The XR Week Peek (2024.04.23): Meta opens up its ecosystem, Pimax launches new headsets, and more!

You may wonder why this newsletter episode is coming a bit later than usual. Well, it’s easy to say: Yesterday I was going to start writing this newsletter when Meta dropped the bomb about opening up its operating system and I was like “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT”. After a few minutes of shock, I thought “I HAVE ABSOLUTELY TO WRITE AN ARTICLE ABOUT IT!” and so I did, but of course, it took me some time to do. And then I thought again “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT”… it’s kinda crazy what happened! Next time, Boz, warn me a bit before making these decisions public, I need some time to prepare myself…

Top news of the week

(Image by Meta)

Meta opens up its operating system to other hardware manufacturers

Yesterday was a crucial day for the VR ecosystem because Meta announced a big change in its strategy. After having been a walled garden for years, it has opened up its ecosystem.
 The first decision in this sense has been opening up its software layer to other VR OEMs. The Quest operating system, store, companion app, and social layer have all been rebranded from Meta Quest to Meta Horizon (e.g. the Meta Quest Store is now called Meta Horizon Store) and have been made available to selected partners. The only constraint for the headsets based on Horizon OS is that they must implement Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets. The first partners onboard are Lenovo and ASUS, which are building headsets for specific purposes (ASUS about gaming, Lenovo about productivity) that will run Meta Horizon runtime. There will also be a partnership with Microsoft about a special Xbox-themed Meta Quest. Meta has stated it will keep manufacturing Meta Quest headsets, but besides them, there will also be other headsets made by third parties running Meta Horizon OS and Meta Horizon Store.
 I think Meta made an amazing decision for three different reasons:

  1. I’m all in for open software, and seeing Meta opening up its ecosystem is great news
  2. The real money in VR is with software: Meta is selling its headsets at cost or under cost, and only makes a profit with content. If more headsets are running its store, it will sell more content and make more money
  3. Meta is making this announcement a few days before the Google I/O event, where Google most likely would have announced its Android XR operating system. By playing in anticipation, Meta is instead proposing itself as the Android of XR and putting in trouble Google, which is new in the field, so it has a less ripe OS and less rich content store to offer to OEMs.

Besides this bombshell news, Meta has also taken another good decision: it has started blurring the lines between App Lab and the official Meta Horizon Store (i.e. the Quest Store). The games on App Lab will appear in a dedicated tab of the Horizon Store, finally getting some visibility and discoverability. This is a great step forward for a lot of small VR titles, and finally a recognition of the importance of indie VR games.

More info (Official blog post where Meta announces the news)
More info (My detailed analysis about the news and what it means)
More info (Meta confirms it will still build Quest headsets)

Other relevant news

Image by Pimax

Pimax announces Pimax Crystal Light and Super

If there is a thing we VR people felt really the need was having more Pimax headsets announced. Luckily, the Chinese company, which still has to deliver devices that it promised years ago, thought it was a good idea to put two new headsets in the mix. The number of launched Pimax headsets raised so to 742.
 Pimax stated that the Crystal headset has been “highly successful” (it doesn’t even appear in the latest Steam Hardware Survey, maybe that is the index of true success), so the company has launched two variants of this headset. The first variant, called Crystal Light, is an affordable version of the device that retains the same 8.3MP (2,880 × 2,880) per-eye resolution as the original headset, while dropping eye-tracking, automatic IPD adjustment, interchangeable lenses, and on-board hardware to enable compatibility with a 60GHz wireless module. The Crystal Light so costs only $700 (compared to the original Crystal at $1,600). Crystal Light should ship next month.
 The other variant, dubbed Crystal Super boasts an impressive 3,840 × 3,840 per-eye resolution, with a set of two swappable lenses that makes you choose if you want to privilege a larger FOV or a higher pixel density. Crystal Super should ship in Q4 2024, but I would bet it is going to have some delays (to continue the tradition).
 Together with these two devices, Pimax also showed the latest prototypes of the wireless module for the Pimax Crystal and announced a $300 price with shipping expected later this year. This device was announced in 2021: as you can see, its production has been very quick.
 All these devices are for sure going to be “highly successful”, too. Something that was a bit less successful was the Pimax Portal, the weird VR cousin of the Nintendo Switch, which has been canceled by the company, according to a post on Kickstarter (thanks Ivan Aguilar for the tip). I’m not going to cry for this.

More info (Integral video of the Pimax launch event)
More info (Pimax announces Crystal variants — Road To VR)
More info (Pimax announces Crystal variants — Upload VR)
More info (Pimax launched new headsets while we are still waiting for the old ones)
More info (Pimax Portal has likely been killed)

Valve Index production may have stopped

According to the very reliable leaker Brad Lynch, Valve has stopped the production of the Valve Index headset. He says that Valve is even running out of some fundamental components because they are not ordering them anymore. It is not going out of stock soon, but eventually, at a certain point, it will happen.
 As someone commented on Reddit, it may be very good news or very bad news. It is very bad news if this means that Valve doesn’t care about VR anymore, so it is abandoning its (now old) flagship headset. It is very good news if this means the launch of a new device, hopefully, the Deckard standalone headset we all want to see. I guess we’ll discover which is the right option over time (the usual long Valve Time…).

