Kicking things off

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

Hey there! Welcome to the first ever Simbol Insights, a newsletter to get the latest insights from the open metaverse: news, essays, creations and communities.

I’m Alberto and I’ll post a new update every 2 weeks so you can make sure you catch up on the most important updates from the deep metaverse (can I coin this now?). I’ll make sure to extract the main insights from each piece of content so you can get a quick update and continue with your busy day.

It’s great to have you here, and I’m looking forward to constructing healthy discussions with you. If you have any comments or suggestions, please reach out!

On the news

  • John Carmack leaves Oculus: He’s moving to an advisory CTO role, but will now be focusing on AGI (Artificial General Intelligence). Carmack’s been like a North Star for VR developers, and his initial push of Palmer Luckey’s prototype was key to make this new VR wave happen. He’s constantly pushed both Mobile VR (like Gear VR, Oculus Go and Oculus Quest) and for developers to build better apps, offering free critiques. His keynote and hallway sessions at Oculus Connect will be missed. Based on past successes, it’s hard to think he won’t make any progress in AI, but it feels worrisome to see AI research leaded by people and companies not known for their empathetic capabilities like: Elon Musk, Facebook, Google and now Carmack. [Link]

  • Looking Glass 8K 32”. Looking Glass had already released 2 small holographic screens, but is now jumping ahead to a 32 inch 8K display. It’s focused on business collaboration, but it’s a clear path forward to 3D displays and holograms without glasses. I can’t wait for all screens, including our phones, to be able to display the 3D worlds we currently only enjoy fully with HMDs. [Link]

  • Minecraft Earth. An AR Minecraft game. It has been promoted at Apple Keynotes and is now here. I haven’t tried it myself, but feedback doesn’t seem to be great with clunky UX. It is another big IP betting on AR though. [Link]

  • Quixel joins Epic Games. With this, many high quality photogrammetry assets from Quixel are now made available in Unreal Engine for free. Making it easier and cheaper to build high quality 3D content is necessary to make the Metaverse happen. [Link]

  • Chrome 79 ships WebXR. Standards bodies have worked to transition from WebVR to WebXR and it’s not shipping in Chrome 79 (currently in the Beta channel). It’s shipping without flags and without Origin Trials. There are things that are still not available in WebXR, like AR features, that will come in the future. It’s a huge milestone, and Chrome now joins other browsers like Oculus Browser and Firefox Reality with shipping VR support. Developers now have a stable API to work with. [Link] [Link]

  • Bad news cycle for Magic Leap. It seems like the company is running out of money again and has started fundraising their Series E. A leaked email from Rony Abovitz, CEO at Magic Leap, mentions that they’ve already raised $500M. It seems that as part of that funding, they signed over their patents as collateral to JPMorgan Chase. I find it harder and harder to see a way out for Magic Leap as they go further down the investment rabbit hole with no profits in sight. To make things worse, reports say they’ve only sold Magic Leap Ones in the low thousands. Now they’ve also lost 2 executives, CFO Scott Henry and SVP John Gaeta (who created bullet time for The Matrix). Rony does try to hype the Magic Leap 2 in the same email using his typical marketing speech but 🤷. [Link] [Link]

Food for thought

  • The Web Emergent Metaverse: Greg Fodor explains the vision behind Mozilla Hubs and their bet on the Web. Greg comments on what made the Web so popular (simple for newcomers), features that strengthened its position (like JavaScript) and what’s missing (identity, payments and bi-directional links). He then points out how the Web leveraged the exponentially growing Internet, and that the Metaverse will need to do some with some other super-growing network. His bet is on the Web. Greg finishes outlining a set of minimum features to kick-off the Metaverse, explaining that the Web started out without many features that we now expect today. Some of the basic features he mentions are real-time communication, easy tools to create 3D content and mixed media in 3D space. Make sure to check it out. Do you think his list of basic features will be enough? I believe the content in a Metaverse will need to provide real utility, and the minimum features go around what kind of utilities they enable. [Link]

  • Tim Sweeney on what’s necessary to build the Metaverse. Really dense talk by the CEO of Epic Games, makers of Unreal Engine and Fortnite, on the path from now to the open Metaverse. He starts with a clear and specific definition of Metaverse: “It’s a real-time 3d social medium where people can create and engage in shared experience as equal participants in an economy with societal impact.” The “equal participants” bit wouldn’t fit the Metaverse from Snow Crash, which coined the term, to be considered as such. Though I’m all for making sure the Metaverse is open! Sweeney talks about what kind of standards (like identity, object marketplace etc.) need to happen and the value of competition in every part of the stack. He then moves on to point that the Metaverse will need to provide real utility (“be better than Fornite”), start with what we have right now (like linking Fornite itself and Minecraft), and that there needs to be economic incentives for creators. I believe he hits all the right notes, and is the best summary of how to make the open Metaverse happen. Jin from M3 also went through the hard effort of transcribing the talk so we can review it more thoroughly. [Link]

  • Voices of VR podcast series on XR Ethics & Privacy. Kent Bye is one of the necessary voices in the XR community making sure that we also talk about the impact of what we build. He’s just launched a series of podcasts made up of 14 interviews around XR Ethics and Privacy. I haven’t had time to listen to all of them yet, but will definitely do so. This is a crucial conversation to have and I appreciate Kent and others making sure it happens. [Link]

Cool Creations

  • Mozilla Spoke, Architecture Kit: Spoke is a great tool by Mozilla to easily create virtual worlds. It integrates seamlessly with their social VR platform Hubs, so you can create a 3D environment, upload it to Hubs, share a link with others and share that virtual worlds with colleagues. Now it’s even easier to create these worlds thanks to the release of the Architecture Kit, +400 optimised models to create buildings. [Link]

Interesting Meetups & Communities

  • M3 Meetup - 17th November, 12pm PST. M3 (Metaverse Makers Meetup) is a community of makers focused on the open metaverse. Check out the charter. It’s difficult to organise a biweekly meetup, and the folks at M3 have done an amazing job at it and uploading all the interesting talks to Youtube. A new edition is happening this Sunday with two talks: Identity in the Metaverse (by myself) and (by Alfredo). Tune in here in Hubs! In the meantime, join the Exokit Discord or follow on Twitter to continue the discussions!

  • We Make Reality. A great community created and spearheaded by Eva Hoerth. It’s a very open, caring and diverse community around those values in XR. It’s a great place to share, discover and help each other with our work in the space. The best way to participate is signing up in their website, but also make sure to follow them on Twitter.

Random Findings

  • Google Lively. I recently bumped into Lively, a web based 3D environment from 2008. It was the 20% project of Niniane Wang (who also worked at Niantic later on) and even worked on Internet Explorer in Windows XP. Rooms supported real-time communication of up to 20 people and supported chat and watching Youtube together. Rooms could also be embedded in websites. It’s interesting to see how we’ve been pursuing this model for decades. [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!