The searing heat of summer may finally be slowing the pace of the immersive tech industry. There was only one funding announcement, for a company that makes avatars for conferencing, not a web3 battle royale in which the slain pay a price to respawn. Meta made no announcements but still managed to get into the news as party to a new legal dispute about its name. See below for the dish. Podcast listeners are well aware of my obsession with volumetric capture and other camera effects. I’ve included a compilation of the work of Bilawal Sidhu (creator alias [email protected]). He uses NeRF (defined below) to make realistic captures of real spaces you can fly through on a computer or teleport around in VR.
Hologram raises $6.5M for blockchain-based avatars that you can use in video calls. This self-expression company enables you to use non-fungible token (NFT) images or characters as avatars. Users can start Zoom or other video-calls and livestreams with their avatar. The camera on your device motion-tracks and syncs you lips and facial expressions to your avatar using any device. Hologram is affiliated with the Cool Cats, DeadFellaz, AnataNFT, Galverse, Froyoverse, and Crypto Coven NFT collections. Sounds like a promising company, except for the fact they have the most confusing name in the industry. The only way to choose a worse name would be to call the company “camera” or “headset.” This guarantees they will not found by search, as I just discovered writing this. Polychain Capital led the round, with participation from Nascent, Inflection, The Operating Group, Quantstamp, Neon DAO, Foothill Ventures and South Park Commons. I guess they like the name.
Google will test new AR prototypes in public starting in August. Introduced at the end of Google’s developer conference in June, almost as an afterthought, Google’s new AR glasses do very specific and useful things: translation, transcription, and navigation. Field testing with actual humans begins in August.
AR Opera Glasses Available for Select Broadway Shows. The René AR glasses were built to immerse spectators in Broadway shows by using AR to enhance the experience of popular shows such like Wicked and Aladdin. The René glasses can be rented for Broadway performances via the TKTS ticket office in Times Square.
Apple To Launch ‘More Affordable’ Headset Model In 2025. Bloomberg and The Information report the first generation product is set to be priced north of $2000. But a new report from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says a “more affordable” model will launch in 2025 and is expected to sell 10 million units.
Engage Finally Adds iOs, private browsers, and enhanced avatars. The remote education and collaboration company is upgrading its infrastructure and features as it builds a new business-only campus it hopes will be the “Linkedin of VR.”
A company called Meta is suing Meta for Trademark Violations And Damages. The company formerly known as Facebook bought its new name from the bankruptcy of a well known AR headset company, Meta, in 2019. Meta’s technology has lived on to become the enterprise design tool, Campfire, and Facebook got Meta’s trademarks. Well. It turns out there is yet another Meta, Meta.is, which claims its been damaged by its unwanted association the company formerly known as Facebook. The old Meta burned through a lot of cash before laying everyone off in a pathetic death spiral during VR winter in 2018. Not a great association there, either. Why didn’t Meta.is sue them? Maybe it’s because the old Meta didn’t have any money.
Walkabout Minigolf Adds Course Based on Henson Movie Franchise, Labyrinth. The Jim Henson classic is coming to the popular VR minigolf app on July 28th. Walkabout enhances engagement by continually launching new courses, holding tournaments, and promoting social features like darts that players can use between rounds. What most distinguishes the multiplayer game is the fantastic, impossible settings they create (cliffs, jungles, haunted mansions, outer space, etc.), while keeping the physics of the game itself consistently realistic. Henson is owned by Disney so this is further validation of their product.
Creator Bilawal Sidhu (aka [email protected]) described this video as “a compilation video where I NeRF’d all sorts of subject matter with all sorts of capture modalities from phones to drones to DSLRs.”
NeRF is a near radiance field, which is defined this way (I looked it up): a fully-connected neural network that can generate novel views of complex 3D scenes, based on a partial set of 2D images.
This Week in XR is also a podcast hosted by the author of this column and Ted Schilowitz, Futurist at Paramount Global. This week our guest is serial entrepreneur Matt Miesnieks, co-founder of AR Metaverse startup, Living Cities. He’ll be speaking with us about how computer vision will soon allow us to experience other places with other people as never before. Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.
What We’re Reading
The Metaverse Will Reshape Our Lives. Let’s Make Sure It’s for the Better (Matthew Ball/Time)
The DeanBeat: RP1 simulates putting 4,000 people together in a single metaverse plaza (Dean Takahashi/VentureBeat)