The XR Week Peek (2024.04.09): Apple releases Spatial Personas, Meta is working on Augments, and more!

It’s not been an exciting week for the XR industry, but still, the release of Spatial Personas has created a new little hype around the Apple Vision Pro, putting even more pressure on Meta, which soon will make its move with the new Quest 3 S/Lite. Prepare some popcorn, because the one between Meta and Apple is going to be a very interesting battle…
 (Hey, keep reading that this newsletter contains a giveaway of keys for the cool VR platform game Max Mustard!)

Top news of the week

(Image by Apple)

Apple releases Spatial Personas

The Apple Vision Pro keeps being the headset getting the most attention (and praise): Ben Lang’s Road To VR just wrote an article highlighting how it is the ideal way to watch movies on a plane.
 But the most important news of the week, which has raised the hype for the AVP, is the beta release of Spatial Personas: while until now you could only see other people as 2D frames with their uncanny avatars inside, now you can have the Personas of the other people in the 3D space with you. This means that you have true social XR on the Vision Pro, a step towards the metavers… ehm, social spatial computing.
 Personas are not cartoonish avatars, but a system that tries its best to reconstruct a realistic view of the other person, so it feels like being with the other person in your room. Apple has so just released some sort of realistic avatars before Meta could release its own astonishing Codec Avatars, putting even more pressure on Meta also in its mission of “defying distance”.
 The first feedback on this new system is amazing: my Twitter timeline was full of people meeting in AR, doing fist bumps, trying to hug (but Apple prevents people from coming too close for safety reasons), and playing a chess game together. Everyone said that while the system is far from perfect, and even if you can only see the head and the hands of the other person, there is a true sense of being in the same space together with the other person. Charlie Fink once said that “the killer app of VR are ‘people’ “: if this is the case, well, the AVP may have found one of the key features for its success.

More info (Apple releases Spatial Personas — Road To VR)
More info (Spatial Personas hands-on — Upload VR)
More info (Spatial Personas hands-on — Road To VR)
More info (First videos of people using Spatial Personas)
More info (Another video of people using Spatial Personas)
More info (Movie watching on a plane using Apple Vision Pro)

Other relevant news

(Image by Meta)

Some updates on Quest 3

Meta is rolling out the beta of v64 of the Quest runtime and people on Reddit keep commenting that its passthrough quality is noticeably superior, especially for what concerns looking at bright elements in your room, may them be your phone, a monitor, or even a window. I’m very curious to get this update because many people are saying great things about it… and you know that I’m a fan of passthrough mixed reality.
 Someone also spotted that the world “Augments” appears in the Settings window of v64. It so seems that Meta is laying the groundwork to eventually release Augments in one of the upcoming versions of the runtime. Augments are AR widgets you can put in your room, a feature that is fundamental to start making the Quest a true mixed reality headset… that’s why we are all waiting to see them (and eventually develop one of them).
 While the two pieces of news are very good to me, there is a third one that leaves me with mixed feelings: Meta is now requiring mandatory age confirmation on Quest headsets. This is used to divide users into three categories: adults, teens, and pre-teens, each of which has some specific rights and duties when using Quest. On one side, I hate it, because it’s another piece of personal data that I’m forced to give to Zuck. On the other side, I think that’s a good thing because it can help moderate the apps for children, and in the future can be used to offer tools to developers to separate children from adults in social VR applications.

More info (Improved passthrough in v64)
More info (Augments appearing in the Settings window)
More info (Age confirmation for Quest)

News worth a mention

(Image by Fast Travel Games)

Fast Travel Games has sold more than 1 MILLION games

Swedish game developer and publisher Fast Travel Games has announced it has crossed the milestone of 1 million VR games sold throughout its history. Things are going pretty well for the studio: in 2023, it generated revenues of around $7.7 million. This is proof that if you develop high-quality immersive content, it is possible to make a living out of it.
 Big kudos to Fast Travel Games for the obtained result!

More info

Unity abandons Ziva

Unity has announced it has discontinued Ziva and all its related services: Ziva VFX, Ziva Real-Time, and Ziva Face Trainer. In case you don’t know, Ziva was acquired a few years ago to become Unity’s competitor of Epic Games’s Metahumans: a system to build quasi-realistic humanoid avatars. Abandoning Ziva to focus on the main products of the company (the Unity game engine), Unity de facto leaves the field of believable realistic humans to the hands of Epic Games.
 (Thanks Ivan Aguilar for the tip)

More info (Unity communicates the discontinuation of Ziva)
More info (Unity Forum discussion about this decision)

Netflix is selling the headset of 3 Body Problem

3 Body Problem is the series of the moment. Its more passionate fans can buy a prop shaped like the headset of the series for $110: even if it is not functional, it is still a good item to keep in the collection for the fans. Not being a fan of the series, I personally think it’s just a way to waste $110 to buy a piece of plastic that looks like you put underpants on your face, when for $199 you can get a functional Quest headset, but I’ve read on my Twitter timeline that many people would actually love to buy it. The headset is currently sold out.

