Welcome back to Spatial Beats. Threads, Meta’s new Twitter competitor, passed 100 million downloads in just five days. It is tied to Instagram, which has 1.35 B users per Statista. Think about that. There’s still an addressable market of over a billion MAUs (monthly active users). This does not come at a good time for Twitter, which already had a churn problem, losing more users and advertisers than it gains. Today, Musk launched a new AI company, X, which he’s said in the past may be integrated with other services on Twitter, turning his social media platform into an everything app like WeChat.

Elon Musk unveiled his new AI company, X.ai with the goal, according to its website, “to understand the true nature of the universe.” That could mean anything. When not running Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX, Musk will also lead X.ai. You may recall in 2015, he was a co-founder of OpenAI. There is a long list of former Deepmind, OpenAI, Google, Microsoft and Tesla engineers and scientists who have joined the company on the website. Twitter may be taking it on the chin right now, but it has half a billion users, and Musk is the richest man in the world. The Musk-Zuck cage match is far from over. Musk is taking questions on Twitter on Friday, July 14. The time has not been announced.

Roblox Quest VR Launch Slated For August. Announced in a post on the Meta website, the open beta of Roblox VR will be available for Quest users in “weeks.” Roblox is pre-populating the game library on the app with titles suited for VR so there will be a ‘there there’ at launch. No word on what building capabilities the Roblox VR site will have, or what this might mean for Meta’s unpopular Horizon social world, which is dominated by the same youth demographic.

Adobe Firefly Goes Global. The company says its image generation tool has created over a billion assets since Adobe integrated it in Photoshop, Illustrator and Express. The AI was trained exclusively on Adobe’s massive library of licensed content, so it is able to indemnify enterprise users from any accusation of infringement. Adobe is ahead of the industry on this.

Anthropic releases Claude 2, its second-gen AI chatbot. The new Claude can search across documents, summarize, write and code and answer questions just like the old Claude, but the company says it scores higher on the bar exam; it can pass the multiple choice section of the Medical Licensing Exam; and, Claude 2 improved its score on coding from 56 to 71%.

US court ruling allows Microsoft-Activision deal to proceed. The $69 B merger agreement, announced in 2022, was set to expire next week, on July 18, at which time Microsoft would have to pay Activision a $3 B termination fee. Regulators in the US and EU are concerned Microsoft will withhold Activision titles like Call of Duty from rival platforms.

Mayo Clinic Testing Google’s AI Medical Chatbot. Google is betting Med-PaLM 2 can deliver more accurate medical info than general-purpose model trained only with medical licensing exams. The company began testing the system with the research hospital in April.

BMW Introduces AR (Assisted Reality) Smartglasses. While not the first swing at an HUD for motorcyclists, the BMW Motorrad ConnectedRide motorcycle goggles, made by Everysight, are integrated into the bike’s OS. The monocular display gives the rider a heads-up display that keeps maps, speed, and gear in the rider’s field of view. This means no more time-shifting between instrumentation and the road. Motorcycle riders already use protective eyewear, so BMW’s ConnectRide takes what they are already doing and makes it much better.

Head of AR at Google Resigns. Mark Lucovsky blames Google’s inconsistent support of XR. The company just canceled its XR Project, Iris, and is focusing on its partnership with Samsung and Qualcomm, to which the company is supplying software support through its Android OS. Clay Bavor, who led the XR effort at Google for five years, resigned in February to start an AI company with former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor.

AR at Google: Software Up, Hardware Down

Meta Reportedly in Talks With Tencent to Bring Quest to China. The Wall Street Journal published this exclusive story about the world’s biggest video game company partnering with the world’s biggest XR company to launch the Meta Quest VR headset in China. But Facebook was banned in 2009 for noncompliance with censorship rules. Zuck has since accused China of stealing Meta’s IP, so there’s concern the government, which has asserted its control over Chinese companies, will allow any such partnership.

China Tech Giant Alibaba Releases GenAI Tongyi Wanxiang for Enterprise. The text-to-image generator, managed by Alibaba’s cloud division, can use Chinese and English language prompts to create a wide variety of images in different styles (sketch, cartoons, 3D, etc.) just like Dall-e and Stable Diffusion. A beta version has been released for testing by Alibaba’s enterprise clients.

Why isn’t the metaverse here yet? Money. (John Rush/Fast Company)

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.

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