Welcome back to Spatial Beats. As you likely know by now, Sam Altman was reinstated as Open AI CEO. My hot take is that an extreme misalignment of the not-for-profit board’s mission, and that of the CEO, employees, partners and shareholders, is the root cause of the chaos. This tension could not be sustained and eventually, it caused a catastrophic break that almost vaporized billions of dollars of value. Putting a non-profit board in charge of a for-profit company seems silly on the face of it when you say it plainly like that. Ironically, Altman himself was partially responsible for this unconventional arrangement in the first place. But I digress. Altman is now back, the board purged of his antagonists. The sole survivor of the old board is Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora. He will be joined by ex-Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor and by former US Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers. Others, including Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Open AI’s biggest shareholder, are expected to make up a board of nine or more. The inside story of the original board’s reasoning is still unknown, so an outside law firm will be brought in to investigate how this entire debacle came about. Altman has repeatedly said he does not have equity in the company. That may change now as well. CNBC suggested Wednesday that an internal letter from scientists warning of scary, uncontrollable breakthroughs incited the board to hit the self-destruct button.
AI21 Completes $208 Million Oversubscribed Series C Round. The Tel Aviv, Israel, company provides AI Systems for Enterprises. The Series C funding pegs the valuation at $1.4 B. Previous investors Samsung Next, Google and NVIDIA have been joined by Intel Capital and Comcast Ventures. This new round of funding brings the company’s total capital raised to $336 M.
VR Veteran Studio nDreams Acquired by Aonic for $110M. Stockholm-based gaming conglomerate Aonic has acquired nDreams, the VR studio that just released Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord. Aonic had previously purchased a $35M minority stake in 2022.
Sony Pictures Unveils Wonderverse. Sony Pictures is launching its first 45,000 square-foot Wonderverse at the giant Chicago Oakbrook Center Mall featuring escape rooms, virtual reality racing simulations, and bumper cars, all based on the studio’s film, TV series, and video games including Jumanji, Ghostbusters, Bad Boys, Zombieland, and Uncharted.
VRROOM Launches Music Metaverse Platform With Armani White Jam. The Paris-based company exudes cool as it tees up a way for artists to spin up their own shows in the Metaverse.
Experience VR Laying Down With Pillow. Lucas Rizzotto’s new MR app Pillow launches on Quest VR this week. Rizzotto’s previous award-winning VR experience, Where Thoughts Go, is about secrets. It launched to raves at Tribeca in 2018, and was one of the first non-game experiences on the Quest. It is a deeply affecting personal experience. It seems silly to say it, but the big innovation here, that no one has previously thought of, is a VR experience created for use laying down. On a bed. It is so simple and obvious everyone’s going to do it now.
“Runway’s AI capabilities brought an innovative edge to our visual storytelling,” says Dusan Simic, whose 2immersive4u created this cinematic trailer. “By employing AI in our creative process, we’ve pushed the boundaries of traditional filmmaking, allowing us to present a nuanced exploration of war and peace in a futuristic setting. The resulting trailer is not just a showcase of technological prowess but a thought-provoking piece that reflects on timeless human conflicts in a new light.”
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.