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]


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!