More info (Brad Lynch talks about Valve Index)
More info (Reddit post where I found the news)

Meta teases VR program for education

Meta has just teased on its blog a very important piece of news: it is going to launch a new program for universities and schools.
 According to the article, later this year Meta will launch a new education product for Quest devices, and it “will allow teachers, trainers, and administrators to access a range of education-specific apps and features, and make it possible for them to manage multiple Quest devices at once”. This is something like the Meta Quest For Business program, but instead of providing a headset with services tailored for enterprise, it offers services for educators.
 I believe this is very important news. Education is a field where VR can do wonders and many teachers have complained to me about the problems of trying to bring VR to the classroom, including prices, licensing, headset management, and so on. If Meta is trying to offer a good product that solves this issue, many people working in schools will be happy about it. Plus, it is also a strategic move for Meta: if students get used to using a Meta Quest at school, it is very probable that the moment they have to choose a headset to use at home, they will pick up a Quest, too.

More info

News worth a mention

(Image by Meta)

Meta permanently drops the price of Quest 2 to $199

Meta has permanently dropped the price of Quest 2 to $199. Besides that, it has also applied a huge -50% discount to all its accessories. This is clearly a clearance sale to get rid of the remaining Quest 2 in the warehouses before starting to sell the Quest 3S / Quest 3 Lite.

More info (Meta announcing the price drop)
More info (Quest 2 accessories have been discounted too)

Quest v64 runtime adds furniture recognition

Meta has finally added automatic furniture recognition to its Space Setup: after you have configured your room shape, the system tries to detect where are your pieces of furniture and adds them to your room model. There is also another interesting feature in the v64 of the runtime: you can simultaneously use hands and controllers in your home space.

More info

Senseglove Nova 2 is now shipping worldwide

Senseglove, one of the leading VR companies manufacturing gloves for the enterprise sector, has just announced that its latest model, Senseglove Nova 2, is finally shipping worldwide. Interested companies may contact Senseglove via its website to evaluate a purchase.

More info

Vuzix starts online sales of Vuzix Shield

Vuzix has announced that its Vuzix Shield smart safety glasses are now available to the general public. These very lightweight glasses feature two micro-LED displays and can also be used outdoors. These devices are mostly meant for the enterprise sector.

More info

Let these mixed reality demos inspire you

Mixed Reality is one of the biggest trends of the moment and many people are experimenting with it. Sometimes some of these experiments are very inspiring and so I want to share them with you all hoping that they can give you ideas for future applications.
 This week, one of the most inspiring things I have seen has been a prototype showcased by Jesse Schell where four people can all meet remotely in the same space, with every one of them seeing their room in AR, and the room of the other people in VR. The various rooms all merge together to create a big common hybrid space between the players: it is like all the various living rooms are merged to create a huge living room where all these people can play together. This is an amazing way of implementing multiplayer in mixed reality and I suggest you watch the short video here below about it. It became pretty viral on X.
 The second little demo is about a track for mini-machines shown in mixed reality, where there is a part of the roads that goes across a wall creating a very cool effect.

More info (Jesse Schell’s amazing social MR prototype)
More info (Racing track in mixed reality)

Upload VR Showcase is back!

In the second half of June 2024, Upload will host the Summer edition of its famous Upload VR Showcase. If you are developing some cool game you want to promote, feel free to reach out to the Upload team.

More info

Enjoy the Meta Quest Sale

Meta’s April Mega Sale has brought heavy discounts to games and applications on the Meta Ques… ehm Horizon store. If you’re looking to buy some games, go to the Store and spend some money! Ah, before I forget: Senua’s Sacrifice is more than 90% off on Steam.

More info (Quest April Mega Sale)
More info (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice discounted)

Some news on content

  • Into the Radius 2 is coming to PC VR headsets this summer via Steam Early Access. You can already wishlist it and a new trailer is available
  • COLD VR is a game like SUPERHOT, but with inverted mechanics (time goes slower when you move). There is a free demo available on Steam
  • Codemasters and EA revealed its next official video game of the Formula One World Championship, F1 24, is coming to consoles and PCs on May 31st. F1 24 is set to launch with PC VR support
  • Synth Riders launched ’80s Mixtape with a trailer inspired by the video clip of Take On Me
  • The Flip, a new VR zombie multiplayer shooter, arrives on the Meta Quest platform on April 18
  • Downtown Club, a VR racing game with full physical controls, launches in early access this June on Quest App Lab
  • Delta Emulator is a new emulator of Nintendo consoles for Apple Vision Pro
  • VR mech roguelite Big Shots launches on the main VR platforms on April 18 for $24.99
  • Rust-inspired VR multiplayer survival game Strayed launched on Quest App Lab and Steam Early Access for $19.99
  • A new mod lets you play World of Warcraft in Virtual Reality
  • Stealth social game Mannequin is set to release in early access on Quest via App Lab starting on May 2nd, priced at $20
  • Smalland: Survive the Wilds VR is a new open-world survival crafting game reaching Quest soon
  • Upload VR has written its usual ICYMI post containing many minor pieces of VR news

