April 13, 2024

Easter has just gone by, and I hope that whether you celebrate it or not, you had a wonderful Sunday together with the people you love. I’ve personally enjoyed some time together with my relatives and also had a lot of good food (including a pistachio-flavored Easter cake).
 Talking about things I enjoy doing, I’ve also written an April Fools joke on my blog about the upcoming Valve Deckard, gifting a smile to a few people in the community. If you want to read it, you can find it at this link, while at this other link, you can find a list of the best pranks announced today in the tech world. I love the first of April because it gives us the occasion to have a bit of fun… and you?

Top news of the week

(Image by Oculus/Meta)

It’s the 10th anniversary of Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus

10 years have passed since Facebook acquired the VR startup Oculus. It’s a very important anniversary to celebrate because that announcement was a big defining moment for immersive realities: Facebook’s endorsement made all people realize that VR could be the technology of the future. The hype generated by the news was huge and there was electricity all around the XR ecosystem. Investments started flowing, and all the big brands started wondering what their VR strategy could be.
 Since 2014, Facebook’s money and commitment have accelerated the development and awareness around XR in an unprecedented way, and we all should thank the company now called Meta if we are at the point that even Apple released its own XR headset this year. Of course, it’s been not all bells and whistles, and there are a lot of things that Facebook/Meta did over the years that I didn’t like at all, from the firing of Palmer Luckey to the mandatory Facebook login, not to mention the walled garden it has created as its ecosystem. But for the good or the bad, from that day in 2014, VR was not the same anymore. And I hope that in 10 years from now, I can say the same statement again, and comment on its mainstream adoption.

More info (Palmer Luckey tweeting about the anniversary)
More info (A reddit post on the topic)
More info (Upload VR’s editorial on the anniversary)

Other relevant news

(Image by Apple)

Apple is going to announce VisionOS updates at WWDC 2024

Today’s roundup of Apple Vision Pro news starts with the reveal of the days of WWDC 2024: June 10th — 14th. This event will mark one year since the announcement of the Apple Vision Pro, a defining moment for immersive realities (of the same proportions as Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus). At this year’s event, Apple will announce news on VisionOS, with some people speculating that this may be the moment when VisionOS 2.0 is unveiled. The reliable Apple analyst Mark Gurman writes that a more substantial visionOS 2.0 update will release this year and is codenamed “Constellation” and WWDC may be a good moment for its reveal. One of the most awaited features for Vision Pro is Spatial Personas, and we all hope they will be part of the new VisionOS update.
More info (Apple WWDC announcement)
More info (VisionOS 2 may feature Spatial Personas)

The Vision Pro may also be released in China sooner than we thought. Speaking at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed Vision Pro will hit the mainland China market sometime this year. And it seems that Tencent may be a partner in this launch, with the Chinese giant reportedly working on launching some of its very popular apps (like WeChat) on Apple’s device.
More info (Vision Pro launching in China)
More info (Tencent may support Apple in China)

Talking about input and controls, an interesting article on Road To VR shows how currently, hand tracking on the Vision Pro has a higher latency than the Quest 3. But since hands may be unreliable for professional input in XR, Apple is reportedly working on a special Apple Pencil that can work with its headset, so that to let creators create XR artwork with more precision.
More info (Hand trackings’ comparison)
More info (Apple Pencil on Vision Pro)

Regarding the content, Apple has released its first piece of immersive video content for MLS (Major League Soccer), and its high-definition video and audio have already astonished the reviewers.
Last week, I reported to you about some people being able to play VR games on the Vision Pro: well, the experienced XR journalist Ian Hamilton has tried Half-Life: Alyx played (actually, streamed) on the device via ALVR and found the experience pretty clunky. But he was still amazed that something like this was possible.
More info (MLS Content)
More info (Half-Life: Alyx)

We have also the first sale on the Vision Pro: as reported by ZDNet, there is a $200-off deal exclusively on Woot!, but it only applies to the 256GB model with the Solo Knit Band and Dual Loop Band in small or medium sizes. Still, for some people that are interested exactly in these characteristics, it is a good discount.
More info (AVP Discount)

