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

Mobile World Congress (MWC) took place in Barcelona this week. 2024 showcased new mobile phone breakthroughs with generative AI assistants, wearables, foldables and sensors. Notably, Deutsche Telekom gave a closer look at its “AI phone,” which replaces apps with generative AI assistants.

The AI Desk

More Bonkers Sora videos. Just in case we forgot to worry about what happens when we don’t know what’s real anymore, Open AI is releasing more demos of its new text-to-video generative AI tool. Tyler Perry says he’s halting construction on his Atlanta studio because of it, although there might be 680 million reasons why he’s stopping that have nothing to do with AI.

Ed Haas produced a crazy series of “Baby Climbers” using Midjourney’s text-to-image tool. Follow his work on Instagram.

Moves & Maneuvers

Qualcomm GM & VP of XR, Hugo Swart, Exits Company after a twenty-year run. The popular executive was one of the industry’s most vocal, visible boosters. Swart built the XR division from scratch, and was responsible for the Snapdragon XR chipsets for Android phones and VR headsets from Meta and others.

Goodbye Dreamscape, Hello Dreamscape Learn. The location-based entertainment company backed by movie studios and celebrities is closing its retail entertainment, and making the name change to Dreamscape Learn (their joint venture with ASU) official. This follows the quiet demise of Dreamscape locations operated by their partner, AMC Theaters. Like Fighter Town, Virtual World, Disney Quest, and The Void, Dreamscape found out the hard way why stand-alone VR entertainment doesn’t work: too few seats at peak times, too many seats most of the time, and too many employees all the time.

Hardware is Hard

Zuck Takes Korea As Meta Partners With LG. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Asian tour, encompassing South Korea, Japan, and India, underscores Meta’s strategic focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and extended reality (XR) technologies. During his visit, Zuckerberg met executives from LG Electronics and Samsung to discuss XR partnerships. Upload reports a Korean news outlet that LG will release an updated Quest Pro in 2024. Meetings with tech and government leaders, including South Korea’s President and Japan’s Prime Minister.

Samsung – Qualcomm – Google XR HMD manufacturing to begin this year. Apple’s MR headset Vision Pro’s positive sales performance has created pressure on competitors. Samsung, Apple’s rival, plans to respond with its XR device, expected to begin production in late 2024. The Vision Pro received both positive and negative reviews but reportedly sold over 200,000 units within its first month. This success has pressured competitors like Meta Platforms and Samsung, a long-time rival of Apple in various product categories. In response, Samsung formed an “XR Alliance” with Google and Qualcomm in early 2023 to develop XR devices.

Follow the Money

Figure AI, a startup developing humanoid robots, raised $675M. Investors in the Series B round include Microsoft, OpenAI Startup Fund, NVIDIA, Jeff Bezos (through Bezos Expeditions), Parkway Venture Capital, Intel Capital, Align Ventures, and ARK Invest. The company’s Figure 01 robot is designed to perform dangerous and undesirable jobs in sectors like manufacturing and shipping. What about desirable jobs in trades like construction? You know what else is dangerous? War. Just saying. At the same time, Figure and OpenAI have entered into a collaboration agreement to develop next-generation AI models for humanoid robots. The collaboration aims to help accelerate Figure’s commercial timeline by enhancing the capabilities of humanoid robots to process and reason from language.

Ideogram Text-to-Image Midjourney Competitor Raises $80 M. This values the company well north of $1 Billion. Andreessen Horowitz led the round. Ideogram 1.0 has an amazingly effective feature called Magic Prompt, which created the image above.

Weekend Reading

Kara Swisher’s Memoir “Burn Book” Released. The venerated author, journalist, podcaster and entrepreneur has been following the tech industry since the birth of the Internet in the 90s. She knows where all the bodies are buried.

Listen & Learn

For more spatial commentary & insights, check out This Week in XR, hosted by the author of this column, along with Paramount’s Futurist Ted Schilowitz, and Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz. This week our guest is Suzanne Haspinger, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of HoloLight. You can find it on podcasting platforms SpotifyiTunes, 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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