Visionary XR director Keiichi Matsuda just released a new short film, “Agents,” which was produced by Niantic. In this optimistic take on AR, AI assistants are visible to those wearing enabled glasses. Microsoft envisioned such an AI assistant as a floating CGI robot in its futuristic 2016 short film “Penny Walks In,” which featured the HoloLens. Microsoft has since erased this video from YouTube and it seems, the entire Internet. It is unembodied agents that appear to be the successor platform to mobile. Indeed, a well funded startup, Humane, is launching a small, wearable AI assistant called an “AI Pin,” that has no screen.
Microsoft introduces Co-Pilot, Your everyday AI companion. Today’s AI co-pilots don’t need to be embodied as cartoons. Indeed, they are already a serious business, and there are many of them. There’s Open AI’s ChatGPT. Apple is working on Ajax, which may replace Siri. Google’s Bard chatbot is evolving rapidly, and insinuating itself in the Google app ecosystem. Amazon is evolving Alexa into a chatbot for the home, and giving it better voice recognition. And it just released an upgraded version of its Echo Frames audio smart glasses which feature Alexa. These chatbots are going to be built into all sorts of wearables, and everything.
OpenAI unveils DALL-E 3. The advanced image-generation AI incorporates ChatGPT to enable better prompt creation. Users can interact with ChatGPT to refine image requests, resulting in higher-quality images that more accurately mirror the prompts. The tool excels in handling complex content like text and human hands and offers new safety mechanisms to minimize algorithmic bias. For instance, it won’t create images in the style of living artists or portray public figures. The feature will be available to premium ChatGPT users first, and is getting great reviews. DALL-E used to suck, but artists who prefer Midjourney and Stable Diffusion may want to take another look.
Neuralink opens enrollment for its first human BCI implants. “If you have quadriplegia and are interested in exploring new ways of controlling your computer, you may qualify.” The company is set to begin human trials for its brain implant, which is designed to allow users to control devices with their minds. The trials will involve a small number of patients with paralysis or other neurological conditions. Wired was quick to point out previous tests on rhesus macaque monkeys did not end well for the subjects. A lawsuit brought against Neuralink for animal cruelty is making its way through the courts.
Google Bard is now integrated with Google apps and can double-check answers against web content. It can now also work in over 40 languages. Bard Extensions are opt-in features that let Bard pull data from Google’s other services for integration into a Bard conversation. They allow Bard to pull real-time flight and hotel information, suggest YouTube videos about a topic, and more. The company says that Data from Google apps used in AI conversations will not be viewed by human reviewers or be used to train future versions of the model.
Curious Refuge, which brought us the fake Wes Anderson “Star Wars” trailer, just released this amazing sequence, which could have been lifted straight out of the the next “Star Wars” movie. This short is so good at first I thought it was the real thing!
Soon AI Will Be Optimizing Prompts. Looks like one of the first jobs that will be automated by AI will be that of Prompt Engineer. In a paper posted last week by Google’s DeepMind unit, a program called OPRO made large language models try different prompts until they reach one that gets closest to solving a task. It’s a way to automate the kinds of trial and error that a person would do by typing.
Immersed VR Visor Pre-sale. The XR productivity and co-working app, announced the Visor brand HMD last month. The slim, light device has two flavors: a 2.5K per-eye Visor model for $500 and a 4K per-eye Visor model for $750. Hard to tell from the provided product shot, but it looks like the visor is quite light and open sided, enabling longer sessions.
AI Generated Music With Real Human Fans Frostbite Orckings is a fictional heavy metal group whose music is generated by AI. Musical Bits, a startup based in Bingen, Germany, created an AI model based on original content, not licensed or scraped from the web, to power the fictional act. “We do not necessarily want to brand The Frostbite Orckings as ‘AI generated.’ We think it’s better to create something and then have people surprised by learning how it was made afterwards.”
Volumetrics Secures $1.1 Million in Seed Funding to Fix The Spatial Computing Developer Experience. The company was founded by Michael Gutensohn (Chief Executive Officer) and Laurent Baumann (Chief Product Officer), both of whom are former employees of Apple. I’ve spent 10 years working in the XR space, in that time the hardware has evolved exponentially, but developers are still chained to their workstations. You shouldn’t need a computer to use your computer,” said Gutensohn. “We founded Volumetrics to fix this.” Lattice and Abstract Ventures provided the funding.
Meta Avatars Finally Have Legs. There is no leg tracking on the Quest so the animation on the legs is kind of janky and out of sync. When looking down in first-person, you still can’t see your legs. Is that what people wanted? I don’t recall people in Rec Room complaining about this. VR Chat, which is less interested in imitating reality (a design principle called skeuomorphism) also does a better job. Maybe legs are not what holds Horizon down.
Golf+ To Shut down ProPutt October 3rd. The virtual putting game was my favorite game on the Quest 1. The cross between mini-golf and real golf was finally supplanted by the company’s launch of Golf+, a realistic golf simulation which has since exploded into a bona fide virtual sport, sponsored by the PGA of America, and backed by some of its biggest stars, including Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. “As we’ve grown the experience over the last couple of years, our tech has changed, our approach has changed, and Pro Putt has not received the attention it deserves,” said the company in an email to users. “We love ProPutt, we wouldn’t be here without it, but with a heavy heart we’ve decided it’s time to say goodbye.”
Sandbox VR starts Squid Game Virtuals location-based VR experience. Sandbox VR, the creator of premium location-based VR experiences, will launch Squid Game Virtuals on September 29.
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 Michael Friedman, co-founder and CEO of Ocutrx, which created an AR device that will restore vision for twenty million Americans suffering from age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). We can be found on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.