More info

A new Matrix movie is in the works

Warner Bros has announced that a new movie on the Matrix saga is in the works. The directors won’t be the Wachowski sisters, but the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Drew Goddard. Lana Wachowski will be an executive producer of the movie, though. There are no details about what is going to happen in this movie or not even about what characters are going to be part of it, yet.
 But for me there is one certain thing: there is only one Matrix movie, all the other ones don’t exist.

More info

Lucas Rizzotto’s valuable advice on MR development

The famous creator Lucas Rizzotto is now experimenting with mixed reality and has written a very insightful post on Linkedin where he gives very precious pieces of advice to MR developers. In particular, he suggests testing your app in every possible condition, because users will play it in every kind of room, from the tiniest one to the warehouse, and they expect it to work in all of them (and they get angry if it does not).

More info

Some news about content

  • Off-road racing game EA Sports WRC is adding VR support at the end of April
  • Real-time strategy franchise Homeworld is getting a related all-new VR game for Quest
  • Battle Royale game Contractors Showdown is coming on April 25th, priced at $20. People who preorder the game get a 10% discount
  • Fall Guys-inspired game Sky Climb is out today on the Meta Quest platform for $14.99
  • Team Beef ported Tomb Raider to VR and called the porting BeefRaider XR. Big Kudos to these amazing modders.

More info (EA Sports WRC)
More info (Homeworld)
More info (Contractors Showdown)
More info (Sky Climb)
More info (BeefRaider XR)

Some reviews about content

  • Both Upload and Road To VR went hands-on with a preview of Silent Slayer and found it an intriguing game that builds very good tension for the player. But they also wonder what novelty there will be in all the levels of the final game
  • Swarm 2 is a good improvement over its predecessor: it doesn’t change much the sounds and visuals, but improves a lot the gameplay, adding roguelike elements
  • Layout, Meta’s mixed reality app for measuring things, can be tried in preview with a hack, but it doesn’t offer anything mindblowing
  • Variety has expressed a positive opinion on “The Faceless Lady”, the horror VR miniseries that is going to be aired on Meta Horizon Worlds.

More info (Silent Slayer — Road To VR)
More info (Silent Slayer — Upload VR)
More info (Swarm 2)
More info (Layout)
More info (The Faceless Lady)

Other news

Another article on Road To VR about UX Design talks about the hand tools in Red Matter 2

Learn more

CNET went hands-on with the Holotile floor at Disney

Learn more (Hands-on video)
Learn more (Hands-on article)

The Premier League partners with Rezzil to create a VR experience about soccer

Learn more

HTC Vive partners with iFixit to offer guides to explain to people how to auto-repair their headsets

Learn more

Unity has released its gaming report, with interesting stats for all the game developers, including the XR ones

Learn more

News from partners (and friends)

Keys giveaway for Max Mustard!

Max Mustard is one of the most interesting games of the moment: created by the people who have built the very successful Richie’s Plank Experience, it offers a very well-designed VR platform game, that plays homage to Astro Bot and other successful titles of the same category. It even got an 8.5 evaluation on Road To VR, which is like having 15/10 on IGN.
 You can play it for free if you are fast enough to grab one of these three keys that you can redeem on the Quest App (first come, first served, as usual):
 If all the above keys are taken, consider buying the game to support the devs, because it is truly a good one:

Get the game

Sponsored Area

Do you need help to build your XR application?

My main job is being a VR developer / CTO / tech lead, so in case you may need a person or a full team to build an XR application for you or to craft your world inside a social VR platform (e.g. VRChat), just contact me, and I will be happy to help you. I have an extensive portfolio of projects I can give you to prove my skills…
Explore collaboration options

Some XR fun

Road To VR collected in a single article all the funniest XR April Fool’s jokes! Mine is not present, so I go crying in a corner…
Funny link

Wait, what
Funny link

Damn advertisement, it is everywhere…
 (The joke is in the first link, the other two are to explain the meme!)
Funny link
Funny link’s explanation — 1
Funny link’s explanation — 2

Donate for good

Like last week, also this week in this final paragraph I won’t ask you to donate to my blog, but to the poor people who 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
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  • Nikk Mitchell and the great FXG team
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  • Jennifer Granger
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  • Jan Schroeder
  • Kai Curtis
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  • Andrew Sheldon
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  • Andrew Deutsch
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  • Vooiage Technologies
  • Caroline
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  • Alan Smithson
  • Steve R
  • Brentwahn
  • Matt Cool
  • Simplex
  • Gregory F Gorsuch
  • Matias Nassi

And now here you are the link to donate:

Support The Red Cross in Ukraine

(Header image by Fast Travel Games)

The post The XR Week Peek (2024.04.09): Apple releases Spatial Personas, Meta is working on Augments, and more! appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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