Coronavirus brings technology to the forefront

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations and communities.

Hey hey! I hope you’re staying at home! After a month long hiatus, it’s great to be back. A massive amount of work and having to sort out my living situation for this dreadful crisis has had me way too busy. At least the rest of the metaverse hasn’t stopped, on the contrary, it’s seizing this opportunity to pick up speed.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed everyone around me getting up to speed with technology. Suddenly, everyone now gets all these applications that have been around for a while. Or they discover random features like Google Search’s AR mode. From kids to the elderly, technology has conquered further grounds in our day to day lives. Zoom’s market cap is now over all US airlines. And they went from 10M daily users to 200M in 3 months. It’s crazy. The Internet can’t keep and many services are having to throttle their downloads and streaming.

With its challenges, VR platforms are also upping their game. For example, we’ve seen blogs suggest top apps for remote work, physical events have moved to VR and many more have decided to give this VR virtual events thing a go, and then it’s proving to be a provider of freedom to our new confinement living state. Even my non-VR Twitter is tweeting frequently about how they’re using their headsets. Half Life: Alyx launching and reaching top sales on Steam is a another important push. What is disappointing is that this context that’s generating so much interest in VR coincides with none of the major headsets being available for purchase. It’s definitely affecting many impulse buys.

With that, I’ll leave you with some of the most exciting VR things I’ve found over the last few weeks. Stay home and stay safe!

On the news

  • With events cancelled in the physical world, VR events declare it’s there turn: Over the last month, many large events have been organise in VR. Most of these were intended to happen in VR from the beginning, but others like Vive’s anual conference and IEEE decided to try out VR after having to cancel their real world event. It’s a great chance for VR to prove its worth and many Social VR company are grabbing onto the opportunity. I haven’t been able to attend yet, but from what I see on my timeline, they’re being really successful. [Link]

  • Attention-based payments for WebXR sites: Mozilla and it’s Firefox Reality browser is launching an experiment supporting Coil. It works similar to Brave Browser where people pay a $5 monthly subscription, and then that money is sent, based on the time they spent on different sites, to the creators. Though we still need larger upfront payments, anything that will help reduce the importance of ad-based revenue. This is still a model that incentivizes spending as much time as possible on the Web which will trigger algorithms to prioritize extreme content. [Link]

  • Facebook buys studio behind Asgard’s Wrath: They continue to buy some of the most successful VR studios. The terms, again, haven’t been disclosed. I feel wary of seeing so many big VR efforts concentrated in a single company. It’s great to have a plurality of organizations trying out many different things in different directions. It’s still such early stages. VR is also a very powerful medium, and having a single company control so much of it is dangerous. If you’re reading this newsletter, I’m sure you’re not looking forward to a Facebook-owned metaverse. [Link]

  • Linden Lab sells Sansar: After announcing they would stop working on it, they’ve found a bidder. The buyer, Wookey Projects, seems to be a company that buys dying projects. I have my doubts that a company that’s not solely focused on the platform being able to make it successful, but let’s see. [Link]

  • +100 VR games have made $1M: Very important milestone as more and more VR developers can build profitable businesses. 7 of those have made >$10M. The software is improving, becoming more enticing, and there are more and more headset out there. Currently, it’s almost impossible to grab a headset from Oculus or Valve. [Link]

  • Native IPFS support on Opera: It’s the first browser to support a decentralized file system protocol. Opera might not be a very popular browser, but it’s still an important milestone. Other browsers like Brave and Firefox have also expressed interest. Native support allows developers to offer a better user experience with those protocols, making them more accessible. [Link]

  • 6D.ai has been bought by Niantic: The AR super company, a Google spin-off, continues to buy other promising companies in the AR space. 6D.ai is building very promising technologies to support the AR Cloud. I found them particularly interesting as their perspective seemed to come from a privacy-first point of view. They had mention before they wouldn’t sell out, so, while I’m very happy for their success, I do hope that mission will be kept at Niantic, unlike how Whatsapp was taken over at Facebook. [Link]

  • StriVR raises $30M: There aren’t big investment rounds in VR so it’s great to see companies doing big here. It generates excitement for the market, which then brings more money in which fosters innovation. StriVR is one of the largest B2B training platforms and has big partnerships with companies like Walmart. [Link]

Food for thought

  • VR isn’t ready to host an event like GDC: Liv Erikson is back on the newsletter with a great analysis on what’s left for macro events hosted in VR. It’s not just the technological aspects, but massive events with thousands of people on the Internet, where people ignore social norms and it’s hard to enforce them, is just looking for trouble. She advocated organising smaller more intimate events which I wholeheartedly agree on. [Link]