Tencent may be still partnering with Meta for a Chinese Quest launch

A few months ago, a report by a journalist informed us that Meta was working together with Tencent to bring the Quest to China. Meta would provide the hardware, earning money from the sales of the devices, while Tencent the localization of software, earning money from the app store sales. Tencent is not new to such partnerships, as you have also seen above with its potential partnership with Apple.
 A few weeks ago, a new report informed us that the partnership was suspended, while now, The Information says that actually, the project is going on, with Meta and Tencent still planning to release a Chinese version of the Quest 3 Lite / Quest 3S. This has been an emotional rollercoaster: I can’t wait for the next report announcing the end of the partnership again.
 This collaboration would be an interesting piece of news because finally Meta could sell its devices in China and compete also in the Far East with Pico and Apple.

More info

News worth a mention

Meta Quest 3 has better retention than previous headsets

At GDC 2024 Chris Pruett, Meta’s Director of Content Ecosystem, said that Quest 3 owners return to continuously use apps at a higher rate, meaning that the device has higher retention. Retention is a very important metric because it’s useless to sell 20M headsets if they take dust on a shelf, like cardboards did. The fact that Quest 3 has higher retention is so very good news.
 Anyway, we must be wary of corporate communications: we don’t know if the device has higher retention because of some specific feature of it (e.g. better graphics in games due to higher computational power), which would be good, or because the people that have upgraded to the $500+ Quest 3 are the ones that are more into VR and so of course have more retention, which would be deceptive. I guess when the Quest 3S/Lite is released, we’ll know more about which one of the two explanations was correct.

More info

Quest 3 passthrough to get an upgrade

In the latest runtime for Quest, v64, passthrough on Quest 3 has upgraded its clarity, especially when you are looking at screens. So reading the text on your smartphone while wearing the Quest 3 has become easier. This is very cool.

More info

Meta discontinues apps’ support for Quest 1

Meta has taken another step towards the discontinuation of Quest 1. All new apps created after April 30, 2024, cannot list Quest 1 as supported hardware. Existing apps can still release updates involving Quest 1, though. The sunset of Quest 1, while sad, is necessary, because the device is now used by a small percentage of users and it’s very hard for developers to support it because of its very low computational power.

More info

A few weeks ago, Elon Musk’s Neuralink announced that the device had already been implanted into a living human. This week, the company showed him in a livestream video: his name is Noland Arbaugh, he is paralyzed below the shoulders, and thanks to the chip can now play online chess and the game Civilization VI. He said the operation went fine, and while the device is not perfect, it still allows him to do things that he could not do before.
 This is a remarkable result for Neuralink, but being this a video made by the company itself, let’s take it with a grain of salt. That “have run into some issues” that he says in the video may hide a lot of problems.

More info

Movie directors create the first short movies with Sora

OpenAI has let some award-winning movie directors create short movies with Sora, the generative AI system that is able to produce short videos from a textual prompt. The results are interesting, with a series of surreal movies like the one about the life of a guy that has a balloon instead of the head. The creators commented on their work saying that in their opinion Sora is especially good at making surreal movies, and that AI let them easily play with concepts that were very hard or expensive to recreate otherwise.
 This piece of news got a lot of hype, with people commenting everywhere that now everyone can make cool short movies almost for free. I think it would deserve a better analysis. I agree it’s cool, it’s mindblowing that people can create movies by just writing textual prompts. I also add that it’s interesting that the creators mentioned that AI is better for creating surrealist movies, it shows that there is a “language” of communication of AI movies, and currently the best way to exploit this tool is for this kind of movies. But, on the other side, I invite you to watch the videos: they are uncanny, weird, and full of issues: the guy with the balloon head is different in every shot, both himself and the shape of its balloon head, so the video is completely incoherent. In fact, if creators say that “AI is best for surreal content” it means that currently, it is not able to create realistic content: in surrealism, you can do weird trippy things, so all errors of the generation are legit and this hides the current problems of the technology.

More info

IDC forecasts an increase in shipment of XR headsets in 2024

The latest report by the industry analysts at IDC states that “Despite shipments for AR and VR headset declining by 23.5 percent last year, new IDC data points to shipments in 2024 rising by 44.2 to 9.7 million units”. I find this interesting, because usually when analysts start reporting positively about XR, it means that we are exiting the winter/autumn stage of the technology: investors read the reports of analysts, increase their investments in the field, which brings new values to the XR ecosystem, which brings new positivity…starting a virtuous loop.

