The past week has been a pretty interesting one for the tech world: between Microsoft Ignite, Unity Unite, and the OpenAI drama, there has been a lot to follow. I’ll try to summarize all of that, especially for what concerns the announcements related to our XR space.
And in this newsletter, you will also find some cool freebies: the keys to get a cool VR game for free, and a huge discount (… and maybe even more) to go to the Immersive Tech Week in Rotterdam!
Top news of the week
OpenAI drama shakes the AI ecosystem
(This is not directly a piece of XR-related news, but given the importance of what is happening, and the fact that AI and XR are together the foundation of our future relationship with technology, I decided to put it the first place in this roundup anyway)
OpenAI has been in the last months the hottest tech startup: its generative AI products like ChatGPT have literally created an earthquake in the tech sector. But since Friday the company has started auto-destroying itself, with a series of events that have been more interesting to follow than most Netflix series (and I bet that someone soon will make a movie/series about it). Summarizing:
- On Friday, the OpenAI board fired Sam Altman, the CEO, cofounder, and public face of the company. It seems that the coup has been led by Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI Chief Scientist
- Altman has been fired with little notice to him, and even to OpenAI investors. When Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which invested more than $10B in OpenAI, discovered the news, he got furious
- The reasons for this operation are not clear: rumors said it was a mix of the board claiming that Altman was not totally honest with it, and the fact that under Altman’s lead, OpenAI was running too fast towards commercialization. Let’s all remember that OpenAI is a non-profit, which has a per-profit branch. The no-profit is inviting everyone to slow down the pace of AI development and commercialization for the good of humanity
- After the news went public, Greg Brockman, president of OpenAI, and some key lead scientists resigned. OpenAI investors got angry. The whole community went crazy and asked for the return of Altman on social media
- Rumors started about the company wanting to get Altman back, but Altman asked for the whole board to resign if they wanted him to come back
- Altman published a post on X/Twitter showing himself inside the OpenAI building again with a Guest pass. It seemed at this point that his Uno Reverse Card to make the whole board fire itself was working
- The board surprisingly changed its mind, didn’t resign, and appointed as CEO the previous CEO of Twitch, Emmett Shear
- Satya Nadella then surprisingly announced that Altman and Brockman have joined Microsoft to lead a new special division about AI. All previous OpenAI employees are welcome to join the division, too
- Mira Murati, the CTO of OpenAI, led a revolt of the employees, with all of them starting to write on Twitter that “OpenAI is nothing without its people”. Altman started answering to all of them with heart emojis
- Murati then wrote a letter to the board, stating that she and all the employees signing it were going to leave OpenAI for Microsoft if the board didn’t resign and take Altman back. The letter has been signed also by Ilya Sutskever, the guy who in the beginning seemed to have led the coup against Altman. This is the moment we all realized we had no idea what the f*ck was going on there.
- In the end, more than 90% of employees signed the letter, some investors are working to bring Altman back, but Altman is still in doubt about what to do, Nadella is saying that he’s happy in both cases as long as Altman is in charge of an AI team that works in collaboration with Microsoft
The story is not over yet… you are still in time to grab some popcorn… It doesn’t happen every day to see a $100B startup suiciding itself for obscure reasons…
(I have some serious opinions on what is happening, too, but I want to wait a week to understand better what is happening before writing them)
More info (Tweet summarizing what is happening)
More info (The board firing Altman)
More info (Some reasons why the board has fired Altman)
More info (Discussions were happening to bring back Altman)
More info (Staff turmoil begins)
More info (Altman is back in OpenAI building)
More info (Microsoft hires Altman and Brockman)
More info (Mira Murati leads the revolt of employees)
More info (The guy who seemed to lead the coup joins the revolt of employees)
More info (OpenAI employees sign the letter asking the board to resign)
Other relevant news
Unity announces Unity 6 and unlocks Vision Pro development
At its Unite event, Unity announced a new version of its engine, Unity 6. Unity 6 takes back the original way of specifying engine versions and abandons the confusing one that bound a new Unity version to the year it was released. Unity 6 brings a lot of innovations from the previous version, giving new and better tools to game developers.
Interestingly, Unity announced the new version with this sentence: “Unity 6 will come with major performance enhancements and accelerated multiplayer game creation, as well as early access WebGPU support and deeper XR device support”. It means that for Unity, XR support is one of the paramount features of Unity 6, and so an important development area for the engine. And let’s not forget that also WebGPU may lead to finally boost the graphical quality of WebXR, so may be relevant for our field, too.
