Friday, June 24, 2022
HomeVirtual RealityThe XR Week Peek (2022.05.16): Meta teases Cambria, Google shows new AR...

The XR Week Peek (2022.05.16): Meta teases Cambria, Google shows new AR features, and more!

This has been a week full of interesting news. But before digging into them, let me show you the first episode of The Spatial Show, the comedy show about the metaverse organized by Ori Inbar in which I took part. If you watch the video, you can see me say stupid things about XR… well, more or less as I do every day in my life… 
Have fun!

Top news of the week

(Image by Mark Zuckerberg)

Zuckerberg teases Project Cambria

Mark Zuckerberg has teased Project Cambria, the upcoming headset by Meta. In a video published on Facebook, he showed himself wearing the headset and let us also see what he was seeing inside, with some footage directly from his point of view. To hide the real appearance of the device, his face wearing it was pixelated: the most interesting things in life are always pixelated, as in the hentai movies. Zuck has also had a chat with Jesse Schell, the CEO of Schell Games, and has provided an exclusive interview to Protocol. Curiously enough, he let us also the journalist Janko Roettgers try Cambria for a very short demo.
 From all these teasing operations, we got these pieces of info for Cambria:

  • The device is still slated to release later this year (most probably at Meta Connect)
  • It is aimed at a prosumer market. Zuck still thinks that it is a device that can start substituting the laptop. Weirdly enough, most of the demos he showed were games. This reminds me of a similar error HTC made in the past of mixing signals of a pro device and consumer content
  • It has RGB passthrough cameras with three times the resolution of Quest 2 cameras. Janko Roettgers has tried the passthrough and comparing it with the one of Quest 2, he said “Think more decent-quality home video, less ‘Blair Witch Project.’”. It means that the passthrough quality is still not like real reality, but it feels like video streaming
  • There is a depth sensor on the device to help it in understanding the environment around it. Depth sensors and RGB cameras may help also in doing object detection in the future (hopefully)
  • There are some studios making content with this headset: Meta has teased Gravity Sketch in AR, and games by Resolution Games and Schell Games. Schell Games seems to be working on one level of I Expect You To Die that works with passthrough AR, but it is not clear if it will be ever released in the stores or not
  • Meta is working on its demo called The World Beyond to showcase the best features of the Presence Platform. Soon a demo of it for Quest 2 will be released on App Lab, but this demo is meant to shine with Project Cambria
  • Zuckerberg is still committed to the Metaverse

Honestly speaking, this doesn’t add much to what we already knew about the device. Some people even found the demo pretty underwhelming, but actually, I know that the strength of Meta all these years has been the software updates. I won’t expect Cambria to be perfect at the start, and I’m not even worried about it, because I know that one year since the release, it have received so many updates that it would be improved a lot.

More info (Zuckerberg teases Cambria)
More info (Zuckerberg uses Cambria)
More info (Cambria features depth sensors)
More info (Janko Roettgers tries Cambria)
More info (I Expected You To Die teased for Cambria)
More info (The World Beyond app)
More info (The “best” image we got of Cambria from the pixelated video)
More info (Zuck interviewed by Protocol)
More info (Zuck talks about the Presence Platform with Protocol)

Other relevant news

(Image by Google)

