LYNX is an exciting new, standalone mixed reality headset, by a startup company founded a couple of years ago by Stan Larroque:
Lynx was founded 2 years ago by Stan Larroque and a dedicated team of innovators in electronics, software, optics and hardware. We believe our ecosystem deserves a versatile and open device like Lynx, for all uses from games & entertainment to professional training and education at a very affordable price point.
The LYNX headset uses the Snapdragon Qualcomm XR2 chip, and is a standalone consumer device, built for both virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). It features hand tracking, and supports OpenXR, Unity, Unreal, Godot, SteamVR, and CloudXR. Here’s the complete technical specifications, if you’re interested.
But the best part of this new headset is that it will be an independent, open ecosystem which respects user privacy! That’s right, you don’t have to sign up for an account on the Facebook social network to use this device! For that reason alone, I am terribly excited about this product, and I fully expect to contribute to the Kickstarter, which will be announced sometime later this month (you can sign up to be notified by email here on the LYNC website).
Here’s the one-minute Kickstarter reveal video, which dropped three days ago:
For further information about this potentially game-changing product, please visit their website, or follow the project and its founder, Stan Larroque, on social media: Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube (I also note with joy that they are not on Facebook…hallelujah!).
This morning I learned that the South Korean government has recently launched a metaverse alliance with over 200 businesses, including Samsung. The Korea Economic Daily reports:
Samsung Electronics Co. has onboarded South Korea’s government-led metaverse alliance in a move to strengthen partnership in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) sectors.
According to the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) on Aug. 3, a total of 202 firms are participating in the metaverse alliance with a number of new joiners that include Samsung. Other companies that have newly joined the alliance include Shinhan Bank, KB Kookmin Bank, SM Entertainment Co., MegaStudyEdu Co. and Cheil Worldwide.
The MSIT-led metaverse alliance kicked off on May 18 with 25 firms and institutions as participants. The initial members include the country’s three telecom giants SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus, automaker Hyundai Motor Co., Naver affiliate Naver Labs Co. and Kakao affiliate Kakao Entertainment Inc. Other current members of the metaverse alliance include GIANTSTEP Inc. MAXST Co. and CJ ENM Co.
The main objective of the alliance is to establish the country’s metaverse ecosystem by growing the metaverse-related AR, VR and extended reality (XR) sectors. The alliance has also designated six key industries that will adopt more metaverse technologies moving forward: medicine, manufacturing, construction, education, retail and national defense.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of this alliance, and I wonder if other nations will follow suit (if they haven’t already).
Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 500 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. More details here.
There was the usual enthusiastic corporate keynote by Microsoft Satya Nadella, with special guests such as film director James Cameron. Almost everybody was sporting a Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset.
…Microsoft Mesh, the company’s ambitious new attempt at unifying holographic virtual collaboration across multiple devices, be they VR headsets, AR (like HoloLens), laptops or smartphones. Powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud, Mesh isn’t just an app, it’s a platform that other developers can use to bring remote collaboration to their own software. If remote work is here to stay — and by most accounts, it is — Microsoft wants to be the company taking us beyond Zoom video chats, and towards holographic experiences that everyone can join.
“Not only are we going to be able to share holograms, but we’ll be able to do so in a way that gives us agency and presence,” Sullivan said during our virtual meeting. “We can create these experiences, where even though we’re physically separated, it feels like we’re in the same room, sharing in an experience and collaborating on a project.”
Here’s the requisite slick two-minute promotional video (played to the audience in AltspaceVR during the Microsoft Ignite event) which tries to impart what Microsoft Mesh is all about:
The Ignite event finale was a showstopper, promoting a still-in-development joint venture with Canada’s Cirque du Soleil called Hanai World, which featured not one, but FOUR people captured in volumetric video gathered around a magical campfire, 360-degree video of dancers and jugglers and other Cirque du Soleil performers, and AltspaceVR spectators (like me!) who were able to wander around and experience the space in 3D:
Afterward, there was a mix-and-mingle event which was attended by hundreds of AltspaceVR avatars (no bots, from what I could tell). It was the first time in almost a full year of pandemic lockdown that I truly felt that I was part of a crowd, and it reminded me of the big, splashy events that the old High Fidelity social VR platform used to hold, before they shut down. (*sigh* I still miss the old High Fidelity.)
Microsoft Mesh’s announcement trailer is a highly misleading CG [Computer Generated] concept video that isn’t representative of what launched whatsoever. I love the HoloLens, but we really need to stop with these CG trailers. It’s setting false expectations & confusing EVERYONE.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with “vision CG trailers”. Those can help audiences envision the future & they have a place in a marketer’s toolbelt. But this trailer was tied to an actual software release & that crosses a line. It’s advertising something that doesn’t exist.
I tried the app and was surprised to find something no different than Magic Leap’s Avatar Chat or Facebook Spaces. And honestly, that would have been fine to announce. They could have even done the CG bit later as a “Mesh in 5 years” segment. But they chose to mislead. Why?
I still didn’t have time check it BUT when I saw the hype and seeing some behind the scene professionally staffed green screen setup I did warn collaborators to NOT get excited before I can see what it actually is, not what it claims to be. Mind the marketing gap!
In my case, that initial “WOW!” first impression has not aged very well as I thought back about what I had seen. There was certainly lots of sizzle, but little evidence of actual steak: currently-available, deliverable VR/AR/XR/MR consumer product.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Will Burns (whom I have blogged about before here and here) ping me via Twitter, suggesting:
If it’s in your wheelhouse, Ryan, check out SuperWorld Inc. and its CEO, Hrish Lotlikar.
