Epic steals the show

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

Welcome y’all! Many parts of the world are starting to de-escalate from the severe quarantine we’ve all been living in. To be honest, it feels great to be able to go on a walk even if I still can’t see my friends and family. Things got bad here in Spain.

Moving on to the Metaverse where quarantine wasn’t a thing. There have been 2 main topics. One is the eternal “VR is dead” discussion. Do people even look at the numbers we have or even try any of the popular headsets?

But there’s little doubt that what everyone has been talking about is that incredible Unreal Engine 5 demo on a PS5. It shook the tech world. And it’s not just the graphic fidelity but the new pipeline it enables for content creators. Epic Games are dead serious about building the Metaverse.

On the news

  • Epic Games going at full throttle: The most talked about thing this week is Unreal Engine 5. It provides an important leap for creators, allowing you to just drop the highest quality assets and the engine itself will worry about loading it accordingly to each platform. But it’s also a giant leap in graphic quality, able to load these high-quality assets on next-gen consoles and high-end PCs with a new global illumination system. The video of a demo running on the PS5 has left us speechless.

    Retroactive to 2020, creators don’t need to start paying Epic until their first $1M in revenue, which is a great deal.

    If that wasn’t enough, the cross-platform online services they developer for Fortnite are now widely available. That means support for PCs and current-gen consoles. Mobile platforms are coming soon. An interesting feature is the unified cross-platform friend list. It’s also P2P and supports cloud game saves. Last but not least, the SDK is compatible with all the popular engines including Unity. [Link 1] [Link 2]

  • Spatial is free for some time due to the pandemic: A much talked about remote work solution can now be used unlimitedly. I haven’t had a chance to try it, but it supports all VR and AR headsets including the Quest, and can even be used from the browser. I’ve heard people mention the latter is quite buggy still. I’ve been quite excited about Spatial for a while as its features and possibilities seem to be ahead of its competition. [Link]

  • A new Oculus Quest could come sooner than expected: A Bloomberg report says that it was expected for the end of 2020 and has been pushed to early 2021. It will be a smaller and lighter headset with a more recent chipset that might mean an increased framerate. New controllers are also in the picture. I’m all in for this and can’t wait. The hardware gets better every year, and as long as they maintain software forward and backward compatibility, I couldn’t be more on board of higher frequent hardware updates. [Link]

  • Oculus Quest content reaches $100M and hand tracking available to all: Oculus just announced that all content sales have reached a whopping total of $100M. And that’s in under a year. Yes, VR is still niche. But it’s growing at an increasing pace. The Quest has changed the landscape and pushed VR forward several years. Hand tracking is now available with the latest update and there’s going to be more and more content on the store to support it. This is just one more way that Quest is becoming more accessible. [Link]

Food for thought

  • Joshua Topolsky replies to himself and the NYT, now a VR believer: He was one of those who couldn’t help write a sensationalist piece on “VR is dead”, but has now backtracked. After that NYT column which was written based on using an Oculus Go, Joshua dissected it explaining that you can’t have an opinion of the VR space without at least trying a Quest. He moves on to say that Quest has changed his perception of VR. An accessible and affordable device with decent content and the possibilities offered by 6DOF changes the market. This change in perception seems to be quite general. A lot of people in my Twitter feed that are not from the VR space now tweet frequently about VR thanks to Quest. [Link]

  • Benedict Evans suggests VR might be very far away from an “iPhone Moment”: It’s a different perspective from the status quo in the VR community. Benedict feels there are signs that VR, in its current form, has a hard cap in market share as a percentage of the gaming industry. It’s not a small market, but it’s on a different order of magnitude from PCs or smartphones. The main possible reason being the form factor. Maybe VR needs a neural implant or to become a slim pair of glasses that also does AR to fully become ubiquitous. He believes we don’t know what to build beyond games with VR’s current form factor while at the same time acknowledging that we’re waiting for better text legibility and input, and more comfortable headsets. These things seem likely to happen in <5 years and there is a clear path to them. Even text input if we use existing keyboards or our smartphones to type. The creativity in the VR space is vast and the bar for a decent VR application or game keeps on raising. Isolating ourselves from the world does have its cons, but in many situations, like the present quarantine, it also has many pros. An endless editable space is surely useful. It might be that we need a new approach to the hardware like the iPhone was to smartphones, but I have little doubt VR will be useful and move beyond games in the mid-term. [Link]

  • Bigscreen saves VC money for the long haul: In a short thread, Darshan, the CEO, comments they’ve been careful with hiring even though they received a total of $14M in investment rounds. The VR space is still far away from being a big market and reaching its “iPhone moment” so they’re taking a conservative approach to making sure they’re still here when the time comes. Darshan adds they still haven’t touched their Series A money. This is surely the best approach for a VR startup and I commend Darshan for thinking things thoroughly. [Link]

  • Vice made a short documentary on partying during quarantine: The reporter tries a whole bunch of different experiences from Zoom calls to Second Life to VR Chat. Even if VR Chat is weird and creepy often, this video proved to me, that at least for this use case, VR is ahead of all other existing options. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • WebXR locomotion tutorial: Ada, from Samsung, has written yet another useful tutorial for us WebXR peeps out there. This is a cool teleportation technique, from start to finish, using Three.JS, tween.js, and the WebXR API. It mimics the effect from Google Earth VR where you first select where you want to teleport, then the field of view shrinks and finally applies smooth locomotion to take you there. [Link]

  • Make presentations in WebXR with FRAME: You can make 3D scenes in the form of a presentation with multiuser support. Send a link and that’s it. [Link]

Interesting Meetups & Communities

  • Microsft MR Dev Days in Altspace: By simply registering beforehand you’ll be able to attend the whole event in Altspace. It makes total sense as they did buy Altspace, but it’s still great to see large corporations betting on VR for virtual conferences. Due to timezone problems, I hope to at least attend the keynote. [Link]


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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