The XR Week Peek (2022.11.14): Meta lays off 11,000 people, Apple works on some sort of “metaverse”, and more!


I finally got my Quest Pro last week and this evening I plan to finally turn it on and try to have some fun with it! I guess a review is coming in 2–3 weeks, so be prepared  As for the Pico 4, I’ll do that either this week or next one, instead. Sorry for the long backlog, but I’m not having much time to work on the blog during this period.
 
 That said, on Thursday, I’m going to support again Cecilia Lascialfari with her AWE Nite Florence! This time we will talk about haptics in XR with some celebrities in the field like Guido Gioioso from Weart, Ashley Huffman from TitanHaptics, and Joe Michaels from HaptX. It is going to be suuuuuuper interesting! Don’t forget to register on the AWE Live website and then to attend the event on November, 17th at 6 pm CET (9 am PT). See you there!

Top news of the week

(Image from Business Insider)

Meta lays off 11,000 employees

Wednesday has been a sad day for the whole tech ecosystem: Meta has fired 11,000 employees.
 
 After the latest financial results, it was to be expected. Mark Zuckerberg has apologized to all employees, taking full responsibility for what happened. The reasons behind the layoffs are well-known: the competition with TikTok hurting Meta’s revenues; Apple’s new privacy rules on iOS have reduced the effectiveness of the ads business; the conflict in Ukraine and the inflation have led to bad economic conditions. Zuck also mentioned another reason we never heard of before: the management thought that the massive growth of online business that happened during the pandemic would have continued even after the Covid, but it was wrong. At the end of the day, the investors wanted to see some blood after the latest financial results, and the board had to provide it to them.
 
 I have to admit that at least Zuck tried to do this in the best way possible: he has taken full responsibility for the problems in a video call where he announced the layoffs and has offered a good severance package for people going away. Laid-off Meta employees are said to receive 16 weeks of base pay plus two additional weeks for every year of service, as well as all remaining paid time off, plus additional benefits. But it is still his fault for having driven the company to this point with the massive hirings of the previous months (do you remember he wanted to hire 10,000 people in Europe?) and the confusion and mismanagement that has happened to Facebook after it has been rebranded to Meta.
 
 This news hurt me because it’s a human “tragedy”: 11,000 families won’t have an income, at a moment when it is becoming harder to find new jobs because all tech companies are laying off employees. And among them there are many talented people: the XR sector has been less affected than others, but I could still see that David Jagneaux (a former reporter at Upload) was affected by the layoffs and is looking for a job, too. I have read countless of his articles, and reading that he’s without a job makes me sad. I would like to do something, so if there is a way I can help anyone of you that has been fired by Meta, please let me know how.

More info (Meta layoffs 11,000 employees — Road To VR)
More info (Meta layoffs 11,000 employees — Upload VR)
More info (Mark Zuckerberg’s letter to his employees)

Other relevant news

(Image from The Information)

Apple is working on some sort of metaverse, and its headset is entering mass production

It has been a week of interesting rumors about the upcoming Apple MR headset. According to the news outlet DigiTimes, Apple will use Taiwan-based Pegatron as its sole assembly manufacturer for it, and mass production of the device is set to begin “at the end of the first quarter of 2023”. This is coherent with previous rumors about the headset being announced in January. DigiTimes claimed that the production should regard 750,000 units, which will be sold especially to “commercial markets”. So, forget about an Apple headset that is going to enter the mainstream, as I already sold in this previous article.
 
 Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has also added some new interesting details: looking at the job listings, it seems that has come the time when Apple is looking to create content for its upcoming headset. Apart from the MR version of popular apps like Messages, FaceTime and Maps, Apple is also going to create a video service, probably using the expertise it got by acquiring NextVR. One job listing talks about creating “a 3D mixed-reality world” and “build tools and frameworks to enable connected experiences in a 3D mixed-reality world”. This is clearly the beginning of Apple’s entrance into the Metaverse. Tim Cook always said he’s not interested in the M-world, but the only truth is that he doesn’t want to say that word, while actually he’s super interested in the technology, and this job listing proves that.
 
 I can’t wait to see the unveiling of this product, and you?

More info (Apple headset entering mass production in March)
More info (Apple is creating content for its device)
More info (A very detailed Twitter thread about the Apple headset)

Pimax announces Pimax Portal

In a piece of totally unexpected news, Pimax has announced a new device, at a time it has not even delivered the one that was previously announced. The new device is dubbed Pimax Portal and is basically a Nintendo Switch that can be used for VR. We can say that Pimax has launched Nintendo Switch and Labo 2.0 in 2022.
 
 Pimax Portal is a handheld console with detachable controllers, exactly like the Switch. The console can also be inserted in a special case (a much improved version of Google Daydream View) to become a VR headset. The controllers can slip into a plastic shell with tracking rings. The device can so become a full standalone VR rig.
 
 If you are interested in this, you had better know that a Kickstarter campaign is starting on November 15th. A ‘standard’ version of the handheld will be priced at $300 for 128GB storage and 256GB for $400, and a version with a QLED display priced at $550, promising a 5.5 inch HDR screen with 4k resolution and 144hz refresh rate. All the versions run on top of a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 like the Quest 2. The VR shell should cost around $50 when bought bundled with the console.
 
