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…
At a moment when President Joe Biden’s voice is cloned to make robocalls for Trump, brilliant companies that deceive our lying eyes and ears are in the money. That what has been created to delight us can so easily be turned against us, makes me wonder if it’s possible to make the antidote before the poison.
Follow the Money
AI Voice Startup ElevenLabs Raises $80 M Series B. This brings its total funding to $101 million, including a previous $19 million Series A round. This recent investment has increased the company’s valuation to $1.1 billion. The funding round was co-led by Andreessen Horowitz, Nat Friedman, and Daniel Gross, with participation from Sequoia Capital and SV Angel. ElevenLabs, founded by ex-Google and Palantir engineers, specializes in voice cloning and synthesis using machine learning. The company also plans to introduce new features, including a tool for dubbing movies and a marketplace for users to sell their AI-cloned voices.
AI photography app Artisse bags $6.7M seed round. The app transforms your most unflattering selfies into supermodel-worthy snaps on exotic sets. The app is getting traction from influencers, models, and marketers who can’t otherwise create dream shots beside luxe cars in couture outfits. Artisse says after two months it’s on track to make $2.5M this year in subscription revenue. The company is exploring virtual fitting room tech for online shopping, where you can model clothes on yourself in different fits and poses, as well as a group photo feature that could one day let you “pose” with a friend or even celebrity The London Fund led the funding round.
The AI Desk
OpenAI has announced a pioneering partnership with Arizona State University (ASU). The University plans to create a personalized AI tutor for students across various subjects, particularly in STEM, and use ChatGPT in its largest course, Freshman Composition, for writing assistance. The university also intends to develop AI avatars for creative educational purposes. ASU will have unrestricted access to ChatGPT Enterprise for diverse applications like coursework, tutoring, and research. ChatGPT Enterprise, launched in August, offers enhanced features like access to GPT-4 without limits, faster performance, and API credits.
Nice Aunties released this new, enchanting, and impossible work of AI animated art last week, GARLIC, set to Running A Fever’s experimental music. “GARLIC serves as a sanctum for Aunties to commune with their higher selves, offering a safe space for stress relief singing, meditations, and confessions. Mindful of carbon costs, its interior decorations are made solely from the humblest fresh alliums sourced from the local market, which are later recycled for cooking.”
Storybook Studio is developing this first-century tale of love, lust, warfare, and revenge, as Germany’s wild tribes fought off Roman occupation. An epic tale depicted today in AI.
Hardware is Hard
A FOMO Inducing Intro To The Apple Vision Pro. RoadtoVR’s Ben Lang says this video is an accurate depiction of the device he’s had a chance to demo several times now. Others have pointed out that only in a movie does a demo go this flawlessly. Clearly, Apple is trying to place a bug between my ears that will worm its way into my subconsious with a single thought. I must mortgage home and hearth for a $5,000 face computer.
Disney introduces Holotile for VR locomotion. Disney Imagineer Lanny Smoot demonstrates locomotion in VR using the “Holotile Floor,” which enables users to walk or run in place with minimal friction. This is a problem that continues to vex developers. How can we truly be immersed in another world if we have to teleport, or shuffle in a hard plastic dish with overshoes on, wearing a harness? Does every fully immersive simulation have to be conducted at warehouse scale? Disney has demonstrated a patented multiplayer system for moving players in space, and not having them fall over.
$10M in pre-orders for $200 Rabbit R1. The handheld AI device, designed in collaboration with the design firm Teenage Engineering, resembles a Tamagotchi more than a smartphone. It is about half the size of a smartphone with a camera, scroll wheel, 2.8-inch touchscreen, and a push-to-talk button. Powered by a 2.3GHz MediaTek processor, Rabbit R1 has 4GB of memory, 128GB of storage, and a modem. Cuteness aside, there is a big idea here, called a Large Action Model, which you program through a web portal called “Rabbit Hole” (rimshot) to use your apps and subscriptions. The only thing like Rabbit R1 is Humane’s AI Pin, which costs $500 more, has no screen and requires a monthly subscription. Which begs the question. If Rabbit works, and people start using it at scale, how are they going to pay for the massive amount of cloud computing required? No one seems to know.
Hits and Misses
Microsoft Teams now supports 3D and VR meetings. And honestly, it’s worthy of ridicule. After killing everything VR, the Microsofties have stuffed the last legless vestiges of AltspaceVR into Teams via Mesh. This way, a user in a VR or AR device, can conference with users on a video call, and appear to them as an avatar in the Metaverse. Or something. Why is Microsoft doing this? Is it something people want?
Why Making Face Computers Cool Isn’t Easy (Brian X. Chen/NY Times)
Mark Zuckerberg’s new goal is creating artificial general intelligence (Alex Heath/The Verge)
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.