It turns out that Will Burns, along with a couple of other names I was familiar with, such as computer scientist Stephen Wolfram and blogger Robert Scoble, are on the advisory board for SuperWorld. So, I decided to revisit SuperWorld, just to see what has been going on since my last look-see in 2019.
Here’s a slick, one-minute introduction video for SuperWorld, narrated by its CEO Hrish Lotlikar, explaining the basic concept behind the project—you use cryptocurrency to buy and sell virtual real estate parcels, 100 metres by 100 metres in size, which correspond to actual, real-world locations on Earth:
You wanna own a piece of Central Park or the Taj Mahal? It’s yours, baby!
In SuperWorld, users search for, share, and create persistent AR content and place it anywhere in the world. From photos and videos to 3D objects and animation, digital natives and first-timers alike are building creative new social communities as they explore the world in a one-of-a-kind interactive experience.
And I also found an hour-long interview with Hrish on YouTube, so I sat down and watched it early this morning, with a large mug of strong black coffee (I also perused their Investor’s Guide, which you can download from the SuperWorld website). The chat about SuperWorld starts at the 23 minute mark on the following video:
So, what do I think?
Well, Hrish seems very personable, and a natural connection-building type, qualities which make for a good startup founder and CEO. He and his co-founder, Max Woon, were inspired by the phenomenal success of Pokémon Go, and decided to build SuperWorld, to serve as a platform where the next Pokémon Go-like game could be hosted. He definitely has the vision! He even mentions Second Life when talking about SuperWorld! He’s a good interview subject, and I would encourage you to watch the whole video (or at least, the part where he talks about SuperWorld).
The big problem will all of these projects is that they are being set up well before any kind of wearable augmented reality headgear becomes popular among consumers…
I do think that attempting to build a global augmented-reality overlay when we don’t have any kind of affordable, consumer-grade AR headset technology is a bit of a folly. There’s absolutely no guarantee that SuperWorld’s way of slicing up the real world is going to be accepted or adhered to by any other company.
And I am going to stand by these earlier observations. I mean, what’s to stop Facebook or Apple from creating their own augmented-reality system, overlaid over the real world, as part of any future AR headset they release, and making that the standard? Your whole business goes up in smoke.
The white paper talks about monetization opportunities involving advertising on these virtual parcels of real estate (think neon signs on the Taj Mahal), but I ask: do you honestly expect that people are going to download an app, and click on a map, just to watch an advertisement? Don’t we get bombarded with enough advertising as it is, without seeking out more?
The paper also talks about gaming, which is a possibility, but you really do need to add a lot more programming to the system to support something like that, something that I don’t really see in any of the promotional material for SuperWorld (aside from a brief glimpse of someone attempting to throw a basketball through a hoop).
If you buy one of these parcels, you’re going to be waiting quite a while to recoup your investment, and generate some income (and many crypto investors seem to have those as goals). And you can do a lot, lot more with the virtual land you can buy or lease from countless other social VR platforms and virtual worlds, which are more feature-filled than SuperWorld, and which allow you to visit it with other avatars simultaneously, to share the experience.
SuperWorld already has apps for both Apple and Android mobile devices for you to “visit” and “look at” your virtual land and whatever you choose to build on it (essentially, superimposed 3D objects, images and text on still photographs). However, I honestly do not consider cellphone-based AR to be true augmented reality. I also don’t consider it social augmented reality, or a “social community”, using the term used in their investor’s guide/white paper, which I quoted earlier.
I have spent time in a great many social VR platforms and virtual worlds, and those are places which you can actually explore with other people, as a shared experience. This is not a shared experience; it’s merely an app where you navigate through an overlay on a map, a solitary activity on your cellphone, like browsing through two-dimensional social media like Facebook or Twitter. There’s really very little to encourage community and connectedness.
SuperWorld’s attempt to carve out the real estate before there’s any sort of mutually-agreed-upon consensus on how to do that, or even any popular consumer augmented reality headsets for sale, still seems to me to be a highly speculative and risky endeavour. I am of the opinion that this is a concept which has been implemented way, waaay too early, in an attempt to cash in on the current VR/AR/MR/XR hype and tempt speculators to open their crypto wallets and part with some of their hard-earned currency.
(Sorry, Will. I know you probably would have liked me to review SuperWorld and love the project. I would probably still classify myself as a cryptoskeptic, which tends to colour my judgement. For example, I am mystified and bewildered by the success of collectibles such as CryptoKitties.)
As always, I include my standard warning about any and all blockchain and cryptocurrency projects: do every single scrap of your homework before you invest a penny in any project, no matter how enticing it sounds on paper (or in pixels). Personally, I wish the SuperWorld team the best, but I will continue to watch this project develop from the sidelines. Much like a very similar South Korean project called Mossland, I just don’t buy the concept underlying SuperWorld.
UPDATE 1:44 p.m.: I just discovered a second, more recent, one-hour interview with SuperWorld CEO Hrish Lotlikar, which I also plan to watch later today:
I realize that I have written yet another one of my critical (even cranky) blogposts this morning. I do apologize to Will, to Hrish, and to the team at SuperWorld. Perhaps Will is right; this sort of thing might not be in my wheelhouse, and I should stick with what I consider to be true metaverse platforms, including the blockchain-based virtual worlds Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space, each of which I have written about at length on this blog.