More info

Enjoy Pico and PlayStation sales

It’s not only Meta and Steam: also Pico and PlayStation are having their Spring Sales. Head to their stores and get some good deals on some cool games!

More info (Sales on PlayStation Store)
More info (Sales on Pico Store)

Discover 3D Billiards

An indie game about billiards was featured on Upload VR because of its interesting concept. It lets you play billiards, but fully in 3D, inside a cube. You must watch the video, it is very intriguing.

More info

Some news about content

  • Popular rhythm shooter Metal: Hellsinger is getting a VR version, which is releasing this year for all the major VR headsets
  • Escape Simulator VR arrives next week as a free update for the flatscreen edition on Steam
  • Expansion VR brings a sci-fi auto battler RTS with deck-building mechanics to Quest and Steam
  • Some Assembly Required is a sandbox to create robots and mechs that looks intriguing and fun
  • Medieval Dynasty New Settlement is a new VR survival game for Quest costing $29.99. You need to face many challenges to guarantee the establishment of your future dynasty
  • Survival horror OVRDARK: A Do Not Open Story has been launched this week on PSVR 2, with future platforms to come in the future
  • Runaways is a spatial endless runner designed specifically for Apple Vision Pro and it is coming in April 2024

More info (Metal: Hellsinger VR)
More info (Escape Simulator VR)
More info (Expansion VR)
More info (Some Assembly Required)
More info (Medieval Dynasty)
More info (OVRDark: A Do Not Open Story)
More info (Runaways)

Some reviews about content

  • VR Platform game Max Mustard was praised by Road To VR because it is absolutely well-made and it is fun
  • Anarchitects is a powerful and flexible VR creative sandbox, but it also shows some jankiness
  • RAGER lets you slice people following the rhythm of the music and at the current stage, it is a fun concept

More info (Max Mustard)
More info (Anarchitects)
More info (RAGER)

Other news

Road To VR analyzes the UX design of the game Stormland

Learn more

Meta overhauls Workrooms, fixing many problems but removing the whiteboard

Learn more

Meta is only allowing some developers to remove the Guardian from their mixed-reality apps

Learn more

Xiaomi announces its very lightweight smartglasses

Learn more

Charlie Fink wrote a very good summary of the best immersive pieces he saw at SXSW

Learn more

Nathie has been able to try the latest Senseglove gloves

Learn more

Osmo promises to be able to “teleport” scents
 (Thanks David for the tip!)

Learn more

Lumicore announces that it has been able to manufacture MicroOLED displays with a much higher yield than the competitors

Learn more

News from partners (and friends)

Do you need a good UX designer?

I know an incredibly talented UX designer for XR experiences who has just been laid off. He’s one of the most talented people I have worked with, also because he has a very long experience with XR. In case you are in need of such a person, get in touch with me and I will do the intro.
Ask for an introduction

Put your sponsored news here!

There are no sponsors this time, so I just use this space to wish you a wonderful week. And in case you may be interested in having your news put under the spotlight in this newsletter, get in touch with me, and I’ll put it in this section next week!
Get in touch

Some XR fun

It’s good to see so many new features for PSVR 2!
Funny link

Poor PCs…
Funny link

An interesting review of the headset of the 3 Body Problem series…
Funny link

If you have ever had a low-power battery inside your Quest controllers, you know the pain…
Funny link

Crappy UI is probably a tradition of the team…
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
  • Immersive.international
  • Nikk Mitchell and the great FXG team
  • Jake Rubin
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  • Dimo Pepelyashev
  • Jennifer Granger
  • Jason Moore
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  • Jan Schroeder
  • Kai Curtis
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  • Juan Sotelo
  • Andrew Sheldon
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  • Andrew Deutsch
  • Fabien Benetou
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  • Marco “BeyondTheCastle” Arena
  • Eloi Gerard
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  • Alex P
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  • Donald P
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  • Ristband (Anne McKinnon & Roman Rappak)
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  • Sb
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  • Enrico Poli
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  • Caroline
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  • 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 Oculus/Meta)

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