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

Three contrasting views on the state of XR emerge as we enter the new year:

  • VR market keeps shrinking even as Meta pours billions of dollars a quarter into the metaverse, read the brutal, and not-completely-unfair story by Jonathan Vanian on CNBC on Tuesday. He points to a 40% decline in headset sales. Meta responded indirectly with a blog post by CTO Andrew Bosworth, who says the Metaverse and AI are Meta’s “two long-term bets on technologies of the future” that will soon merge together.
  • IDC says 2024 is shaping up to be a year of tremendous recovery as shipments of AR/VR headsets are expected to grow 46.4%.
  • Microsoft announced on its support pages that its Mixed Reality Portal and Windows Mixed Reality for Steam VR will no longer be included in future releases of the OS leading to a spate of snarky headlines like “Microsoft axes/gives up/quits XR/VR/Virtual Reality.” Have no doubt. They walked away from mobile a year after buying Nokia for $7.2 Billion in 2014; they can certainly walk away from XR today.

Best of 2023

Road to VR’s Top Games of 2023. Asgard’s Wrath 2 won for best on Quest. Maybe the most expensive Quest game ever from Meta-owned developer Sanzaru Games. PC VR pick Vertigo 2 is a 10-hour VR-native created by a single person, Zach Tsiakalis-Brown. Horizon Call of the Mountain, the PlayStation Launch Title, took its award. It shows off what the new PSVR2 headset is capable of, such as eye-tracking, reactive triggers, and head-haptics.

CNET’s Top VR Games. Editor Scott Stein has been covering the technology since it emerged ten years ago. His list of the best on Quest is more diverse, although Asgard’s Wrath 2 tops his list, too. Stein’s broader Best of Quest, includes classic titles like Beat Saber, Moss, Walkabout Mini-Golf, fitness app Supernatural, and painting app Vermillion.

The must-have Geek Gift of 2023. Six new video smart glasses from six companies were introduced this fall, just in time for the holidays. Priced from $349 to $600, they constitute, or reconstitute, the category of assisted reality. As opposed to augmented reality, which combines data with the physical world, assisted reality refers to a microdisplay in, or slightly adjacent to, your field of view, like the original Google Glass. Microdisplays are now cheap enough to come back to consumers as a relatively low-cost wearable mobile accessory that provides a big screen experience on the go who like to play games on handheld devices (Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck, Mobile). It’s likely they’re already heard about these—and want one.

The AI Desk

OpenAI Suspends Bytedance For Illegally Using Chat GPT to Train Its AI Model. Most of the alleged misuse took place through Bytedance’s access to ChatGPT through Microsoft’s Azure cloud. Heath says he’s seen TikTok owner ByteDance’s documents confirming OpenAI was used to develop their AI Project Seed. The company denies the allegations of misuse. There is a big and growing chorus of influential voices like Scott Galloway and Rony Abovitz saying TikTok is a clear and present danger and no friend of the United States.

Good Fun

Versailles 400 Hybrid VR Concert Christmas Day 8pm CET in VRROOM. Legendary rock violinist Jean-Michel Jarre will don a Lynx headset and perform live from the Hall of Mirrors in the landmark French palace. You can download the VROOM app from any of the app stores. My experiences with this app have been amazing, but you do not want to be late. Once the rooms fill up, it can be hard to get in.

Sandbox XR Inks Deal For Ten Centers In Germany. The company has expanded to 46 operating locations in 2023. The partnership comes on the heels of Sandbox VR’s recent announcement that its latest experience, Squid Game Virtuals has become the fastest game to reach $1 million in ticket sales. The company has expanded to 46 operating locations to date in 2023, a nearly 50% year-over-year growth rate.

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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