 The reaction of the community to this gadget has been a big surprise and much confusion. I mean, no one was expecting Pimax to launch a Nintendo Switch. And no one ever asked for it…

More info (Pimax Portal announcement — Road To VR)
More info (Pimax Portal announcement — Upload VR)
More info (Pimax Portal prices)

Pico is facing in China internal confusion and mediocre sales

A report coming from China reveals interesting information about Pico.
 
 First of all, it reveals that the company is facing some internal confusion. After the acquisition by Bytedance, it grew fast from 100 to 2000 people, but this growth has not been well organized, so now there is some internal confusion about the roles and the processes. There are also now internal factions, with some people being more interested in Douyin (the Chinese Tiktok) and others more interested in the VR business of Pico. Honestly, I’ve found this piece of news pretty normal: if the growth of a company doesn’t get planned well, it’s pretty normal that confusion is created. Usually, the situation improves when the growth slows down a bit.
 
 Then, there are the data about sales numbers. It seems that Pico aimed for more than 1.5M sales, while in China now it has sold less than 50K units. All the units are also sold undercost, with an estimated loss of 1000 RMB (around €130) for every headset, so even the sales haven’t led to true revenues. Honestly, the sales numbers don’t surprise me either, because basically, Pico is trying to jumpstart in China the whole VR consumer ecosystem. It is exactly what Meta has done in the West with the Quest and Quest 2, and it cost Meta many millions (or even billions) to just arrive at selling 2–3M units every quarter. Of course, Pico needs time and money to do the same operation, in a market like the Chinese one that is very difficult to manage. But at least it managed to increase awareness for VR in China thanks to the big push on Douyin and to offer the first Quest competitor in the West.
 
 The report also mentions some voices about Pico releasing a new device next year if there will be the need to compete with Quest 3. This would be very weird, actually, because it would make all Pico 4 purchasers angry. I so hope it won’t happen.
 
 It’s interesting to read about all these internal problems at Pico, but like I said about Meta, creating cutting-edge technologies and trying to make them enter the mainstream takes time. I will start judging Pico one year from now, after it has had enough time to conquer the market.

More info

News worth a mention

(Image from Palmer Luckey)

Palmer Luckey creates a headset that can kill the wearer

In the anime Sword Art Online, November 6th, 2022 is the day in which the VRMMORPG goes public. To celebrate that day, Palmer Luckey has so created a headset inspired by the series. He has modified a Quest Pro so that it features some explosive sticks that detonate if a certain color is detected on the display. If a game is developed such that when the player dies, a screen with that color appears, it is possible to do a VR game that if you die in VR, you die in real life.
 
 This experiment got immediately viral and the community started talking about that. I mean, it is totally useless, but it is lovely as a piece of modern art.

More info (Palmer Luckey announcing the headset)
More info (Road To VR reporting the news)

A good and bad pieces of news about Quest Pro hardware

I have both good and bad pieces of news about Quest Pro. Which one would you like to hear first?
 
 Let’s start with the bad one: Quest Pro microphone features a weird popping sound when the user says letters like “P” or “B”. Quite a weird thing for a headset costing so much. For this reason, for social VR, some VR influencers have stopped using it in favor of Quest 2 (facepalm).
 
 The good one instead is that the surface of the Touch Pro controllers is like a giant trackpad. It is not enabled to be used that way, but it is interesting that hardware-wise, it could work as a big joystick. I wonder what future applications may stem from this.

More info (Quest Pro microphone issue)
More info (Quest Pro could be a touchpad)

Some news on the metaverse

These are two interesting articles I’ve found this week about the M-word:

Tom Ffiske has written a very long and interesting analysis about land sales in the metaverse, analyzing both the speculations and the real potential value behind digital land

Dean Takashi has interviewed Neal Stephenson about the metaverse, his book, and, of course, Meta.

More info (Real estate in the metaverse)
More info (Interview to Neal Stephenson)

Red6 made Charlie Fink try AR on a plane

The famous journalist Charlie Fink has had an amazing experience trying Augmented Reality on a small combat plane. He was able to test an AR system by Red6, a company that aims at making Army pilot train themselves with dogfighting and other similar operations using AR opponents instead of real ones. This should make the army spare many millions every year.
 
 The article is very interesting because Charlie describes his experience doing this crazy test together with a professional pilot and all that he felt during that.

More info

MicroLED could be the future of XR glasses

An article on TechCrunch about Porotech unveils how MicroLED could be one of the most important technologies for the future of XR displays. MicroLEDs feature pixels that can produce all the needed colors: this means that you don’t need three subpixels (R, G, B) anymore to represent every color, but you just need one. The result is that you can basically triple the resolution of every device, because every subpixel can now show whatever color. That would be great for immersion, of course.

More info

An interesting Quest 2 offering is coming for Black Friday

On the occasion of Black Friday, Meta is going to propose an interesting offer for Quest 2. Beginning November 18, Quest 2 will be discounted at $349 for a limited time, and it will include Resident Evil 4 VR in addition to Beat Saber. This seems like a great deal!