  • Crypto worlds getting searching for adoption: In the crypto community, a blog post came up also talking about the opportunity for Social VR worlds during a crisis like this. They have a sole focus on crypto platforms though. It is interesting to see a crypto person make the case for how the world is ready for VR. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • Join video calls from VR: SPACES, a VR location-based entertainment company, has built a tool that lets you jump into calls in Zoom, Hangouts and others. You get a whiteboard, your desktop and can see the faces of the others in the call. It’s an awesome idea that feels so obvious in hindsight. We still have so much creativity left to explore in VR. [Link]

  • Vircadia, another High Fidelity fork: There are multiple efforts to build on top of the amazing work done at High Fidelity. This one is maintained by volunteers instead of having a company supporting it. [Link]

  • Jumpy Balls, a WebXR game: Feiss from Mozilla has built a small game to demonstrate ECSY, an entity-component-system for the Web. It’s great to see more fun concepts on WebXR. [Link]

  • Multiuser WebXR whiteboard: Another great use case for WebXR. Easily jump into a multiuser room with colleagues with a link. [Link]


Share

Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

The trimming of Social VR platforms

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations and communities.

Lots of things have happened over the last fortnight, specially in the Social VR space. More platforms are transitioning as they can’t find a viable business model in today’s market while others launch to keep on trying. We’ve also seen the largest in-VR conference that happened over multiple Social VR platforms at the same time. It’s a very important milestone and proves the utility and importance of these platforms. I don’t believe the idea in itself of Social VR will fade away, but the different platforms do need to understand what their main focus is (what problem they’re trying to solve) keeping in mind the current use case of XR and its market size.

There continue to be interesting projects and conversations happening in the space and I encourage you to read along to learn more about them!

On the news

  • Janus transitions to a community project: Like with other Social VR platforms, Janus hasn’t been able to figure things out in a financial sense. The VR market is quite small and general multiplayer applications with no specific use case are struggling to make ends meet. I’m quite sad about this as it’s also one of the most powerful WebXR platforms out there, the team is outstanding. Good thing is, as it was built on the Web and open source, they’ve been able to transition to a community project and keep all those wonderful creations live! This is a good argument in favour of the Web as an underlying platform for XR content, but also proves the good faith behind the Janus team. Thank you! [Link]

  • Sansar loses support from Linden Labs: A second round of lay-offs and further comments made by the company indicate that Linden Labs will no longer financially support Sansar. Another Social VR platform that is seeing it’s last few weeks. Linden do say that they are trying to search for other financial backers, but no further comment there. We’ll continue to see how this develops, but it seems like the timing just wasn’t right for pure Social VR. [Link]

  • Decentraland and Somnium Space 2.0 are live: As some platforms close, others continue to give it a go. These 2 are blockchain-based (Ethereum) platforms where you need to buy land or avatars. I’m not a big fan of limiting digital platforms in this way when the Web allows for infinite interconnected worlds for cheap, but there might be a use case. Decentraland definitely has the money and a decently sized community. Somnium has VR support and possibly more features. I wish them luck and will follow attentively how it goes. [Link]

  • The first massive conference in VR just happened: The Educators in VR International Summit, which I already talked about in this newsletter, happened last week. A 6 day conference that happened on multiple Social VR platforms 24h a day. What a feat. I think there’s no doubt that this is a viable solution today, so I expect to see in-VR events growing pretty quickly. [Link]

  • Magic Leap now wants to be more developer friendly: Magic Leap is finally making it easier for developers to get hold of a headset. They now have an application process to try to get one. They’re also holding private events at their HQ for developers. They’ve been shying away from getting too close to developers from the beginning as they have always been a very private company. That has also meant thought that many developers couldn’t afford to bet on their platform. I’m not sure if this will be enough. [Link]

  • Croquet, tool for multiuser application, launches: They’ve also announced a $2.7M round. Their SDK, with an important focus on XR, allows developers to build live collaboration applications. It seems to work for all kinds of use cases and data being shared between active users. This tooling is certainly critical and the space is starting to get crowded, we’ll have to see how it pans out. [Link]

