The XR Week Peek (2021.12.21): Google is building an AR OS, Nike acquires RTFKT, and more!

I’m super-late with this newsletter because we of New Technology Walkers are working on some cool stuff for our game HitMotion: Reloaded! Be sure to check it out on App Lab in a few hours, even if you have already completed it in the past…  And please, give it 5 stars, it’s super-important to have a positive review for our future… do it as a Christmas gift to me!
 I’ll write a separate post for that, but in case you won’t read it, let me wish you all some amazing Winter Holidays to spend with the people you love the most!

Top news of the week

(Image by Google)

Google is reportedly working on an AR operating system

In some of my past newsletters, I warned you that we shouldn’t forget about Google/Alphabet in the race to our mixed reality future. Google owns the best search engine (Google), all the data of the outdoor part of the world (Google Maps), the most used mobile operating system (Android), an AR framework (ARCore), and is strategically acquiring some startups that may be useful for building future AR glasses (North). Now we have finally an official confirmation of the fact that Google is working on an AR device.
 There are several positions open at the company that hint at that, and as Upload VR reports, the descriptions clearly hint at building a new AR device with a dedicated operating system. The following paragraph is directly quoted from one of these job descriptions:
 Our team is building the software components that control and manage the hardware on our Augmented Reality (AR) products. These are the software components that run on the AR devices and are the closest to the hardware. As Google adds products to the AR portfolio, the OS Foundations team is the very first software team to work with new hardware.
 Some positions talk about a “real-time operating system”; some others are located in Waterloo, Canada, where there was the HQ of North, the company making the Focals smartglasses acquired by Google.
 Another hint to this is the fact that Mark Lucovsky who was previously working at Meta trying to build a dedicated operating system for AR alternative to Android, has now joined Google, too, with the goal of “leading the Operating System team for Augmented Reality”.
 This is the first public hint that Google is back on track working on a new AR device, most probably glasses that should compete with Facebook and Apple. Google is a very smart company, but lately, it has lost a lot of its previous innovation touch, and many of its projects have been quickly abandoned (e.g. Tilt Brush). Will this story change with AR glasses? I guess we have to wait some months to understand that.

More info (Google working on an AR operating system)
More info (Marc Lucovsky working on an AR OS at Google)

Other relevant news

(Image by RTFKT)

Nike acquires RTFKT

One of the biggest news of the whole week has been the announcement of Nike buying RTFKT, a startup working on virtual fashion. The acquisition terms are undisclosed.
 RTFKT is the startup behind the Metajacket, the piece of virtual clothing that you see in the picture above: a virtual animated jacket that you could only wear in a virtual or augmented world. The company comes from the Web3 world and it creates virtual pieces of apparel whose ownership is written in the blockchain as NFTs. It was one of the most recognized brands in the field.
 This acquisition is a huge endorsement of virtual fashion. If a brand like Nike buys a startup like RTFKT that is still mostly unknown to the average consumer, is because it wants to exploit its expertise to enter the virtual fashion field, creating digital goods to sell in games, virtual worlds, and social augmented reality spaces (e.g. Instagram), so that Nike is recognized as a fashionable brand both in the real and the virtual worlds. I think it’s been a smart move, and will give a big push to the whole world of virtual fashion.