One of the consequences of the launch of Unity 6 is that Unity also finally released to the public the Unity beta package to develop for VisionOS, so that finally all of us Unity developers can start developing for the Apple Vision Pro, trying our prototypes on the emulator. This is great news… but there are two problems related to it:
- Currently, this integration package is available only to paying Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise subscribers. I think this choice makes sense if it is a temporary one: limiting the package to Pro subscribers means de facto rolling out slowly the SDK, so that Unity and Apple can fix eventual problems before the rollout to all Unity developers
- Reading the compatibility list, it is possible to see that this package is compatible with almost nothing. Basic components like Camera, Canvas, and light baking are only partially supported (I mean… even CAMERA is not supported…how the hell I show stuff?!), and this means that porting an existing application to the Vision Pro may be a huge undertaking
I’ll leave you here below some resources so that you can start investigating development for the Vision Pro. We at VRROOM have Unity Enterprise subscriptions, so I’ll start digging into it pretty soon…
More info (Unity announces Unity 6)
More info (VentureBeat talks about Unity 6)
More info (The e-mail I received about the Vision OS package released)
More info (Introductory post to VisionOS development in Unity)
More info (Official page about VisionOS development)
More info (VisionOS compatibility with Unity packages)
Meta announces business offering for Quest
Finally, Meta has launched its new Quest For Business program, so that enterprises that plan to use a Meta Quest for training, public showcases, or other purposes, have a clear idea of the license they have to purchase.
First of all, Meta removed the previous confusion that there was about the price of the hardware: the enterprise Quest is going to cost exactly like its consumer counterpart. But the companies that want to use it have to pay for a monthly subscription. There are two tiers of subscription available:
- Individual Mode costs $15/month per headset and enables companies to give a headset to each employee, e.g. for remote working. Devices operating in individual mode can be managed via MDMs like Microsoft Intune;
- Shared Mode costs $24/month per headset and enables companies to have some headsets with which many people can have a single session. This is useful for instance for public demos, or for training sessions, where multiple employees use the same headset one after the other
Dedicated assistance is also available as a service, but it should be paid separately.
I think this new business model is much clearer than the previous one because I always found confusing that the same headset may have two different prices depending on if it was bought for enterprise or personal uses. This is good for companies that want to use Quest in their production processes. At the same time, I think that Meta is not pushing much on its business offerings (and in fact this price clarification arrived many months later than expected) so probably the field will still be dominated by Pico and HTC for any foreseeable time.
Varjo is teasing the XR-4 headset
Finnish company Varjo is inviting people to follow an online “special event” where it says viewers will “discover the future of VR/XR”. In the communication about the event, there are a bunch of pictures with the number 4 printed on them. It doesn’t take a scientist to understand that they are clearly teasing the launch of an upcoming Varjo XR-4 mixed-reality headset. Of course, there is no official confirmation about this, but for what other reasons the company should share a number 4 everywhere? Because after the event there will be only 4 employees (like in OpenAI)? Because the next Varjo headset is going to cost 4 dollars? (Varjo Cardboard incoming?) Because “Half-Life 4 confirmed”? I mean, we know it Varjo, it’s the XR-4.
The online-only event will take place on November 27th at 10 am PT (7 pm CET). Get your wallet ready.
News worth a mention
Vuzix INCOGNITO technology hides the fact that you’re wearing smartglasses
This is a piece of news that I’ve found very relevant but was ignored by many XR magazines. Vuzix has created a technology related to optical waveguide design for see-through AR smart glasses that is going to hide that you are using AR glasses. This technology is called INCOGNITO and it makes sure that if someone is looking at you, he doesn’t see the reflection of AR content on the lenses in front of your eyes. The lenses are going to appear as purely transparent, like the one of standard glasses.
This has two enormous advantages:
- People can not see what you are seeing. So, if you are using AR glasses to read the latest number of Playboy, no one is going to notice that. This is a very important privacy feature
- People won’t look at you like a dork. Having a visible display in front of your eyes is cool only if your name is Tony Stark (I’m good only for the “Tony” side), but otherwise, you look strange to people. With this technology, the lenses of your AR glasses will look empty and transparent to the outside world, so everyone will feel like you are just wearing standard glasses.
I think this is truly a breakthrough technology to increase the usability of AR glasses, and a must-have if we want AR glasses to become mainstream. Great job, Vuzix.