More info (Into The Radius 2)
More info (COLD VR)
More info (F1 24)
More info (Synth Riders)
More info (The Flip)
More info (Downtown Club)
More info (Delta Emulator)
More info (Big Shots)
More info (Strayed)
More info (World Of Warcraft)
More info (Mannequin)
More info (Smalland VR)
More info (ICYMI)

Some reviews about content

  • Soul Covenant has been blasted with a 3/10 score on Road To VR
  • Upload tried the demo of COLD VR and found it interesting, but it still needs work
  • Escape Simulator VR seems to be a good way to play this game again, but this time by feeling immersed in it
  • Metacity Patrol is still an early-access VR game, but it is already cool because it looks like a simplified version of LOW-FI that can run on standalone devices
  • Umurangi Generation VR is a game about photography that makes strong use of storytelling

More info (Soul Covenant)
More info (COLD VR)
More info (Escape Simulator VR)
More info (Metacity Patrol)
More info (Umurangi Generation)

Other news

The Call For Scientific Presentations for Stereopsia (one of the most important European events about XR) is now open

Learn more

Ben Lang has written another one of his very interesting posts about UX design in VR, this time about Beat Saber

Learn more

Upload VR has written a great article summarizing all the little quarrel from last week between Meta’s Boz and Palmer Luckey

Learn more

BFI can provide a small grant of up to 15K for storytelling experiences whose director is based in the UK

Learn more

Insta360 has released the first affordable 8K 360 camera

Learn more

I’ve participated in a whitepaper about the trends in XR training

Learn more

Jesse Schell has talked about the present and the future of VR gaming in a quite objective way, forecasting VR gaming being around 15% of the whole gaming market by 2040
 (Thanks Rob Cole for the tip)

Learn more

Talking about AI, many articles point out how ChatGPT is impoverishing the quality of content on the Internet, and also impacting the English used in Scientific Research. We must be careful

Learn more / 1
Learn more / 2
Learn more / 3
Learn more / 4

News from partners (and friends)

Discover Inviewer

A team of VR friends just launched Inviewer, a free Mixed Reality library of Spatial STEM simulations for Apple Vision Pro and Meta Quest. Think of Inviewer as an interactive spatial Wikipedia for immersive educational content. At launch, the topics included are Chemistry, Human Gestation, and Engineering. Learn more

See the time on the Apple Vision Pro

My friends at FXG have just launched Sacred Seconds: Spacial Clocks, an immersive artistic clock app designed exclusively for Apple Vision Pro.
Discover it on Vision Store

Watch a DJ Set on the Vision Pro

The team behind the popular DJ-ing app Djay has done a fantastic spatial DJ Set with the artist Juicy M using the djay Pro AI app and Apple Vision Pro. A very interesting performance, that you can also enjoy on Youtube.
Watch it on Youtube

Sponsored Area

Advertise on The Ghost Howls!

If you want to promote your VR product on my website, you can do that via dedicated banners, or mentions in this area of the newsletter. An audience of passionate people about virtual reality will get to know about what you do. Click the link below to get more info about the advertisement options on this platform!
Discover advertising

Some XR fun

Well, the resemblance is striking, indeed…
Funny link

I wouldn’t accept this generous offer because the money amount is in British Pounds, and I would lose money by converting it to Euros
Funny link

This is how I will do my hair next time
Funny link 

…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand the screen is gone
Funny link

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
  • Terry xR. Schussler
  • Ilias Kapouranis
  • Paolo Leoncini
  • Nikk Mitchell and the great FXG team
  • Jake Rubin
  • Alexis Huille
  • Raghu Bathina
  • Chris Koomen
  • Cognitive3D
  • Wisear (Yacine Achiakh)
  • Masterpiece X
  • Dimo Pepelyashev
  • 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
  • KaihatsuJai
  • Christopher Boyd
  • Sb
  • Pieter Siekerman
  • Enrico Poli
  • Vooiage Technologies
  • Caroline
  • Liam James O’Malley
  • Hillary Charnas
  • Wil Stevens
  • Brian Peiris
  • Francesco Salizzoni
  • 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 Meta)

The post The XR Week Peek (2024.04.23): Meta opens up its ecosystem, Pimax launches new headsets, and more! appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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