More info

Three headsets are going to Kickstarter

This has been the week of XR headsets on Kickstarter.
 The first to announce a Kickstarter campaign has been Diver-X, the Japanese company behind the Half Dive headset, a weird VR headset that you should wear while lying on a bed. After the announcement of some weeks ago, the Kickstarter campaign has started this week, and it has already fulfilled its goal. I’m quite happy about this because if it becomes a product, maybe I manage to try this crazy thing.
 The second company to announce a Kickstarter campaign has been SimulaVR, which plans to start a crowdfunding campaign for its Simula One headset in January 2022. The headset should be based on Linux and its SimulaOS open-source VR windows manager (or maybe will it work via command-line like all Linux machines? :D). It has a retro look that makes it very nerdy, and it should be able to offer passthrough AR and hands tracking via Ultraleap. We don’t have much info about it, but a Linux-based headset looks interesting to a techie like me. I hope for this project to become a reality.
 The third Kickstarter campaign has been the most discussed one: it has been about the Arpara 5K headset. Arpara is a Chinese company, and it has launched a headset that should come in some variants: a standalone 6DOF one, and a 3DOF one with optional Nolo/SteamVR tracking support. The headset looks cool because of its 5K display and its very small form factor. I was among the first ones to talk about it, and then it became popular in the communities when Sebastian Ang from MRTV managed to get a device and talked about it on his channel.
 The problem with Arpara is that it is a totally unknown company, and its device and its campaign triggered some flags. For instance, reviewers were given the 3DOF unit, and many complained about the poor performances of Nolo tracking (Nolo sounds so much 2015 to me). Others complained about the colors of the display. Then the headset looks like a copycat of Quest 2 regarding form factor, operating system UI, and shipping box. I mean, I know how China works (at first copy, then evolve), but they literally copied everything from Quest 2. Then the Kickstarter campaign promises too much in too little time, and this reminds a bit of the logistic disasters of Pimax. Finally, the campaign just asked for $50K, which is just breadcrumbs for building hardware. For these reasons, Upload even arrived at the point of suggesting everyone not to back Arpara’s campaign. But it seems that it didn’t work: the campaign is now at around $500K, so I guess we’ll see an Arpara headset reaching the market. Or at least, I hope so.

More info (Half Dive headset)
More info (Simula One headset)
More info (Arpara 5K Kickstarter campaign page)
More info (Upload VR suggesting not to back Arpara)
More info (Arpara packaging being inspired by the one of Quest 2)
More info (Some negative reviews on Arpara headset)
More info (A negative opinion on Arpara)

Quest 2 may have sold more than Xbox in 2021

One of the most discussed tweets of the week has been the one of Jack Soslow, partner at investment firm Andreessen-Horowitz and previous employee at Facebook, which showed a graph saying that in 2021 Quest 2 sold more units than Xbox. According to these numbers, there were around 8.1M sold Quests and 8.0M sold Xboxs. In total, the number of Xboxs is still bigger because of the sales from previous years, but this marks the first year that a VR headset sells more than a traditional console.
 This of course is a huge piece of news, and a big milestone for VR: this means that a VR piece of hardware is selling more than a mass-market device, and so that we can finally say that VR has entered the mainstream. The times for VR being just a gadget for geeks have finally been over.
 I would anyway warn you a bit about these numbers: first of all the graphs have been taken from a firm that is reportedly not being super-accurate in its market predictions. Then the slide also shows weird notes like one that claims that “Zuck has said 10M Quests have been sold”, when actually Zuck never said that, it has been Qualcomm, who later also withdrew from this statement. So we are not sure that Quest 2 has actually sold more than Xbox.
 But we are sure that Quest 2 sales are rock solid, and the total number of Quests out there is in the range of 5–10 million. Many game developers are reaching good sales with their games on Quest, and news of this week is that Vertigo Games made $1.4M in sales of After The Fall in just 24h of selling the game on all platforms. So we can reliably say that the order of magnitude of sold Quests is at least similar to the one of Xbox, and this is anyway a remarkable result for VR if we think that four years ago the technology was considered as “dead”.

More info (Jack Soslow on the sales numbers of Quest 2)
More info (Vertigo Games earns $1.4M in 24h)

News worth a mention

Image by /u/-theiris/

Meta dropped some merch for Quest Day

In the end, the mystery around Quest Day was solved. On 14th, Meta dropped some merch for fans to get for free: a Beat Saber ugly sweater, some Questy (a cute smiling Quest) plush toys, Oculus-branded socks, and cookie cutters. The idea has been nice, but the fact that the merch came in a first-come-first-served fashion with limited quantities made sure that scalpers got most of the gadgets and they are now reselling them online. Probably next time, Meta should change how it provides these goodies.

More info (Every gadget released for Quest Day)
More info (Questy plush toy)
More info (People on Reddit complaining about scalpers)

Meta updates its Ray-Ban Stories glasses

Meta has just updated its Ray-Ban Stories glasses, and now it is possible with them to send messages, have messages read out to you, and make audio calls using Facebook Messenger. This is interesting because it shows that Meta is interested in making this product evolve, and maybe update it at a good pace as it is doing with Quest, making it always more powerful.