Some news on Apple Vision Pro
Like every week, I have some pieces of news for you about the Apple Vision Pro:
- According to Mark Gurman, the headset should have been launched in January, to still exploit the spending wave of the Christmas holidays, but it seems that now the new expected date is March 2024, so the company has more time to improve the distribution channels. Of course, I’m talking about the US launch
- It seems that the external EyeSight display can show more than just the eyes of the user. In a new video, it is possible to see a user scanning her face with the Vision Pro, and the external display shows some images that help her in the process
- There are already rumors about the second version of the Vision Pro, which should be codenamed Alaska. From the first information, it looks like an incremental improvement, that is having a similar list of hardware components (e.g. cameras) to the previous one, just with improved characteristics and design. The device should be out in 2026
Microsoft brings Mesh to Teams in January
Microsoft just had its annual Ignite event, and these two important pieces of news relevant to our sector have been announced.
The first is about Microsoft Mesh, which is coming to Teams In January 2024. Microsoft Mesh should have been a framework to enable all developers to create rich XR experiences, but eventually, its purpose has been changed, and it has been integrated into Microsoft Teams. Thanks to Microsoft Mesh, we will be able to create immersive meetings in Teams, and meet with our remote colleagues in a more realistic (and immersive) way. It’s a bit of a pity that Mesh won’t be a framework for everyone to create their own Metaverse platform, but being integrated inside Teams makes sure that it will be employed every month but more than 300M people, which is very good.
It’s the moment of AI, and Microsoft has announced at Ignite that is going to create AI assistants (dubbed “copilots”) for basically everything. They will also be added to Microsoft Dynamics 365 on HoloLens, and a very cool video made by Microsoft shows why this is very relevant. Frontline workers can operate with their hands on the machine, and speak in a natural way with the copilot to perform the desired operations (e.g. opening a virtual manual at a certain page). In the enterprise maintenance sector, AR + AI have already proven to be useful with a real use case.
More info (Mesh is coming to Microsoft Teams in January)
More info (Copilot is coming to Microsoft Teams, too)
More info (Using Dynamics 365 with Artificial Intelligence)
More info (Very cool video showcasing how AR+AI can help frontline workers)
Immersed adds standalone mode, but increases the price
Immersed has decided to increase the preorder price of its upcoming Visor headset from $750 to $950. The device, which is aimed at productivity, is going to have some bonus features for that price raise: the most important of them is the standalone mode. The headset should so be able to work on its own, without the need for a companion PC.
As with all the products claiming a lot of upcoming features, I just wait and see if they deliver…
Shoot and watch spatial videos with the latest iPhone
iPhone 15 Pro is able to shoot Spatial Videos that can be watched inside the Apple Vision Pro. It is already possible to shoot them even if the headset has not been released yet. And someone has already found a way to watch them inside the Meta Quest.
Meta starts strategic partnership with MediaTek
MediaTek announced a partnership with Meta to develop custom silicon for future AR glasses at its 2023 summit. Meta is a strong partner of Qualcomm, but it seems that it is partnering with different suppliers to have more chances of succeeding in its XR rush. MediaTek may be a name that doesn’t say much to you, but it is actually the manufacturer of the SoC used inside PSVR 2.
Ocutrx is a new AR headset for the visually impaired
Ocutrx is launching a see-through, stand alone AR headset early next year: the OcuLenz. Oculenz provides vision correction to patients with Advanced Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in adults over 60. The trick is to show more information to the user in the peripheral area of the vision, where the ability to see is much better than in the central area.
The OcuLenz for AMD will have an MSRP of $6,000.
Virtual Reality is helping patients use their hands again
Australian company Neuromersiv has created the Ulysses VR Upper Limb Therapy System which is helping people with brain injury to use their hands and arms again. Thanks to a glove and some VR minigames with a reward system, the system helps the brain of the patients find new paths to move hands and arms after the usual ones have been damaged. The brain can form new paths thanks to the so-called “neuroplasticity”, that is the ability to form new neural pathways to recover lost functions.
It’s always great when XR can improve the lives of people!
Enjoy some Black Friday deals
Black Friday is coming and some interesting deals have already been revealed. See the ones I’ve found until now in the links below!
Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR has been launched and reviews are positive
Ubisoft has launched Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR for Meta Quest. The game got the interest of many people in the community and the reviews are overall very positive. It has to be said, though, that the reviews of the most important VR magazines are good but not fantastic: the game got a 7.5/10 on Road to VR and 4/5 stars on Upload VR because of some little problems here and there. The impression I had is that it is a very good game to play, but it is not a game that is setting a new standard for the industry as Half-Life: Alyx.