More info

Among Us VR has been released!

Among Us VR has been finally released on Quest 2 and PCVR for $9.99. All the YouTubers and VR magazines talked about it, and it seems that the game is very fun. Jesse Schelle also highlighted how now the time is ripe for multiplayer XR games: being more than 15M headsets on the market, there are enough people to always find someone to play with.

More info (Among Us VR review)
More info (Jesse Schell talks about VR games)

Some news on content

Hello Neighbor VR is not coming only to PSVR 2, but on all headsets in 2023

Beat Games has released The Weeknd DLC for Beat Saber

Gesture VR is a new application that aims at making you draw in VR

ENGAGE has released its connected social VR world Engage Link, completely dedicated to business, and I have personally reviewed it

Upload has gone hands-on with the relaxing Shores Of Loci

Maestro, the VR game that makes you impersonate a conductor, makes great use of hands tracking, and some videos on Reddit show that

More info (Hello Neighbor)
More info (Beat Saber)
More info (Gesture VR)
More info (Engage Link)
More info (Shores of Loci)
More info (Maestro)

Other news

If you want to watch an amazing ad about VR, watch this one by Meta Japan! It’s very cool

Learn more

Talking about cool stuff, this stunt with a pilot driving a BMW while wearing a Varjo headset is also worth watching

Learn more

Meta is working on having remote mirroring of your display directly in Quest Home, without you needing to go to Horizon Workrooms

Learn more

Snap and Amazon partner to offer AR preview of shopping items

Learn more

Samsung is still working on AR glasses and its new internal prototype seems to be called SM-I120

Learn more

This video about a “virtual reality viewer” from 1830 has been one of the viral content of the week

Learn more

Interesting research about a VR haptic glove

Learn more

You can do full body VR in VRChat with just a phone now :O

Learn more

News from partners (and friends)

Try Tennis League VR!

If you like tennis, have a try with Tennis League VR from my friends at Anothereality! Doing a tennis game in VR is quite hard (I’ve done some prototypes, too), so it would be great if you could support them also with a good review 
Try it on Meta Store

Mindport helps you in building your Unity VR experiences

Mindport is a very interesting plugin on the Unity Asset Store that lets you create your VR experiences in Unity in an easy way. It is meant for developers and non-developers and lets you add the logic of your application in a visual way, so without having to mess too much with C# scripting. It is also free in its base version and open source, so seems a great thing to experiment with!
Discover it on the Asset Store

Enea Le Fons is back at speaking at events

After a lot of time he was not speaking at events, Enea Le Fons has returned on stage to speak about his #30DaysInVR experience, the lessons learned, and the projects he has developed all these years. It’s good to see him always trying to educate the new generations about VR, creativity, and human-centered design.
Watch the video

Some XR fun

These “7 laws of the present metaverse” is what you need to read but you didn’t know it existed.
Funny link

Pimax Portal in a nutshell
Funny link

The best of the best of the features of the Pimax headset
Funny link

Exploding is ok, but this one no, please…
Funny link

I love nature. Or maybe not.
Funny link

Donate for good

Like last week, also this week in this final paragraph I won’t ask you to donate for my blog, but to the poor people that are facing the consequences of the war. Please donate to the Red Cross to handle the current humanitarian situation in Ukraine. I will leave you the link to do that below.
 
 Let me take a moment before to thank anyway all my Patreon donors for the support they give to me:

Alex Gonzalez VR

DeoVR

GenVR

Eduardo Siman

Jonn Fredericks

Jean-Marc Duyckaerts

Reynaldo T Zabala

Richard Penny

Terry xR. Schussler

Ilias Kapouranis

Paolo Leoncini

Immersive.international

Nikk Mitchell and the great FXG team

Jake Rubin

Alexis Huille

Raghu Bathina

Chris Koomen

Cognitive3D

Jennifer Granger

Jason Moore

Steve Biggs

Julio Cesar Bolivar

Jan Schroeder

Kai Curtis

Francesco Strada

Sikaar Keita

Ramin Assadollahi

Juan Sotelo

Andrew Sheldon

Chris Madsen

Horacio Torrendell

Andrew Deutsch

Fabien Benetou

Tatiana Kartashova

Marco “BeyondTheCastle” Arena

Eloi Gerard

Adam Boyd

Jeremy Dalton

Joel Ward

Alex P

Lynn Eades

Donald P

Casie Lane

Catherine Henry

Qcreator

Ristband (Anne McKinnon & Roman Rappak)

Stephen Robnett

Sb

Enrico Poli

Vooiage Technologies

Caroline

Liam James O’Malley

Hillary Charnas

Wil Stevens

Brian Peiris

Francesco Salizzoni

Alan Smithson

Steve R

Brentwahn

Pieter Siekerman

Simplex

Matias Nassi

And now here you are the link to donate:

Support The Red Cross in Ukraine

(Header image by Meta)

The post The XR Week Peek (2022.11.14): Meta lays off 11,000 people, Apple works on some sort of “metaverse”, and more! appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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