More info

Meta keeps updating the Quest and its SDK

Three updates about Meta Quest and its SDK caught my attention this week:

Facebook has finally released its new Avatar SDK for all developers to implement the new Meta Avatars in their applications

There is a new demo for Quest hand tracking on Unreal Engine that developers can use to see what is possible to do in Unreal Engine and re-use some building blocks in their applications

Oculus Browser now lets you resize the windows, so it is for instance possible to create a big screen to watch Netflix in

More info (Meta Avatars SDK)
More info (Meta Quest hand tracking in UE)
More info (Oculus Browser has now resizable windows)

Meta acquires Imagine Optix

According to display expert Karl Guttag, Meta has acquired Imagine Optix, the company that was most probably behind the variable focus lenses used in the Half-Dome 3rd prototype. This may show that Meta is still working on a solution to solve the vergence-accommodation issue.
 It is also not a piece of good news for Valve, that was one of the early investors in the company.

More info

Meta acquisition of Within is under the scrutiny of FTC

Some weeks ago, Meta reportedly acquired SuperNatural’s company Within for around $400M. This was a huge piece of news for the whole VR fitness world. Now, it seems that deal is not confirmed yet because it is under the scrutiny of FTC, and it may be canceled, or at least delayed.
 In the recent past, Facebook/Meta’s acquisition of Giphy was requested to terminate, and this acquisition of Within may follow a similar path. The authorities are controlling more Meta, which is reportedly accused of monopolistic practices, and this may make future strategic acquisitions of the company more complicated. Also, the acquisition of ARM by NVIDIA is under serious scrutiny. Personally, I’m happy that finally, someone is trying to stop this total power of major tech companies.
 And on a separate note, if Meta wants to acquire our game HitMotion: Reloaded for just $100M, we are very happy to talk about it!

More info

John Hanke talks about Niantic, XR glasses, and the metaverse

The Verge has interviewed Niantic’s CEO John Hanke, and his interview is very long but very interesting. It touches themes like Pokemon Go, the metaverse, and XR glasses. Regarding the last point, Mr. Hanke revealed that Niantic is working on a reference design for outdoor glasses: “It’s very bright. It’s legible outside and has a good field of view” is what he said about them. I’m curious to see what they will turn out to be.

More info

Alvin Wang Graylin talks about the metaverse in China

Mister President Graylin has given a long interview about the metaverse in China. He claims that in his opinion, China is poised well to become the leader in the metaverse, because the government can pour a lot of money into the ecosystem and create policies that force all the companies to all work following the same standard, guaranteeing internal interoperability between the different platforms. Also, the digital Yuan, which China has already created, may be the money used in its metaverse, which could so be the same currency for the real and the virtual world. According to him, while the whole world should agree on some interoperability standards between the different countries, China could speed up by working on its standards and developing its internal part of the metaverse faster.
 I’m reading always more articles about the metaverse coming from China, and it seems that the hype is starting there, too. According to another article, the government should also announce something to promote the industrial use of VR in the upcoming times. These are good signs about its ecosystem.
 Anyway, take all of this with a grain of salt: as far as I know, at the moment the West is still ahead of China for what concerns the implementation of XR, and for instance, there is no headset in China having the same consumer interest of the Quest. I totally agree that if China wants to achieve a goal, it can do it very fast thanks to a strong push of the central government, but at the moment, this is not happening yet.

More info (Alvin Graylin on the metaverse in China)
More info (The Chinese Government wants to push VR for industrial use)

Oppo announces its smartglasses

Talking about China, smartphones manufacturer Oppo has announced it is working on an add-on to transform your glasses into smartglasses that can show you notifications from your phone. The idea of the add-on is pretty interesting, I think. But the device still seems a bit too simplistic to me.

More info

Intel gives a huge reality check on the m**averse hype

Intel claims that to fulfill the vision of the m**averse we need 1000x the computational power that we have today, especially on the server-side. While most probably the number “1000” is a bit made up, I think that the reasons behind this statement is correct (building an infrastructure that should support billions of people is not easy), and it shows once again that we need years to get to the vision of the m**averse, and that the current hype should not be believed.
 (Yeah, I’m talking too much about the M-word in this newsletter, but this is life lately in the XR communities…)

More info

Balenciaga creates a department working on the m**averse

The M-word hype is so big that many companies are now creating departments dedicated to it, and Chief Metaverse Officer is now a thing in some of them. Fashion brand Balenciaga, which launched last year its collection in a virtual world, will have a whole department dedicated to it.
 I thought you should now about this amazing trend (#sarcasm). I wonder how many of these offices will survive when the m**averse hype will go down…

More info

Geenee announces its WebXR full-body tracking solution

Geenee has just announced its web-based full-body-tracking solution, that can work with its no-code/low-code AR platform. This means that it is possible to easily create a try-on AR solution for clothes with this platform that runs directly on the web for both PCs and smartphones. I’ve tried it and the performances are quite good, but the license price is not cheap.