More info (Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR review — Road To VR)
More info (Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR review — Upload VR)
More info (Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR review from a Redditor)
More info (Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR — Roundup of reviews)
Some news about content
- Pillow, the mixed reality app by Lucas Rizzotto to be played in the bed, is out on the Meta Store for $10
- A new video unveils new gameplay details about Arizona Sunshine 2
- Tennis-inspired game Racket Club arrives on December 14 on the major VR platforms for $25. On Pico and Quest, it also has a mixed-reality mode
- Banter is a VRChat clone all developed in WebXR by the SideQuest team. I tried it and it looks a bit rough, but it is impressive if you think it’s all made in WebXR
- Pavlov Shack has been finally launched on the official Meta Quest Store
- The horror game Affected: The Asylum has been delayed until next year
- Roguelite adventure game Ironstrike has been released on Quest
- Terra Alia is a fantasy RPG meant to teach languages in a gamified way. It arrives on November 30 on the Meta Quest platform for $20
- Richie’s Plank Experience gets a major upgrade on Quest with enhanced visuals, mixed reality support, and more
- Among Us VR will have a full launch on Pico on December, 5!
More info (Pillow)
More info (Arizona Sunshine 2)
More info (Racket Club)
More info (Banter)
More info (Pavlov Shack)
More info (Affected: The Asylum)
More info (Ironstrike)
More info (Terra Alia)
More info (Richie’s Plank Experience)
More info (Among Us VR)
After the disaster of the Elite Strap for Quest 2, Meta has thought well to make a mess also with the Elite Battery Strap for Quest 3
Meta is starting a new wave of concerts inside Horizon Worlds with a concert of the popular K-pop band Blackpink
Every year there is an interesting survey about social VR worlds published by social VR users Mila and Nem, and this year makes no exception
A guide on how to record 3D videos by just using your Quest 3
Meta has disbanded its team working on responsible AI. That has not been a responsible move
News from partners (and friends)
Mind Forest Season 1
Enjoy the first episode of a series of videos of the amazing Nikk Mitchell called Mind Forest. In the video linked below, Nikk interviews HTC’s Alvin Wang Graylin.
Get free keys for AVO Escape Space!
AVO Escape Space is a VR game bringing escape rooms to the outer space. From the trailer it looks very cool and it is arriving on November 22 on SteamVR, after it was already available on Quest.
Do you want to play it for free? Well, enjoy these free keys given to me by the team. As usual, first come, first served!
Meta Quest Keys:
Get a SUPER discount for the Immersive Tech Week!
Immersive Tech Week is one of the most important XR events of the year. This year is happening in Rotterdam, from November 28 to December 1 and it features important speakers like Alvin Graylin, Lucas Rizzotto, Mel Slater, and Jean-Michel Jarre.
If you want to go there, there is a super special discount code for all you my readers:
50-ITW_SkarredGhost. With it, you can get a -50% off the ticket price!
Actually, there is also the opportunity to have a free ticket! I got a few for some lucky fans. If you want to try the luck, please e-mail me at tonyvt AT skarredghost DOT com… and let’s see if you are one of the winners that will enter for free! Learn more
Infomediji Is Hiring!
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Push the boundaries of the virtual reality industry with us as we create a cross-platform, VR video streaming metaverse. As the team behind the DeoVR video streaming platform, there are more than 100 talented people from all over the world waiting for you to join them.
Who Are We Looking For
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Senior Unity Developer
Join our Unity team and be at the forefront of innovation in the global VR video streaming ecosystem. If you’re passionate about fine-tuning Unity components and creating groundbreaking VR experiences, we want you to be a part of our team, shaping the future of immersive technology.
Backend PHP Developer (Core)
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Some XR fun
This article was meant to be a serious one, but considering it says that the Gear VR controller is one of the best VR controllers of 2023, it deserves to stay in the “fun” section…
This Meta Japanese trailer should be a serious one, too, but the transitions between the anime figures and the potato Meta avatars make it a bit laughable
I believe I can fly, but actually, I can not
Someone reshared one of my best tweets from the Apple Event where Apple unveiled the Apple Vision Pro.
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
- 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
- Wisear (Yacine Achiakh)
- Masterpiece X
- Jennifer Granger
- Jason Moore
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- 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
- Ristband (Anne McKinnon & Roman Rappak)
- Stephen Robnett
- Pieter Siekerman
- Enrico Poli
- Vooiage Technologies
- Liam James O’Malley
- Hillary Charnas
- Wil Stevens
- Brian Peiris
- Francesco Salizzoni
- Dimo Pepelyashev
- Alan Smithson
- Steve R
- Matt Cool
- Gregory F Gorsuch
- Matias Nassi
And now here you are the link to donate:
(Header image by Sam Altman)
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