Food for thought

  • The Digital Afterlife wants to help manage your digital assets after you pass away: Liv Erikson from Mozilla Hubs and others have started this very interesting project. Until the Internet, and specifically social media, our identity was tied mostly to government documents. Handling a person passing away was mostly up to the government. But now we have pieces of our identity, valuable data, spread out throughout many organizations in the digital realm. Social networks have set their own policy on what happens with an account after the owner passes away, but we need to think about this more carefully. We’re sharing more and more data, it will increase dramatically and get more personal with XR, and it can’t be up to specific private companies what happens with our data. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • Normcore offers free multiplayer capabilities for your Unity apps: I was recently taught that the makers behind Half + Half, a creative social VR experience, also offer a tool called Normcore. It’s for Unity developers to have everything they might need for a multiplayer application like avatars, voice, physics... It comes with a free tier and it’s pricing plan is quite inexpensive. [Link]

  • Aragon Court is the world’s first digital jurisdiction: Wait, what? A digital jurisdiction? For those who haven’t heard about Aragon, it’s a blockchain-based network and tool to create so called DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations). These can be organizations of any kind from a family unit to a government to a company. With Aragon, you can easily manage your group with the assurances of a blockchain that substitutes the bureaucracy from the old world. But what if there’s a dispute in an organization or between organizations? That’s where Aragon Court comes in. It’s a decentralized platform to handle these disputes in a manner very akin to traditional judiciary systems. I can’t wait to start creating and participating in XR communities that are DAOs. [Link]

  • Metachromium is an XR browser that can run multiple apps: Exokit has made another an interesting WebXR/OpenXR browser that supports running several apps at the same time. It also supports QR code detection which would make it work with crypto wallets. It’s still in development but I’m very excited as it can become a great way to prototype very ambitious XR applications. It’s the base application we need to build interconnected XR worlds. [Link]

  • Anytype.io is your home on the Internet where you control your data: It’s like Notion, but it becomes your homepage on the Internet while controlling all your data. It’s still in early access and I haven’t personally received an invite, so I can’t vouch for it. But there aren’t many privacy-based applications with a great UI, so I’m definitely interested. [Link]

  • Accounts for your web apps where people control their data with Userbase: It’s end-to-end encrypted and open sourced. Your users’ data is saved in the browser and accessed I guess using the PostMessage API. You can either host the server yourself or pay Userbase to make it serverless. I’ve built prototype identity systems following this model and I’m confident it’s the way forward for UX and privacy. [Link]


Share

Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

WebXR is knocking on our headsets door

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations and communities.

Hey hey! Hope you’re all staying safe from Coronavirus. It’s affecting major events like Mobile World Congress bringing to the forefront the need for XR for remote work and remote events. IEEE VR is actually doing an experiment related to this that you can read about below. It’s also affecting manufacturing as stated by Oculus and TiltFive.

Outside of Coronavirus hoarding the news, it’s good to see constant progress in the open metaverse space. WebXR is now ready and we’re seeing the XR community embrace it. It’s finally Phase 1 for WebXR and I couldn’t be more excited!

On the news

  • Somnium Space launches 20/02/2020: A known contender in the Social VR space is launching. Somnium is based around land that people can buy. It’s built on top of Ethereum. I’ve always considered that a benefit of virtual worlds is that they don’t need to share the same limits of our physical environment, so we don’t need to set a limit on available digital space. Never the less, Somnium has worked hard on producing an easily buildable virtual platform and we’ll need to see how they convince the community to jump in. Social VR platforms need to give people a reason to use them. Out of curiosity, Decentraland from the ICO frenzy days is also launching on the same day. [Link]

  • Sidequest adds support for WebXR content: It’s a directory of popular WebXR experiences promoted by the now pretty well known Sidequest app. We’ve had directories for some time, with Supermedium being the most noticeable, but none have come from a previously established player. [Link]

  • NathieVR plays WebVR Spiderman experience: And now a WebXR game is featured in probably the most popular VR YouTube channel. It’s an important milestone for WebXR to reach the mainstream. It helps display WebXR as a viable platform for VR content. The tooling is getting better and it’s now supported by major browsers [Link]

  • Hand tracking available for WebXR: Oculus having their own browser has the nice benefit that they can quickly add support for new features on the Quest. In this case, it’s hand tracking. Many experiments have popped up on Sidequest making use of this feature. Now we can also build with in with WebXR! [Link]

Cool Creations

  • Offloading WebXR app off the main thread: Great article by Das Surma, from Google, on how to move physics off the main thread to ensure 72 FPS on the Quest. Definitely worth a read if you’re considering building WebXR experiences. [Link]

  • XR Design Theory video by Mike Alger: Another great video from Mike showcasing design guidelines for XR applications. Definitely a must watch. [Link]

Interesting Meetups & Communities

  • IEEE VR 2020 Online experience: Mozilla Hubs is once again attempting to add an online VR experience to a physical event. Sign up at the link to join in. With Coronavirus bringing the need for better remote work tools to the front, this is a very timely experiment. VR events is an obvious use case for the tool. [Link]


Share

Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

2020 is the year VR stops being a baby

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations and communities.