Google performs interesting AR news at I/O conference

At Google I/O, no executive of the company has talked about the M-word, but they have anyway showed interesting AR updates, which will be relevant for our future M-world. Kudos to them for not falling for the hype, though.
 The first interesting reveal, which has become viral in our communities, is the one of an internal prototype of smart glasses that can perform live translations. You wear them, you speak with someone that speaks another language (e.g. me speaking Italian) and you see the sentences the other person is saying, written in front of you, automatically translated to your language. This is pretty cool, and useful. The device is not an announced product (it looks more like a showcase of an internal prototype) but shows the capabilities that Google has in-house. Interestingly enough, the device doesn’t feature any camera, so it would be optimal for privacy… but it would also be very limited in functionalities for this reason.
 Another cool announcement has been the one of Immersive View for Google Maps. Thanks to this feature, you can see certain locations of certain cities as 3D models you can explore around, changing also the weather and time of the day to see how the city appears in every condition. The 3D models have not been created by hand, but by an AI mixing satellite data with Street View pictures. The results teased are impressive, and the part of London teased in the announcement video seems to come straight from a videogame. I can only imagine the possibilities of mixing this with immersive headsets: you could visit every city in VR in a much more realistic way than the one shown by Google Earth VR today.
 The third and last announcement is the most powerful one: Google is releasing ARCore Geospatial APIs. Geospatial APIs are practically the same thing as Niantic Lightship: a free SDK to detect where you are in the world using not only the GPS but also the images the camera of your phone detects around you. This visual positioning system is much more accurate than GPS and lets you create AR applications that are persistent in certain locations of the world. Now you can use this system in your applications, for free. 
 This means that Google has the AR Cloud of all cities where it has Street View, and this gives it a big edge in the race to shape our mixed reality future.

More info (Google live translation glasses)
More info (Google live translation glasses / 2)
More info (Google’s official post on Google Maps updates)
More info (Google’s Geospatial APIs — With paywall)
More info (Google’s Geospatial APIs — No paywall)

There is something wrong about the metaverse…

After the big hype created by NFTs and Zuck’s announcements of Meta, I start seeing some crippling in the hype about the m**averse because of a series of bad news. I’m not concerned for now, but I’ve anyway become more attentive to what is happening around me.
 I have already reported to you about Meta losing $230B of stock a few weeks ago, and the big -92% in NFT sales of last week. Not all experts agree with the second news, though, and for some, it has been highly exaggerated (thanks Francesco La Trofa for reporting this to me). It is in any way true that NFTs are not growing anymore, so the hype is at least cooling down.
 This week we also had the crypto crash, with lots of cryptocurrencies going down a lot. Bitcoin has even lost value and went below $30K, while Terra and Luna have lost enormous value. Not a good week for all the people that see these crypto coins as the new money for the m**averse.
 Even worse, Unity has lost -30% of its stock value. These huge losses have a similar origin to Meta’s ones: Apple’s new privacy policy on the stores has impacted the earnings through Unity ads. Unity thought to have found a solution for it, but actually, it turned out not to work for now, and this impacted its forecasted future revenues, with a consequent stock value drop. Unity is a very important company for many AR/VR creators, so this is not a good piece of news. It is anyway interesting to notice how Apple’s decision about privacy is ruining the business of all the other companies (for the good and the bad).
 Talking again about Meta, the company will perform some spending changes these years to cope with the loss of stock value and the slow user growth. These changes will also impact Reality Labs and CTO Andrew Bosworth is deciding these days which hardware projects to kill during this spending review operation. Meta won’t perform layoffs in the Reality Labs division, and it is still committed to investing billions in it, but it will have to sacrifice some projects.
 All these news together, show me that something is slowly changing in our ecosystem, but I still can’t see exactly the big picture of what is happening.

More info (NFT are losing steam, but not crashing)
More info (Cryptocrash from this week)
More info (Unity stock going 30% down in value)
More info (Meta performing a spending review)

Lenovo to launch a new MR headset

During a presentation highlighting all the XR devices that Lenovo has produced during the last 16 years, a Lenovo representative has put a picture of a lightweight headset for 2022, with the caption “Lenovo MR, Coming Soon…”
 From the picture, it seems to be a standalone headset with a battery in the back, and the name “Lenovo MR” makes us think about a headset capable of performing Mixed Reality, that is passthrough AR together with VR. We can so speculate it can be a Cambria competitor.
 Given the ability of Lenovo of manufacturing headsets, I’m pretty interested to discover what they have in the works…

More info

News worth a mention

(Image by OpenBCI)

OpenBCI is close to launch Galea

OpenBCI is close to releasing the first batch of Galea, the brain-computer-interface system for Valve Index, that should use a complete set of sensors to offer unprecedented quality in the data provided to developers to create BCI-driven applications.

The company stated that “We will be making a major announcement about Galea prior to AWE 2022. Following that announcement, we will begin taking pre-orders for the first batch of Galea Beta devices”.

