Character AI Is in the Money. There’s another horse in the race to become your personal AI. Popular among young adults (18-24), Character AI enables users to chat with virtual versions of popular celebrities, or they can create their own version. It is a freemium product that charges ten bucks per month for preferred access. In March, former Googlers Noam Shazier and Daniel de Freitas raised $150 from Andreessen Horowitz. Now they need even more cash for more computing, and they’re turning to dad for a billion dollars. Venture capitalists can give them even more.
Meta Quest to enter China through Tencent. After being kicked out of China 14 years ago for flouting government controls (fuck you!) Meta is returning (talk money) with a low-cost Quest that will be released in China by Tencent. This new, lower-cost Quest 3, Quest Lite, or Quest Junior, or whatever they call it, will replace the Quest 2 as a lower-priced alternative in Western markets as well. This is all based on reporting from The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and The Verge, who first reported on the story.
Meta dropped the price of the Quest 2 to $250. Now that the Quest 3 has launched, everyone is dumping their new and used Quest 2s. They cost $199 at Walmart and are less than $60 used on eBay. If money is keeping you away from a headset, here’s your chance to get the lowest-priced HMD, which CNET called the best for VR gaming in 2023. The VR experience is largely the same as the Quest 3. The only drawback is that the outward-facing cameras on the Quest 2 are cheap, so the new pass-through MR experiences won’t look as good.
Atlas raises $6 million to launch 3D generative AI platform. Vienna, Austria-based Atlas’ suite of AI products helps enterprises and next-generation creators generate custom, IP-specific assets for video games, virtual ecosystems and XR experiences. While remaining secret, the company closed two funding rounds: a $4.5M round led by 6th Man Ventures (6MV) and a $1.5M round led by Collab+Currency. Other investors include A16Z Scouting Fund via Shrapnel, Contango, Gangels, GFR Fund, New Renaissance Ventures, Square Enix and Wagmi Ventures.
Image Gen Archive Civitas AI raises $5.1 million from Andreessen. I’ve been accused of being a baseball insider before, but this one is important for a few reasons. CEO and co-founder Justin Meier says the idea of the startup was to create a place for people to share the Gen-AI models they trained to use on Stable Diffusion to find the best text-to- -One of the image generators, but also technically the best. demanding. Models trained with Civit come with their own metadata (signals, settings). If you find a model you like, you cut and paste it into Stable D (kind of too complicated to explain) and viola! Image and world coherence. There are millions of versions of the open-source stable Diffusion running on a local box like my gaming PC, so anything can happen. NSFW. Deep fake. Neither Stable nor Civite can do anything about this.
CreateSafe, the company behind Grimes AI, announced $4.6M funding. In May 2023, Grimes made headlines for cloning her voice and enabling musicians and artists to use her voice in new original songs. They used a platform called Trinity, on which over 1,000 songs have already been created. Trinity offers five tools: voice transformation and cloning, clone and license voice recordings, text-to-audio samples, industry chat, plus distribution and management tools. Polychain led the raise with the participation of Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media and others. Grimes also joins CreateSafe’s advisory board. His manager, Dauda Leonard, is the CEO and co-founder.
AltSpaceVR is on in Microsoft Office Which is ultimately integrating Mesh VR into Microsoft. Now coworkers can meet in Teams Mesh, which looks a lot like AltspaceVR, still without the legs, but in business attire. AltSpace was a popular social VR (aka metaverse) platform that was rescued by Microsoft in late 2018, but it was shut down in 2022, despite community outcry, because it had no business plan. In Teams Mesh (or Mesh Teams?), VR is encouraged but not required. Microsoft is betting that there are many of its 320 million Teams users who want a different, more intense way of staying together when teammates are apart.
Humane’s new AI pin could have taken a longer time to bake. I was on the first list of buyers. It is very attractive. AI can do life logging on pin steroids and teach itself to serve you. But, for $699 and a $25 monthly subscription, you won’t get any of that. No email. No messenger. No voice memos. So what is there to know or learn without that? I am your email.
Ocutrx announces new AR headset for visually impaired people, More than twenty companies are targeting the huge market for the partially sighted and blind population, which numbers 250 million worldwide. Ocutrx’ OcuLenz is a head mounted display designed specifically for people with advanced macular degeneration (AMD) using pixel manipulation software with a patented near-eye optical engine, powered by the Qualcomm XR-2 chipset. Is operated. They are taking orders on their website for Q1 delivery.
The Victory XR has been named a Yas Awards semi-finalist. The Yas Prize is a million dollar award for sustainable, transformative, outstanding and permissionless education. The company also recently announced the launch of its 100th MetaVersity, which features top universities in the country including Harvard and Stanford.
Film director Dave Clark created this cinematic AI trailer in two hours. “It was an exercise in helping me visualize a feature screenplay I wrote years ago. Never before have I been able to create something so close to what I had in my mind to present my film. No obstacles now. “No one is stopping you from telling your story,” he told me in an email. Midjourney was used to create images and Runway was used to add motion. Edited in Adobe Premiere.
Animator launches comprehensive cinematic AI website. John Draper took some time off from his day job running his animation studio, UK-based Stormy Studios, to create a showcase, resource, and community site for those exploring the new art of cinematic AI. Draper characterized the site as “random AI exploration and professional ‘pottering’.” I think it’s pretty neat, Curious Refuge and RunwayML are joining the strong communities that have coalesced around Pika and Zen-AI companies.
XR Tech blogger Tom Friske trained a Tech News GPT. Fisk’s day job is Metaverse Strategist at Accenture in the UK. The Immersive Wire Chat Companion (IWCC) is a GPT based on the latest information on the metaverse and spatial computing, trained on Tom’s excellent weekly newsletter. I asked the IWCC what’s been happening this week and it’s affected most of the stories in this column. It still can’t write anything close to this column and I think we should both be grateful for that.
This Week in XR Is Also a Podcast Hosted by the author of this column, Ted Shilowitz, futurist, Rony Abovitz, founder of Paramount Global and Magic Leap. Our guest this week is Dr. Linda Jacobson, Ph.D., VR pioneer, founding staff member of Wired, who today is the Director of Marketing for HaptX which makes VR gloves for industrial and defense applications. We can be found on Spotify, iTunes and YouTube.
what are we reading
AI is going to completely change the way you use your computer. (Bill Gates/GatesNotes)
What is spatial computing? (Avi Bar-Zeev, Medium)
How virtual reality is becoming a game changer in the business landscape (Pierre Raymond/Due)