More info

Roblox may not be the dream platform for kids as we thought

Two videos from People Make Games expose all the problems that content creators may have on the Roblox platform. Creating successful content on the platform is very difficult, and even if you manage to do that, the company takes more than 70% of your profits. When you are paid, you are paid in Robux, and if you want to convert them into real money, the rate to exchange them is not convenient at all. The journalists compare these practices to the ones of mining companies using internal money called “scrips”, a practice that was legally banned around 90 years ago in the US. I wonder why a company is allowed to do online what is legally forbidden in the real world. Since Roblox is always quoted when talking about a successful example of m**averse, I question if this is what we want for our future.
 In all of this, also remember that Roblox targets very young kids. It would be already a severe issue if it was targeting conscious adults, but here we are talking about exploiting kids developers. Pretty disgusting, in my opinion.

More info (First video on bad practices by Roblox)
More info (Second video on bad practices by Roblox)

Discover the experiences selected for Sundance 2022

10 VR projects were selected for Sundance New Frontiers 2022, and from their descriptions, they all look quite interesting.

More info

Two interesting contests for content creators

Two contests have caught my attention this week. The first one is by Niantic, which with its Lightship Winter Challenge promises up to $10,000 for the best AR content. The second one is by T-Mobile, which actually has big prices up to €150,000 but requires serious commitment in building an enterprise XR solution.

More info (Lightship Winter Challenge)
More info (T-Mobile Challenge)

Some news on content

Demeo releases its third campaign (that is good according to Upload) and shows its roadmap for 2022, where it should also land on pancake PC

Upload has gone hands-on with Lady Gaga DLC for Beat Saber and found it pretty interesting
Horizon Zero Dawn is getting a VR mod
The new version of Against (by JoyWay) looks pretty neat
Cubism in passthrough AR is pretty cool
A dev has created a minigolf prototype with passthrough AR that adapts to your house design and it is amazing
Synth Riders releases Merry Synthmas Update

ZenVR, an experience to teach you meditation practices, lands on SteamVR

More info (Demeo 2022 Roadmap)
More info (Hand-on Demeo’s third campaign)
More info (Beat Saber Lady Gaga DLC impressions)
More info (Horizon Zero Dawn VR mod)
More info (Against in Early Access)
More info (Cubism in passthrough AR)
More info (Minigolf in passthrough AR)
More info (Synth Riders)
More info (ZenVR)

News from partners (and friends)

WIIT, standing for Women in Immersive Tech Europe, is the first European NGO that Meta chooses to collaborate with to address Meta’s new goals outlined for building the metaverse responsibly. Kudos to them for this great result!
Learn more

You can now vote for the XRMust awards! Some judges (among whom there is also me) have shortlisted 5 titles for each category, and it’s now your turn to decide who will be the winner! Voting takes just 2 minutes, so I invite you all to do that 
Vote for XRMust Awards 2021

Some XR fun

This meme is an NFT itself
Funny link

I didn’t know that SteamVR Performance Test had a possible “WTF” result…
Funny link

I hate when it happens now… and in the early days of DK2 happened after almost every runtime update…
Funny link

Mark Zuckerberg and the VRChatverse
Funny link

Make me a Christmas gift!

If you don’t know what to give me as a Christmas gift, I have an idea for you: donate on Patreon to this blog! It’s a gift to me, but also to all the XR community because I’ll use that money to keep writing informative articles for everyone.
 This is the long list of Patrons that made today’s roundup possible:

Raghu Bathina
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
Vooiage Technologies
Liam James O’Malley
Paul Reynolds
Hillary Charnas
Donald P
Wil Stevens
Brian Peiris
Rhys Coombes
Matias Nassi

Make a small gift to me by clicking the link here below!

Donate on Patreon to The Ghost Howls

(Header image by Nike)

The post The XR Week Peek (2021.12.21): Google is building an AR OS, Nike acquires RTFKT, and more! appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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