I do expect that in the next two weeks they will announce the price and availability. As a fan of BCI, I am very intrigued to discover more.
 (Thanks to Ivan for the tip!)

More info (Galea preorders are about to open)
More info (Video about Galea)

Meta adds Asset Library to Horizon Worlds

Meta is adding a library of pre-made assets to Horizon Worlds for creators to use. This is a great idea for two reasons:

  • It makes the creation of worlds easier and faster, especially for newbies
  • It opens up for a future creators’ economy where people make cool assets and sell them inside this internal store

The Unity Asset Store works pretty well, so I see the value in this kind of initiative.

More info

VR developers makes crazy experiment with a bike

A VR developer (Valem VR) has made a crazy experiment by mapping an entire athletics track in VR and creating a game for it. Then, he donned an Oculus Quest 2, put a controller on the bike, and rode the bike while doing the VR game, with the real track mapped perfectly with the virtual track. Everything was super cool, but he forgot that disabling the guardian makes the tracking drift, so in the end, he fell down the bike. He won my total esteem, though 🙂

More info

Foxus brings RGB passthrough to Quest 2

A startup has created a small addon for Quest called Foxus, which for only $99, adds color passthrough capabilities to Quest 2. Interesting project, but probably coming at the wrong time given the flood of color passthrough AR headsets coming this year.

More info (Foxus camera)
More info (Foxus landing page)

The problem of moderation inside virtual worlds

A very interesting article I’ve read this week talks about how it is difficult to be a “bouncer” of virtual worlds, trying to keep the environment safe and banning people doing wrong stuff. It’s work that requires experience because you must distinguish people that are doing weird stuff because they are newbies from people that are doing them to harm other people. Doing moderation of virtual worlds is incredibly hard because there are a lot of grey areas to consider.

More info

A mask to breath in VR

I present to you one of the various crazy things that people are experimenting with in the VR field: a weird mask that acts as a breathing controlling system for the Oculus Quest 2, so that you can:

  • Either control an experience with the air you breathe (e.g. to play an instrument)
  • Or to change how you breathe when you play a VR experience (e.g. in a training scenario when the environment is full of smoke, the system closes a valve and makes you breathe more difficultly).

I think it’s pretty interesting… and pretty weird at the same time!

More info

Is attention coming back to the web?

I’ve always thought that WebXR has a huge potential for the low friction and high openness it gives to XR. But currently, with the exception of some great companies (like The 8th Wall), the field is vastly unexplored.

But this week I have found two pieces of news that gave me hope that something is still moving:

  • A company called Sense Of Space lets you see very complex 3D models in your browser via cloud streaming. But the cool stuff is that it doesn’t perform the classical cloud rendering with “video streaming”, but it performs “polygon streaming”, sending geometrical data that is much more optimized, for a better final result
  • Another startup called Wonder Interactives wants to create a framework to let you play Unreal Engine 4 games on the web. If I’ve understood well, their plan is to give developers tools to export their games so that they can run also on the web. They’re planning support for other engines like Unity, too. The framework is a work in progress, and I think that it would be amazing to also make developers create high-quality WebXR content.

More info (Sense Of Space)
More info (Sense Of Space at work)
More info (Wonder Interactive)

Some news on content

  • Resolution Games has shown some footage for Ultimechs, which looks like Rocket League made with mechs
  • Townsmen VR, a little medieval city simulation game, has been positively reviewed by upload VR
  • Another simulation game, Little Cities, got also the same treatment
  • World Of Mechs is a new mech game announced for Quest 2
  • The Twilight Zone VR will launch on July, 14th on Quest 2
  • Demeo’s new campaign, Curse Of The Serpent Lord, arrives on June 16th
  • Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall is coming to Meta Quest 2 on May 19th
  • Resident Evil 8 is getting a great VR Mod made by the community

More info (Ultimechs)
More info (Townsmen VR)
More info (World of Mechs)
More info (The Twilight Zone VR)
More info (Little Cities)
More info (Demeo)
More info (Warhammer)
More info (Resident Evil 8 VR)

