overture Maps Foundation pre-releases collaboratively-built map datasets as shared assets for location-based apps. AWS, Microsoft, Meta, and TomTom launched Overture in December under the Linux Foundation. The intention is to build an accurate high-fidelity open map as a shared asset that anyone can use for location-based applications. The newly updated map data includes over six million building heights across 34,000 square miles in major U.S. cities such as Boston, Chicago, and Santa Clara. This data was developed using a number of sources: the United States Geological Survey (USGS) 3D Elevation Program; building footprints from OpenStreetMap; Microsoft open building footprint data; and community sources.
Scott Pelly Interviews Google CEO Sundar Pinchai and leaders of its AI Efforts. This is from the excellent 60 minutes piece that aired last month. Here’s a taste: “Bard read most everything on the internet and created a model of what language looks like. Rather than search, its answers come from this language model… It tries to predict the most probable next words, based on everything it’s learned. So, it’s not going out to find stuff, it’s just predicting the next word. But it doesn’t feel like that.”
Amazon Product Pages Go 3D with Hexa. The Metaverse is poking its head into the 2D Internet. Amazon is adding 3D product shots to its product pages through a partnership with Tel-Aviv based Hexa, a 3D visualization platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to turn merchants’ existing 2D product shots into 3D models.
Ready Player Me launches monetization tools. The cross-game avatar platform released alpha access to a new suite of monetization tools for premium avatar collections, enabling creators tap into the $100 B digital goods economy by selling avatar skins, clothing, and items directly in their apps. Developers can apply for beta access to the tools here.
KAGAMI Live Mixed Reality Show Begins Limited Theatrical Run. A new performance opened at The Shed’s Griffin Theater in New York this week, KAGAMI, which blends theater, music, film and Magic Leap 2 mixed reality headsets. The fifty-minute experience is built around a volumetric capture of late composer and performer Ryuichi Sakamoto. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for New York audiences to see the mixed reality future of live performance. But you’d better hurry. The show closes July 2nd. New York will not see its like again anytime soon. Theater is hard enough without putting a $3,299 Magic Leap 2 XR headset on each of the 80 people in the audience.
PwC and Virbela created a custom virtual environment for the Cannes Lions. The Lions is a “creativity festival” for media companies that exists alongside the famous film festival. PWC has docked its virtual mega yacht to a virtual French Riviera. PwC will be holding panels and other events there. Virbela is capable of hosting thousands of users at once, recreating office environments and event experiences.
4 Technologies That Aren’t That Big Today But Will Likely Be Massive in 20 Years. Benzinga editor Caleb Naysmith makes some bold and not-so-bold predictions: (1) BCI (2) AI (3) Space and (4) Flying cars. This retro sci-fi suburban fantasy is never going to happen, to the great disappointment of the seven-year-old inside me. Autonomous flying drone taxis for oligarchs maybe. Most people will never ride in one. As for space, 20 years may be too soon. When I’m 83, I’ll say we’re still talking about AI, BCI, Spatial Computing, and autonomous electric vehicles.
The A.I. Revolution Will Change Work. Nobody Agrees How. (Sarah Kessler/NYTimes)
Snapdragon Spaces SDK Plays Starring Role For Developers (Charlie Fink/Forbes)
AREA15: The Mall of The Future (Charlie Fink/Forbes)
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.