Welcome to yet another faithful newsletter. Thanks to all who continue to support it! I’d love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback, please do send it my way :).

The year is starting to pick up pace and I’m increasingly getting the feeling that VR is maturing. This week comes with several announcements around tooling, both for world creation and for WebXR development.

I’m also excited about the announcements coming from the decentralized community. Together with XR, these are very promising technologies that still need to mature, but step by step they’re getting closer to being ready for mainstream use.

Enjoy!

On the news

  • IPFS will soon be a native citizen in Brave Browser: It’s one of their key objectives for 2020. This will surely push the decentralized Web forward. With Brave being Chromium based, which supports WebXR, we’ll soon be able to build decentralized XR content. Can’t wait! [Link]

  • Major investment into Planetary, a Secure-Scuttlebutt based social network: Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder, is one of the main investors. And one of Planetary’s founders is an early Twitter employee. The linked thread explains the vision for Planetary. It’s an important milestone for the SSB network and a big push for decentralized communication. It’s a very nice community and I’m looking forward to having a nice interface to hang out there more. [Link]

  • AR social network: Octi appeared on Techcrunch with its AR social network. The mobile app identifies your friends and lets you do all sorts of things with them with AR and post them. It’ll be fun to watch how XR will shape the kind content we can create. [Link]

  • Ubiquity6 lets you build virtual worlds from photogrammetry: They recently released display.land in public beta. You use it to capture a 3D space with your phone and then edit that into a virtual world that you can visit via a URL. Techcrunch mentions it’s still rough, but these kind of tools are necessary to push the space forward. [Link]

Food for thought

  • Another nice intro into the Metaverse: Matthew Ball, who’s a VC, writes an interesting post about what the Metaverse is and how to get there. It feels like the vision for the Metaverse is reaching more and more people. It’s a good summary of where we are and the different players. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • WebXR Avatar Builder: Ada at Samsung has recently launched an avatar builder. You can then use your avatar in different different WebXR experiences without sending any information to a centralized server. [Link]

  • WebXR showcase by Mozilla: They continue to push WebXR forward. They’ve just launched Hello WebXR, a pleasant experience where you can check out all sorts of content that’s possible with WebXR. [Link]

  • Controller library for WebXR: We’re on a rampage here with WebXR. Nell Waliczek from Amazon has made a crucial tool for WebXR development. It gives support for all VR controllers with a common API and provides models for those controllers. [Link]

  • A possible trustworthy AR headset?: Trevor from Transmutable is pushing the idea of an AR headset that’s based on a privacy-first open stack. It’s definitely a really hard project to bring to life, but hey, most of us don’t want to buy headsets by Facebook. If anyone has any ideas or is willing to help, please message him! [Link]

Interesting Meetups & Communities

  • Vhite Rabbit podcast: A new daily WebXR podcast. Tune in to learn about WebXR and the different projects building on top of it. [Link]

  • Reality Quest podcast: A recent bi-weekly podcast about VR. It already has interesting interviews, make sure to check it out! [Link]


Share

Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

CES is all about the form factor

Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations and communities.

Hey hey hey! I hope you had a great time with friends and family over the holidays :D.

Being not just the start of a new year, but also a new decade (though the folks behind the Spanish language insist on the decade starting in 2021), the XR community is full of predictions of where we’ll be in 10 years. Some even believe we’ll have AR contact lenses by then. But yeah, maybe not.

I do believe VR will be an accepted technology in our everyday life even if it’s not in everyone’s home, and AR will start to become a possible mass-market platform. We’re not even able to build a magic AR headset today:

I do feel confident that VR headsets will continue to get better very very quickly and the Quest is a great starting point. The main thing left is for software to catch up and give people compelling reasons to integrate VR in their lifestyle. A year ago I wrote a blog post about headsets needing to reduce friction to then reduce how critical the applications need to be in our lives. I think each year we’ll see noticeable reductions in friction and innovative interactions that will bring VR a step closer to mass-market.

