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

Apple’s highly anticipated annual developer conference starts Monday. The traditional keynote from CEO Tim Cook, which will doubtless describe how iOS 18 will be powered by AI, will be livestreamed starting at 1 pm Eastern, 10 am Pacific.​Apple has a lot riding on this as it is perceived to be behind rivals in the development of AI. Siri improvements ​are among the most talked about AI upgrades, with a rumored integration of ChatGPT which would finally enable the conversation, control, and personalization that have confounded Apple for more than a decade.

Feeling Spatial

AWE, The Most Essential XR Conference, Is Upon Us. April 18 – 20. Long Beach, CA. The 15th annual event features over 500 speakers on 15 tracks over three days, accompanied by an expo with over 300 exhibitors, museum exhibits, and an awards show. Over 6,000 participants are expected to attend. AWE is very good at capturing the zeitgeist in this vertical of the tech industry. In the first post-pandemic event in November 2022, the hot topic at AWE was the Metaverse. Last year, Mixed Reality was the order of the day as participants were giddy with anticipation of the Apple Vision Pro, and the new Meta Quest 3. This year’s hot topic will most assuredly be AI, and how it will integrate with AR and wearables.

Oculus Founder Palmer Lucky Working on New VR Headset. The creator of the original Oculus Rift teased an upcoming announcement that he’s working on a new XR headset. In a post on X, Lucky said he’ll talk more about the device at Augmented World Expo (AWE), which takes place in Long Beach, California from June 18-20.

Layoffs Hit Microsoft Mixed Reality. Another reorg was inevitable after Microsoft deprecated Windows Mixed Reality in Windows 11 back in December 2023. This week Microsoft axed 1,000 people, including many on its mixed reality team. The company says it will continue to sell and support the HoloLens 2, though plans for a successor device were shelved last year. “We remain fully committed to the Department of Defense’s IVAS program,” said Microsoft in response to an email, “and will continue to deliver cutting-edge technology to support our soldiers.”

The 9th Raindance Immersive will happen both in real life and in VRChat. The virtual VRChat festival has already started on June 1, while an in-person Immersive Summit will take place on June 18-19 in London. An Immersive Showcase will follow from June 21-23, aimed at how developers, XR filmmakers, and more can utilize Apple Vision Pro. This year’s edition will be curated by Mária Rakušanová, Joanna Leigh, Mary Lee Desmond, and Tropi Ginger.

Follow the Money

Wevr Announces New $3.5 Million Investment from HTC and Epic Games. The creator of the 2016 VR classic The Blu got a boost of confidence with this follow-on investment from two of its original backers. Co-founders Neville Spiteri, Anthony Batt, and Marcel Samek lead Wevr.


Pika Labs Raises Another $80 M. The text-to-video Generative AI tool was famously started by 26-year-old CEO Demi Guo who, along with her friend and co-founder Chenlin Meng, dropped out of Stanford University’s artificial intelligence PhD program to start the company. This brings Pika’s total funding to over $130 M. Business Insider says the raise values the company at $700 M. They’ll need deep pockets to take on OpenAI’s Sora, Google’s Veo, and RunwayML, a text-to-video startup that’s raised $250 M. Spark Capital led the round with notable investors Greycroft, Lightspeed, Neo, Makers Fund, actor Jared Leto, Atlantic Records Chairman Craig Kallman.

Twelve Labs Nabs $50M For AI that Understands Video. The company developed a foundational AI model for multimodal video understanding. The Series A investment round was co-led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and NVIDIA’s NVentures. Existing backers Radical Ventures, Index Ventures SA, and Korea Investment Partners also participated.

The AI Desk

Sony all-in on AI as difficult negotiations with film workers looms. The below-the-line craftspeople (camera, lighting, sound, sets, costumes, animation and vfx artists) are rightly concerned that AI is going to replace or reduce the amount of work available. Things have not gone back to normal since the strike ended. “The biggest problem with making films today is the expense,” said Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra at an investor event earlier this week. “We will be looking at ways to produce both films for theaters and television in a more efficient way, using AI primarily.” The focus on AI masks what should be a much bigger concern. People have appointments with other screens. They’re playing games. They’re looking at YouTube and social media. Hollywood is not as important as it was. It’s not as relevant. THAT is what is costing people jobs, NOT AI.

Tribeca Festival And OpenAI Announce ‘Sora Shorts.’ Last Friday the Tribeca Festival and OpenAI announced a program to debut five original short films, marking the first time films made using OpenAI’s text-to-video AI model Sora will be showcased at a festival. Sora can make video clips up to a minute long, a revolutionary advance. It’s still in private testing, but Open AI has been gradually opening it up to more filmmakers. Just last month we took a deep dive into filmmaker Paul Trillo’s new music video, “The Hardest Part,” created entirely using Sora AI.

The Netflix of AI is a terrible idea and a dire warning for actors, writers, animators, and directors. Lance Ulanoff drops a hate bomb on AI entertainment site Showrunner in TechRadar.

More demented AI filmmaking from Doug Pledger.


Reality Bites

Google’s AR Mapping Patent Could Unlock Low-Power Smart Glasses

eBay debuts AI-powered background tool to enhance product images

Could the Quest 3S arrive in September?

‘Skatrix’ Uses Vision Pro to Turn Your Room Into a Virtual Skate Park

Quest 3S Seemingly Present In Background Of Video Posted By Meta CTO

Zoom to Become XR Solutions Provider?

Microsoft confirms layoffs in mixed reality but will keep selling HoloLens 2 headsets

Listen In

For more spatial commentary & insights, check out This Week in XR, hosted by the author of this column, along with Ted Schilowitz, former studio executive and co-founder of Red Camera, and Rony Abovitz, founder of Magic Leap. This week our guest is Ori Inbar, co-founder and Executive Director of Augmented World Expo (AWE). 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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