Epic continues to run the table when it comes to the three Ms: Metaverse, Momentum and Money. Last week they showed off Unreal Engine 5, which is already creating astonishingly photorealistic games. The Chinese owner of TikTok, Bytedance, also asserted itself this week, launching Effects House, an AR creator tool which will compete with Snap’s Lens Studio and Meta’s Spark AR. Genies, which makes NFTs of Hollywood studio IP, raised bank at a billion dollar valuation. Right behind them, The Fabricant raised money for an NFT fashion house. In case Batman needs a new cape.
Epic Raises Another Two Billion Dollars For Its Metaverse Ambitions. Sony and Kirkbi, the Lego family investment fund, bet big on Epic’s Metaverse strategy with a $2B investment in Epic Games. This more than doubles down on Sony’s investment of $200M last year, and $250M in 2020. Most Sony Playstation games are created with Epic’s Unreal game development engine, and Epic’s Fortnite is among its most popular Playstation titles. The deal values Epic at $31.5B. My guess is the company will go public next year with a valuation north of $100B.
Genies Avatar Maker Raises $150M At $1B Valuation. The company has an exclusive deal to make NFTs for Universal Music and Warner Bros. Music. Genies, which raised $65M in 2o21, says it has a 99% celebrity avatar market share. The goal, like Meta’s avatar system, is to have a universal hyperlink that can teleport across platforms in The Metaverse. If you avatar has within it your identity, your wallet, smartphone and other digital assets, it might be the most valuable asset in the Metaverse. Genies’ avatars are NFTs, so no one is able to clone you and rob a bank. Silver Lake led the round, with participation from Bond, NEA, and Tamarack Global.
The Fabricant raises $14M to build wardrobe for the metaverse. The company has a partnership with Epic Games, and it is unveiling a new collaboration with World of Women, the biggest female-led NFT community and The Sandbox. The Sandbox’s chief operating officer Sebastian Borget is an angel investor. Greenfield One led the round, with participation of Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, Red DAO and others.
The Digital Pets Company Launched 3D Dog NFTs for the Metaverse, ‘The (AI)-powered digital pets that are securable cross-app and verified by NFTs. The company says its “persistent-state AI” will enable you to form an empathetic bond with your pup. The company says you can bring it across worlds unchanged. Really? So I can bring the pupster into Fortnite or take him to enjoy the outdoors in Golf+? Their pre-seed funding is from Outlier Ventures, Hawk Digital, and MaxStealth.
Tik Tok Launches AR Platform Effects House. The rapidly expanding social media platform launched an AR creation platform to rival Snapchat (Lens Studio) and Instagram (Spark AR). An AR creator platform could be what it takes to fully unlock TikTok’s AR potential, says analyst Mike Boland of AR Insider. Effect House, which was formerly available to only 450 closed-beta users, will require some degree of technical abilities, but much of it is drag & drop. Effects House already has lots of documentation, templates, tutorials, and a “knowledge lab” to guide creators in the process of building AR effects.
Pico enters consumer VR Outside China. At Laval Virtual, the French VR conference, Pico announced it was bringing its popular enterprise VR stand-alone headset, Pico Neo 3, to western consumers outside China. Launch titles include Demeo, Superhot, Hyperdash, Smash Drums!, Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual, Contractors, The Secret Of Retropolis, Puzzling Places, and dozens more. “We don’t claim to have the best gaming library, but we don’t think VR being dominated by gaming content is the best thing for the market” said Leland Hedges, General Manager for the EMEA region at Pico, which plans to adapt current enterprise apps to consumer use. This would make content for professionals available, in addition to entertainment. Pico was purchased by TikTok parent Bytedance for $900M in August, 2021.
Meta Begins To Monetize Horizon With In-world Items and Fees. Meta is implementing an experimental feature that will allow creators to charge fees in its Horizon Worlds. Meta is taking 50% off the top. And why not? They spent billions on the Horizon Worlds. On the other hand, it seems a bit early to pick the pockets of creators you are mostly paying to build there.
VR Training Platform Remio Raises $4.5 Million. Founded in 2020 by Jos van der Westhuizen and Derrick van Schalkwyk, the San Francisco-based startup provides an all-in-one solution for remote team building in VR. With the rise of hybrid work environments and integration of VR technology in workspaces, the company has seen strong organic growth and adoption with several marquee customers including Google, Netflix, Hubspot, Fidelity, Twilio, Trello, and Nextdoor. Remio has established a unique position by merging game-like features with collaboration tools in one platform. The round was led by Khosla Ventures along with Version One Ventures, The Venture Reality Fund, and Moai Capital.
Somnimum Space Offers Immortality Through ‘Live Forever’ Mode. The company will use the data it gathers about you to enable the creation of a digital twin that talks and walks like you, and would be good enough to fool an ancestor or two, least for a little while. Using AI, the data will form an increasingly accurate simulation of you in VR that gets better with the decade.
^^Hardware analyst Brad Lynch leaked the design of Meta’s Project Cambria on Twitter. ^^
Golf Plus just announced a new free course for basic members.
HTC Wants To Build An Open Metaverse While Splinternet Accelerates. Forbes’ Nina Xiang interviewed HTC China President Alvin Graylin about the Metaverse and more.
This Week in XR is now a podcast hosted by Ted Schilowitz, Futurist at Viacom, and Charlie Fink, the author of this weekly column. Our guest this week is AR Insider’s Mike Boland. You can find us on podcasting platforms Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.
What We’re Reading
^^ The Metaverse Hype Cycle by VR Pioneer Ari Bar-Zeev. ^^
Behind Mark Zuckerberg’s big plans for AR glasses. Meta is racing to release its first AR glasses in 2024, but sources believe it’ll take a lot longer for them to become mainstream. (Alex Heath/The Verge)
The Metaverse Is Trying to Figure Out Your Comfort Zone (Scott Stein/CNet)
Roblox’s ‘Layered Clothing’ Is Here—but Don’t Call It an NFT. The platform’s new technology for adaptable clothing design has broader implications for discussions about things like the metaverse and NFTs. (Will Bedingfield/Wired)