1 - The pandemic. Obviously. The rapid development of the vaccine is a biotech miracle. Science.
2 - Space! Outer Space. Space X is lacing thousands of Starlink satellites above the earth to provide always-on Internet network to people in remote places. Space X’s reusable Dragon Capsule brought crew to the ISS. Founder Elon Musk, who also founded Tesla, Paypal, The Boring Company, and Hyperloop, just surpassed Jeff Bezos as the richest man in the world.
3 — AI — This story is not going well. Will recommendation engines kill us by giving us exactly what we want? Social media giants have a lot to answer for.
4 — Streaming. The end of the movie theater? Have the streaming services won? Yes. They have. Now what’s going to happen to the malls Amazon doesn’t want as warehouses?
5 — The hack of the century. Russian government hackers piggybacked on cybersecurity software (!!!!) to penetrate deep into hundreds of government and corporate systems. No one knows how deeply they went or how long they were there or if they created back doors for further intrusions. I’m honestly scared. If you took down the electrical grid, none of our tech would work.
Here’s what we think are the biggest XR specific stories in the last year:
1 — The successful launch of the Quest 2 by Facebook. The pandemic has been good to tech and tech stocks are partying like it’s 1999.
2 — Magic Leap’s pivot to enterprise. Charismatic founder and CEO Rony Abovitz raised $3.4 B from Google, Disney, AT&T, Alibaba Group, JP Morgan, Kleiner Perkins, Qualcomm, and other brand name investors to make see-through AR glasses, and the content, optics, chips, and AI that go in them. The first developer version was released in late 2018 to mixed reviews. A year later Magic Leap ran out of cash and laid off half the company. $350 M came in to at the last minute to allow a new CEO, Peggy Johnson, from Microsoft, to focus on enterprise business.
3 — The US Army’s XR IVAS — Integrated Visual Augmentation System is using the Microsoft HoloLens to give soldiers an augmented view of the battlefield.
4 — Unity’s IPO. Now valued at $40 B. And Sony’s investment in Epic Games values the maker of Fortnite at $17 B (China’s Tencent invested in 2012 and owns 50% of the company). Epic’s value on the public market could be as high as $60 B. The games industry made over $120 B last year, bigger than movies, music, and streaming combined.
5 — Mirror Worlds. Digital twins. The long-awaited “AR Cloud.” Niantic acquired 6D.ai and is mapping the world by piggybacking on Pokemon Go.
I’d put Apple in the top ten also for its introduction of lidar (3D depth scans) on the new iPad. This is very compelling. And connected to mirrorworlds and the AR Cloud.
On the “This Week in XR” podcast, too. Ted Schilowitz, the Futurist at Paramount Pictures, picked Tesla (their stock is up 800% this year), self-driving cars, Project ARia from Facebook, and the AR glasses from Apple as his 2020 tech stories. He also chose space. We need something to look forward to.
2020 showed us a future still arriving, and unevenly distributed. The unintended consequences of the tech boom, great disparities of wealth, and massive job losses due to automation, further expose technology’s uneven benefits. After all, who is going to ride in that flying autonomous taxi? And who is responsible for the displaced drivers it puts out of business?
A look at some of the stories we covered in columns, by month:
The Consumer Everything Show, Nreal
Spatial — funding for remote telepresence
IVAS introduced (HoloLens Army)
MWC Cancelled. Worldwide lockdown begins
Qualcomm Introduces XR2 for mobile headsets
Madgaze raises $19 M for its AR glasses
Talespin raises $15M for VR training
Niantic Buys 6D.ai
Spatial 30M Series B (check)
Astronomical concert in Fortnite by Travis Scott scores 47M views
HTC pivots to enterprise.
ML layoffs, Abovitz Resigns, Write downs, pivots to enterprise
Apple glass optics disruption disclosed
Wave (formerly Wave VR) raises $30 M
Proscoptis (sp?) 23<
RIP Bose Frames
RIP The Void
Sandbox Chapter 11
Med Tech Raises: Ro $200M and Heal $100M
Epic valuation $17.3 B (Tencent owns 50%!!!)
The Weekend on Tik Tok
Nreal smartglasses raises another 40M
FB connect, $299 Quest 2 introduced
Unity goes public
MSFT buys Zenimax for $7.5 BN
Quest 2 launches, really is “all that”
Disney + save the stock market
Quibi flops (killed by TikTok?)
Apple 12 Lidar
Rec Room $20M
Roblox to IPO