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 emerging tech. Let’s dive in…

The Lede

It was a week of dueling conferences. First up, Nerd Woodstock, Nvidia GTC, back after a five-year break from the pandemic and right-sized for the world’s third most valuable company. A few dozen miles up the road in San Franciso, the annual Game Developers Conference drew developers and executives from across the gaming world to celebrate a business that now dwarfs television, streaming services, and movies, even though the industry is still reeling from the post-pandemic slowdown.

Nvidia’s founder and CEO, Jensen Huang, kicked off what the company calls “The Woodstock of AI.” Nerd Woodstock would be more accurate, although Huang commanded the stage like a rock star. Nvidia has been a big, big winner in AI so far, and they are now the world’s third most valuable company, valued at two trillion dollars, trailing only Apple and Microsoft. I saw him at Siggraph and he radiated ambition and optimism as he rolled out their advanced H100 Hopper chips, built specifically for AI applications. This week Nvidia introduced Blackwell, a chip that boasts significant gains in both training and running AI models, along with lower cost and energy consumption. That’s not all. Huang was up there for a good ninety minutes. NVIDIA’s Project GR00T promises to revolutionize humanoid robots. This AI system will act as the “brain,” teaching robots to understand commands, copy human movements, and develop new abilities. Top robotics companies are already onboard. NVIDIA also released supporting tools for robot training and AI workload management. This breakthrough could finally bring cutting-edge AI out of the digital realm and into the physical world, creating robots that interact with us in smarter, more intuitive ways.

State of Unreal At the Game Developers Conference (GDC). Epic Games makes Unreal Engine, the platform on which most of the most graphically demanding AAA PC and console games are made. They are also responsible for Fortnite, a fast-developing Metaverse. Their “State of Unreal” address is one of the most highly anticipated events at GDC. This year it was delivered by CTO Kim Libreri. Epic is heavily investing in user-generated content platforms like Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN). Creators have made over 80,000 UEFN islands and earned $320 million in payouts. The Epic Games Store is coming to mobile later this year and will include major franchises like Star Wars. We got a better look at the evolving Lego Fortnite, and the integration of MetaHumans into UEFN for easy creation of realistic characters. Unreal Engine 5.4 promises significant performance improvements, especially for rendering and animation.

Reality Bites

XREAL, the top-selling consumer AR glasses brand, flexes muscles at GDC 2024. The company demoed new AR games like Landing Party, and Table Trenches and introduced the XREAL Hub, a charge-and-play adapter that extends gaming sessions. XREAL’s lightweight and stylish glasses are very much a smartphone accessory, a screen extender, reflecting the smartphone as a virtual big screen for gaming and media consumption. The company says it has sold over 300,000 of them, making XReal the world’s most popular AR display glasses (Meta’s Ray-Bans don’t have a display). For developers, the upcoming XREAL Air 2 Ultra enables advanced spatial computing and 6DOF experience, which should make it better for productivity applications. Shout out to electronic gaming pioneer Johnny Monsarrat, whose Landing Party, a long-in-the-works location-based Outdoor RPG, debuted at the show on the XReal. This mobile AR walking game goes way beyond the use of GPS in Pokemon Go. In Landing Party, you lay out a 2D roleplaying game landscape across your backyard or any space where you want to play. Now in the app store.

Bloomberg reports PSVR 2 has suspended production. Whelp. I predicted this. There aren’t that many compatible Playstation 5 game consoles in the wild, and every console owner who wants VR already has it.

While AI was a hot topic at SXSW 2024, few moving-image projects actually used the technology. One exception was Adam Cole’s “Kiss/Crash” installation, a traditional video art piece for those familiar with the genre. The short film focuses on romantic kisses interspersed with vintage car crash footage. As the pace quickens, the imagery turns increasingly sexual, almost pornographic, all set to Ritchie Valens’ “We Belong Together”. The juxtaposition evokes a dreamlike 1950s atmosphere with a dark, Lynchian twist.


Follow the Money

Saudi Arabia is poised to become a major player in the AI landscape with a planned $40 billion investment fund. That enormous sum dwarfs even the largest U.S. funds, and would be second globally only to Japan’s SoftBank. This move highlights the global rush towards AI and the country’s ambition to diversify its economy. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is in talks with top Silicon Valley firms, including Andreessen Horowitz, about potential partnerships. If successful, this fund would make Saudi Arabia the world’s largest AI investor, showcasing their commitment to the technology and desire for a greater role in geopolitics.

Talespin Acquired by Strategic Investor Cornerstone. Talespin, a developer of enterprise XR learning technology was acquired by its strategic partner and distributor, Cornerstone OnDemand (NSDQ: CSOD), a publicly-traded provider of web-based corporate training software. Talespin had previously secured $40.5 M in three rounds, in 2018, 2020, and 2022. This is Talespin CEO Kyle Jackson’s second (?) successfully co-founded OpenDrives, a storage solutions company that provides storage infrastructures to clients such as Turner, Disney, and LucasFilm.

The AI Desk

Bloomberg’s recent report suggests Apple is negotiating with Google to use the Gemini AI model for upcoming iPhone features. Industry experts see this as a sign that Apple’s own generative AI development may be lagging behind competitors. However, the potential deal also indicates Apple’s preference for partnering with established tech giants like Google and OpenAI, rather than relying on newer startups.

Runway and Musicmatch to partner on AI music generation. Musicmatch’s upcoming feature, Lyrics to Video, will be powered by Runway Gen-2.

Agog co-founders make a big bet on the social benefits of AR, VR, and XR. Co-founded by tech veteran Chip Giller and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt, Agog envisions XR connecting creators, policymakers, and the public for a better future. The new nonprofit is dedicated to immersive experiences, and gets its name from the old word meaning “wide-eyed wonder.” Agog is funding storytelling projects, research into XR’s potential, education, and advocacy. Agog believes the immersive nature of XR can uniquely spark understanding in a way traditional media cannot. Early projects explore themes of youth mental health, conservation, and social change.

Nice Aunties, one of our favorite AI Art and Animation creators, was on a roll this week.

This short Cinematic AI piece, “Cabbages and Kings in the Twilight Zone” was a find.

Weekend Reading

As VR lets in more of the world, more of the world is coming to VR (Fast Company)

The Freedom to Compute (Steve Newcomb/Substack)

The Top 100 Gen AI Apps (a16z blog)

The Short History and Long Future of Smart Glasses (AR Insider)

The Short History and Long Future of Smart Glasses

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 entrepreneur Wei-Lei Dai, legendary founder of Novell. 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.

More from AR Insider…