On the news

  • A Quest competitor enters the scene: The Pico Neo 2 is here. It’s focusing on the Enterprise market where it is price competitive with the Quest Enterprise option. There’s also an eye tracking version powered by Tobii. It’s hardware is slightly superior to the Quest and more comfortable. The tracking isn’t as good but people who’ve tried it have all claimed that it’s good enough. So here it is, a proper competitor to the Quest. It won’t be able to compete on the consumer market as it lacks a decent software platform, but the Quest was a major achievement hardware-wise and it’s good to see others catch up. I don’t want Facebook to be the only viable solution in the VR space and competition will also push the tech forward faster. [Link]

  • CES focuses on headset form factor: Most other VR and AR headsets seen at CES had one major thing in common: glasses-like form factor. Comfort and appearance are critical for headset adoption. One of the more interesting ones come from Panasonic, that brings in 4K HDR micro OLED panels. The field of view isn’t great with micro OLED panels yet, we still need to wait on some optic breakthrough, but this steampunk like glasses have grabbed people’s attention and feedback is quite positive. The other interesting contender is the Pico VR Glasses that uses what they call ‘pancake’ lenses, that allow to bring the screen closer to the lenses. They also have a better field of view compared to Panasonic. Both weigh around a third of the Quest’s weight. They are 3DOF, so won’t be mass market, but it’s great to see companies pushing the hardware in different directions. Nreal is also getting ready for a release in early 2020. They showed off their Nebula platform and people who’ve tried it had really positive comments about the headset. [Link] [Link]

  • 5m PSVR units sold, but sales declining: Major milestone, but with the PS5 coming out this year and the hardware starting to lag behind, sales are declining. I also feel like there have been less prominent game launches recently. Can’t wait to hear what they have in store for PSVR 2. [Link]

  • Job Simulator becomes second game to sell 1M units: Second game after Beat Saber. This list will just get longer and longer as VR becomes a more viable platform. Neither of the games are shooters and are built by teams that have properly understood the platform. Congratulations to the team! [Link]

Food for thought

  • Fortnite wants to be the Metaverse: A Forbes article speculating on Fornite becoming a Metaverse in the future. They are already doing advertisement on the platform and people go there to hang out. Tim Sweeney has been outspoken about this before and check out this tweet:

    So yeah. It’s clearly in their plans. They’re going step by step creating a nice foundation for an open Metaverse while making sure people have a reason to go there and it’s economically viable. [Link]

  • Communities can’t include everyone: Twitter thread by Holden Shearer on how you can have hateful people and those being hated on in the same community. Social platforms are definitely moving in this direction. Mastodon’s federated network is an example. Each server sets their own rules and different communities are in different servers. In real life, we also tend to see this separation. And people who break the rules are sent to prison. Freedom of speech is critical, but people needs to feel safe. Each community creator needs to decide what sort of rules and people they want to prioritise on their platform. [Link]

  • Is Mobile + Cloud the ultimate platform?: Ben Thompson suggests that we moved from time-shared mainframe computers, where you could do batch work, to PCs connected to Intranet servers making it more ubiquitous but it was still deliberate to now Mobile + Cloud which makes access to computing universal and continuous. That would mean that there’s no other way to improve on that. VR/AR/IoT etc. would just be an extension of mobile devices connected to the cloud. That would also mean that it gets harder for newcomers to break in, similar to how Microsoft broke IBMs dominance and Google/Apple/Facebook broke Microsoft’s. As I feel strongly against how these companies function, I sure hope it’s not the case. I expect crypto could be the infrastructure that once again becomes a paradigm shift. Protocols like RNDR support sharing computing power between devices, self-sovereign identity will give us power over our data, smart contracts allow us to build new governance systems and this is just the beginning. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • Become Spiderman in WebXR: Similar to the Spiderman movie game released for PC VR, Tal Kol has made a WebXR experience that allows you to fling around an infinite procedural city. These sort of short fun experiences make total sense in WebXR and it’s great to see more and more content come to the platform. [Link]

  • Find all events happening in VR: With many Social VR platforms focusing on events, there’s now an easy way to learn about upcoming ones. [Link]

  • Text input based on the distance between controllers: To make VR mass-market and reduce friction, I feel that the main priority is text input. Alfredo has been building some prototypes lately so make to follow him. This is an interesting one where you select characters based on the distance between your controllers. I’m unsure about the precision, but it’s important to try all sorts of crazy ideas. [Link]


Share

Thanks for tuning in, that’s it for today. If you find anything interesting that we should post in the next one, reach out via Twitter or Email.

See you in 2 weeks!

Alberto

Loading more posts…