It’s not yet clear how the new round of layoffs at Meta will affect its metaverse division, Reality Labs. As AI ascends the hype cycle and the Metaverse predictably descends into a trough of disillusion, the company is clearly reordering its priorities. As you can see from our special section about Meta below, schadenfreude is raining down upon them. You think Mark’s learned his lesson about hyping technologies that are a decade away from being realized?
Adept AI Is A Unicorn. The startup, founded by former Google engineers, announced it has raised $350 M to use AI to develop enterprise applications. The funding comes less than a year after it raised $65 million. The Series B round was led by General Catalyst and Spark Capital. While their valuation was not officially announced, the scale of the investment suggests Adept AI is already worth over a billion dollars. That must be some damn good AI.
Tilia raises $22M to handle payments for digital economies. The company, which is owned by Linden Research, also appointed Brad Oberwager, previously executive chairman, as CEO and Catherine Porter as the company’s first chief business officer. The funding comes from Seoul, South Korea-based fintech leader Dunamu, which is joining existing investor J.P. Morgan Payments. In 2021, Oberwager acquired Linden Lab, the company behind the “Second Life” metaverse. In October Linden announced it had partnered with J.P. Morgan Payments to spin out Tilia.
SXSW XR Award Winners. Consensus Gentium from writer and director Karen Palmer won the top prize, even though it isn’t technically an XR experience. The story takes place on your smartphone, and leverages face tracking. You are cast as a dissident who has shunned the government surveillance app, but needs to download it to travel in order to attend to her mother. There were a few moments when I thought the messages I was reading on my smartphone were my own, an experience entirely unique to this new medium. A Special Jury Award went to Body Mine from Cameron Kostopoulos, which enables a man to inhabit a woman’s body, making a profound case for VR as an empathy machine.
Google Sunsets Glass 2.0. In what is nothing but good news for other vendors of assisted reality devices, Google announced this week that as of September 15, it will no longer sell or upgrade the HMD. Glass now joins Google’s graveyard of way-too-early XR projects like Daydream, Tilt Brush, and Poly. Google may not be done with glasses yet. As recently as this fill they show technology from acquisition of North showed a binocular see-through waveguide that can do everything Glass does – and way more. Glass is still used by hundreds of companies to support warehousing, manufacturing, and remote support.
Apple’s AR/VR headset reportedly being pushed out due to ‘huge pressure to ship’ The mixed reality headset appears to be a given for a 2023 launch, but are Apple and the industry ready? There were a pile of articles this week about Tim Cook insisting on a June launch over the objections of his engineers. So many tech pundits have opined, we’ve created a special section below, and given it a clever name: Bobbing for Apple. It took Apple watch a while to catch on, but it did not have the inflated expectations associated with XR, and the devices aren’t nearly as expensive.
Yuga Labs’ Otherside Metaverse to Launch ‘Second Trip’ on March 25. Daniel Alegre, CEO of Yuga Labs, which runs the Bored Ape Yacht Club, which is spending over $300 M to build the Otherside massively multiplayer metaverse. This second test of the massively multiplayer metaverse will take place on March 25 in the form of a guided experience simultaneously shared with 10,000 simultaneous unique users. Otherside’s team captains. “Second Trip” is open to owners of virtual land NFTs which represent yet-to-be-created land in the as-of-yet unreleased Otherside metaverse. Non-holders can also watch a live stream of the event on the company’s YouTube channel. I put it on my calendar.
Mighty Coconut’s Walkabout Mini Golf Announces Meow Wolf Partnership, and Mobile App. As SXSW got underway last Friday, the unvieled a creative collaboration with Meow Wolf for a new course coming in Q3; the Walkabout Mini-Golf Pocket Edition, an AR mini-golf game for iOS, coming this summer; and deals to bring the title to hundreds of arcades in the location based entertainment industry.
Metavrse Mall Welcomes Mars’ Juicyverse, home to Starburst candy in the Metaverse. TheMall and STARBURST® have teamed up to announce the launch of their newest virtual world, the Starburst Juicyverse, in collaboration with MetaVRse and BambuMeta® Web3 Loyalty. The fully immersive virtual world is premiering at SXSW 2023 at TheMall, the world’s largest virtual mall.
This Week in XR is also a podcast hosted by the author of this column, Ted Schilowitz, Futurist, Paramount Global, and Rony Abovitz, founder of Magic Leap. This week our guests are Karen Palmer, producer and director of “Consensus Gentium” a smartphone movie that won first place at for XR Experiences at SXSW, Cameron Kostinopulous, whose VR experience “Body of Mine” won the special XR jury prize, and Roman Rappak, whose Miro Shot performed a sold out mixed reality concert in Austin. We can be found on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.
What We’re Reading
Psychedelics Meet Up With Virtual Reality at South by Southwest (Tiffany Kary/Bloomberg)
This Week in Schadenfreude
Mark Zuckerberg Ends the Tech Party (/The Street)
Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse ambitions are shrinking (Kali Hays/Insider)
Mark Zuckerberg Is Suddenly Weirdly Quiet about the Metaverse (Mary Harrison/Futurism)
Bobbing for Apple
From the iPhone 15 to an AR/VR Headset: Apple Products to Expect in 2023 (Lisa Eadicicco/CNet)
Tim Cook bets on Apple’s mixed-reality headset to secure his legacy (Patrick McGee and Tim Bradshaw /Financial Times)