May 21, 2024

Capital For Inworld AI, Omni VR Treadmill, Hologate VR, Siggraph’s 50th

Inworld, which makes AI-enabled non-player characters (NPCs), raised $50M Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round, which values the company at $500M. Since Inworld’s founding in July 2021, the company has raised a total of approximately $120 million, which includes the $50 M Series A, following pre-seed and seed rounds totaling nearly $20 million.

Virtuix Raises $5M from its customers through an equity crowdfunding campaign. The company is shipping its Omnidirectional treadmill at the introductory price of $2,595 plus shipping, and includes both the treadmill and a Pico VR headset (market value $699). There are about thirty compatible titles.

HOLOGATE raises €8.3 million Series A. The Munich-based Location Based VR company has 450 locations in 42 countries playing networked games including experiences based on Ghostbusters and Angry Birds. Hologate started an enterprise VR training business during the pandemic, HXGR, which signed the German military as a client. The Series A round was co-led by Bolero Holding and Vester Partners, with Cherry Ventures and other existing investors also participating.

Get Your FOMO Ready: Computer Graphics Biggest Show, Siggraph, Kicks off its 50th Edition Saturday at the LA Convention Center. It’s expected to attract over 15,000 computer, graphics, and animation lovers from all over the world. We’re excited to see Nvidia’s CEO Jensen Huang’s keynote, the VR Cinema, and an only-at-Siggraph project that is a must-see: The Immersive Archive Project from USC is a museum of prototypes and early XR devices, including Mort Heilig’s 1950s Sensorama, which provided a multisensory, immersive cinema experience. The head-mounted display project led by Ivan Sutherland in the late 1960s, which prototyped many of the computational and display technologies (like the “Sword of Damocles” tracking system) still used in contemporary VR and AR media. The USC team is working in collaboration with SCA’s HMH Foundation Moving Image Archive, The Computer History Museum, and expert advisors.

Futureverse Co-Founders, Shara Senderoff and Aaron McDonald, announced the launch of Born Ready, a new $50 million venture fund and studio. Two weeks ago Futureverse, an AI and metaverse technology and content company raised $54M to marry AI and Metaverse.The Auckland, NZ based company, is a roll up of eight companies seeking to create infrastructure and content for an open metaverse. The fund’s primary focus is to accelerate the development and adoption of emerging technology ventures that hold strategic collaboration potential with Futureverse or The Root Network, a public decentralized blockchain network optimized for metaverse apps and experiences.

Somnimum Space makes Strategic Investment in Sansar. The amount of the cash investment was not disclosed. Artur Sychov, CEO of Somnium Space, joined the Board of Sansar. Somnium Space was launched in 2017 with a business plan not unlike Second Life’s, to create a virtual world where people could build their own worlds or palaces, buy or sell things (they have a crypto currency, MANA). Sansar was the VR cousin of Second Life, which developed it but ultimate Sansar was sold to music entrepreneurs whose plan to create the concert venue for the Metaverse hasn’t yet panned out. Among other things, the sites will soon have full avatar interoperability.

Devar uses generative AI to create 3D AR images from text prompts. The company unveiled a new Generative AR Platform this week to bring together neural networks and cloud solutions to create AR content, including MyWebAR by Devar, a service launched in 2021 for creating AR content on the web. Together, it lets people create 3D AR images with simple text prompts. Once you create the 3D image, you can use it in an AR application on iOS or Android.

Visiting New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is about to get meta. The museum is launching Replica, a new hybrid experience that allows visitors to “capture” works of art from the collection and show off virtual versions of them on Roblox.

Meta’s Struggling Social VR World Horizon Gets Custom Games. What’s a company to do when its core, proprietary VR app is overrun by ten year old boys? Make first-party games, of course! Meta launched an in-house studio, Ouro Interactive, to do just that. RoadtoVR gave the game high marks, and it’s available at the Internet’s favorite price (free).

Videos made with cinematic AI are cropping up frequently on social channels and YouTube these days. It seems the faux movie trailer has emerged as a popular genre with AI creators. A guy in Germany made this eight hours for $125.

The four second length of the popular Runway animation AI app means fast cutting, and the montage is a popular trailer technique. There should be a festival. Oh, wait there was. Runway did it earlier this year. They also have their own creative shop, Runway Studios.

Things are changing quickly. Text-to-video app Pica Labs launched last month, and it enables more animation and longer shots. And there are others. Pica Labs, another text-to-video GenAI model, just launched its beta a few weeks ago. Their animations are much more robust, creating new creative possibilities.

This Week in XR is also a podcast hosted by the author of this column, Ted Schilowitz, Futurist, Paramount Global, and Rony Abovitz, founder of Magic Leap. This week our guest is Zak Penn, filmmaker and screenwriter of Ready Player One and, soon, Ready Player Two . We can be found on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.

What We’re Reading

I entered a VR bowling tournament and somehow won $1000 (Hamish Hector/Techradar)

Yes, AI Models Can Get Worse over Time (Lauren Leffer/Scientific American)

This Week in Schadenfreude

Just How Deep Is Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Money Pit? (Dave Lee/Wash Post)

90 percent of Ray-Ban Stories owners aren’t using Meta’s smart glasses (Jay Peters/The Verge)

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