Welcome back to Spatial Beats, where we round up all the top news and happenings from around the spatial computing spectrum, including its escalating infusions with AI and other letters. Let’s dive in…

The Lede

Grok launches to X Premium+ subscribers. Grok is Elon Musk’s AI chatbot without “woke” guardrails which is updated in real time by Twitter posts. Reviews are mixed, but blogger Robert Scoble posted Grok’s response to his question, “What’s happening in AI Today?” It was startlingly accurate. “Today in the world of AI, things are getting pretty wild! Google just announced their new Al model, Gemini, which is set to rival GPT4. Meanwhile, Meta is stepping up their game with 20 new Al features and an Al image generator. And who could forget McDonald’s new Al chatbot, “Ask Pickles” which is sure to make ordering a Big Mac even more interesting. But that’s not all, Alibaba’s video Al is getting creative by scraping TikTok data, and Al is even helping decode a new whale language. It’s like a sci-fi movie but in real life! On the more serious side of things, Nvidia is working with the US government to make sure their new chips comply with export controls in China.” I fact checked all of the above, including “Ask Pickles,” an AI app for McDonald’s’ crew members who need to repair an ice cream machine. Bindu Reddy, CEO of Abacus.ai, posted a comparison of Grok and Bard answering this same question and the results put Google to shame. It’s easy to joke about Twitter AI, but for news, maybe it’s a good idea. An X premium+ subscription is $16 if you buy it directly from Twitter, or $22 in app stores. On Tuesday, xAI filed with the SEC to raise up to $1 billion in an equity offering. They have thus far raised $134M.

The AI Desk

Meta announced a big batch of AI features on its products, including a free web-based text-to-image generator, Imagine. The other AI features are being added to Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Meta is adding multimodal processing to its chatbot. The chatbot’s built-in Imagine image generation tool makes it possible to upload an existing photo and edit it with natural language commands. The new standalone The new Imagine text-to-image app is super fast. Maybe the fastest. Perhaps this is because it has none of the tools we see on popular apps like Stable Diffusion, Runway, Pika, Mid-journey, and Moonvalley. Generating images in seconds, Imagine is powered by an AI model called Emu that was trained using 1.1 billion images. Meta is also updating its chatbots with long-term memory capability which will enable them to carry over information from one chat session to the next, which none of the other AI platforms do.

Google Unveils Gemini. Sort of. It had previously been expected early next year. In an online presser with the DeepMind team behind Gemini, the company showed off Gemini Pro which it says will make Bard competitive with free ChatGPT, and do multimodal AI, meaning it will understand images as well as text, and can respond to queries with charts and other graphics. Gemini Nano will bring AI to Google’s Pixel phones. In the near term, these new models will be integrated with YouTube and other apps in the Google ecosystem like flights, maps, and spreadsheets.

Runway Partners with Getty Images. Like Adobe before it, Runway has decided to get ahead of the lawsuits by training its text-to-image and video application exclusively on the licensed database of sixteen million images.

Kiss Is Retiring (Again) But This Time They’re Being Replaced – by Avatars. At the end of the band’s last show (they mean it this time) at Madison Square Garden, following a final rendition of “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night,” the band’s avatars were introduced in a video created by ILM last summer. The plan is for these avatars to tour the Metaverse, or something. No other details are available.

Director Dave Clark writes, “I created a spec Adidas” a 30 spot to show how AI could be eventually used for future pitches and potentially actual content. I created this over my hour-long coffee break and overnight it received millions of views on Reddit and Twitter and is causing waves in the Advertising industry, being shared by top executives. Official Adidas Twitter account even liked the video post!” He used Runway, Kaiber AI, Magnific AI to upscale a few images and edited it in Adobe Premiere.

Is this the world’s first AI-produced documentary? The Wizard of AI is a 20-minute video essay by UK filmmaker Alan Warburton about the impacts AI is having on artists and designers around the world. The video itself was produced using generative AI tools and is 99% comprised of images and videos created with Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, Runway, and Pika.


Hardware is Hard

RayNeo Air 2 Smart Glasses, The Ultimate Mobile Display. A $379 smartphone viewing accessory that delivers a 201″ hi-def screen on the go. We love these glasses, but compatibility is an issue. If you have an iPhone 14 or any with a lightning port, you’re going to need the $99 MiraScreen to go with it.

Give the Gift of Extended Reality. I spend most of my time studying and writing about this tech, and personally test new products all the time. For your consideration, here are fifteen XR gift suggestions, priced from $10 – $1,000.

Looking Glass Go, A Pocket Size Holographic Display, is Now Available on Kickstarter (fully funded), and will ship in January. 3D without glasses is a thing. Looking Glass is an industry-standard for 3D modeling, and their screens are getting smaller and smaller, and more and more affordable.


Follow the Money

Virtuleap, a VR startup focusing on HealthTech and EdTech, raised $2.55 M. The round was led by GED Ventures, Portugal. Virtuleap has developed a collection of virtual reality games that can be used to evaluate and improve various cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, motor control skills, and spatial orientation. The company can provide essential clinical findings for brain health screening and profiling by collecting data on a single platform.

Critics Swoon as Lego Virtual World Arrives on Fortnite. Lego Fortnite “takes the game back to its roots.” Says Polygon. “Lego Fortnite is a game of crafting, building, and survival in an open-world sandbox.” In April 2022, Sony and Lego’s parent company, Kirkbi, invested $2 billion in Epic Games.

Weekend Reading

Runway brings AI movie-making to the masses (Jennifer Kingston/AXIOS)

Listen & Learn

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.

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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