Other news

Skeeva and Alex VR show us how are the new Meta stores

Learn more

Meta CTO says that the removal of the Facebook account for Quest 2 is still in the works

Learn more

Manus starts preordering for its Quantum Metagloves haptic gloves, priced at $9,000

Learn more

JDI and Innolux show 3K LCD displays for VR headsets

Learn more

Pimax is now (finally) selling its Sword Controllers, but in very limited quantities

Learn more

DPVR is going to launch a new PCVR headset

Learn more

Spectra7 announces that its new VR chip may be used by a “Global VR gaming company” (probably Valve)

(Thanks Mathew Olson for the tip)

Learn more

Meta provides tips to optimize content for Quest by using the Showdown app as a showcase

Learn more

News from partners (and friends)

Flying into the metaverse through books and culture

My friend Cecilia Lascialfari has started a new project of hers called “Flying into the metaverse through books and culture” that aims at “opening a cultural channel inside the metaverse”, promoting artistic and cultural things happening inside XR. If you want to contribute to it, fill out the form on Cecilia’s website. Learn more

XR Guild wants to promote ethics in the metaverse

Avi Bar-Zeev has just announced the XR Guild, a group of people that have the aim of promoting ethics in the metaverse. The purpose of the group is to:

  • Collaboratively evolve and socialize common ethical principles for XR
  • Publish papers and make videos about best and worst practices in XR
  • Network among peers, share ethical jobs, and mentor new folks

It seems a great project and I invite you to take part in it!
Learn more

Some XR fun

Funny link / 1
Funny link / 2

PCVR vs Quest version, in real life
Funny link

I heard you like pixelated headsets…
Funny link

The new film in the Marvel Universe… the one you don’t want to watch…
Funny link

Who wants to buy the new Quest Rift S?
Funny link

Yes, I like to talk about VR, too.
Funny link

Donate for good

Like last week, also this week in this final paragraph I won’t ask you to donate for my blog, but to the poor people that are facing the consequences of the war. Please donate to the Red Cross to handle the current humanitarian situation in Ukraine. I will leave you the link to do that below.
 Let me take a moment before to thank anyway all my Patreon donors for the support they give to me:

  • DeoVR
  • Raghu Bathina
  • GenVR
  • Eduardo Siman
  • Jonn Fredericks
  • Jean-Marc Duyckaerts
  • Reynaldo T Zabala
  • Richard Penny
  • Terry xR. Schussler
  • Ilias Kapouranis
  • Michael Bruce
  • Paolo Leoncini
  • Bob Fine
  • Nikk Mitchell and the great FXG team
  • Jake Rubin
  • Alexis Huille
  • Jennifer Granger
  • Jason Moore
  • Steve Biggs
  • Niels Bogerd
  • Julio Cesar Bolivar
  • Jan Schroeder
  • Kai Curtis
  • Francesco Strada
  • Sikaar Keita
  • Ramin Assadollahi
  • Jeff Dawson
  • Juan Sotelo
  • Andrew Sheldon
  • Chris Madsen
  • Tracey Wong
  • Matthew Allen Fisher
  • Horacio Torrendell
  • Andrew Deutsch
  • Fabien Benetou
  • Tatiana Kartashova
  • Marco “BeyondTheCastle” Arena
  • Eloi Gerard
  • Adam Boyd
  • Jeremy Dalton
  • Siciliana Trevino
  • Joel Ward
  • Alex P
  • Marguerite Espin de la Vega
  • Lynn Eades
  • Donald P
  • Casie Lane
  • Renan Paglinawan
  • Sb
  • Enrico Poli
  • Vooiage Technologies
  • Caroline
  • Liam James O’Malley
  • Paul Reynolds
  • Hillary Charnas
  • Wil Stevens
  • Brian Peiris
  • Rhys Coombes
  • Francesco Salizzoni
  • Alan Smithson
  • Steve R
  • Brentwahn
  • Simplex
  • Matias Nassi

And now here you are the link to donate:

Support The Red Cross in Ukraine

(Header image by Mark Zuckerberg)

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