The XR Week Peek (2022.04.18): Pico Neo 3 Link launches in Europe, Meta offers monetization tools in Horizo... - The Ghost Howls

A blog about virtual reality, startup and stuff

Happy Easter Holidays to whoever celebrates it! Yesterday I have eaten a lot, including a chocolate egg and an Easter cake with tons of pistachio and hazelnut cream. And today I’m going to do the same… the goal is gaining 10 kilos in 2 days haha. VR is cool and all the rest, but Italian food is even better!
 Anyway, today should be a vacation in Italy, but here I am writing this roundup for you, so if you want to show your appreciation, don’t forget to make a donation on Patreon!
At Laval Virtual, Pico has announced the Pico Neo 3 Link, its first consumer-oriented headset.
 Pico Neo 3 Link is basically the same device as the Pico Neo 3 Pro, with just some little modifications. The headset is more or less a clone of the Quest 2, with some drawbacks (it is a bit less polished and wireless streaming is so-so) and some advantages (it is more comfortable and balanced, plus its tethered streaming via DisplayPort is totally amazing). To summarize, these are its specifications:
Pico aims at having 200 pieces of content at launch, and it is actively seeking interesting applications, not necessarily in the gaming field. They have already managed to attract interesting titles like Superhot, Walkabout Minigolf, Demeo, Sam&Max: This Time It’s Virtual, and many others. It lacks all Oculus Exclusive titles like Beat Saber and Population One, but its store is becoming anyway interesting. And Pico doesn’t plan to curate it like Meta, so its ecosystem should be much more open.
 This openness reflects also on the hardware side, where Pico has just announced a partnership with Ultraleap to bring its hand-tracking device to Pico via an adapter.
 Pico Neo 3 Link is already in the preorder stage, and VR enthusiasts can preorder it via dedicated resellers. It is currently on sale only in Europe, and the company plans to sell up to 22,000 units as part of a beta program. If the beta program will be a success from now to September 2022, Pico will consider the next steps. Reading between the lines of its announcement, where they talked about a future roadmap, it is clear that they are most probably going to launch a new consumer-oriented device in the next 12 months (and those who participate in the beta will get -a 35% discount on that headset).
 The price of the headset is €449, the same as the 256GB Quest, but this offers already additional comfort, and the DP-Cable is included in the box.
 In a piece of separate news, Pico’s parent company Bytedance has also announced the public beta of Effect House, the AR filters editor for TikTok. Thanks to this, creatives from all over the world can finally create filters for TikTok, exactly like they already do for Snap or Instagram. The ones that have already had private access to Effect House had already dozens of millions of visualizations for their filters, so it is going to be a huge success.
 Many people asked me why I’m so excited by the launch of the Pico Neo 3 Link. They say it was predictable, and also the headset is just a rebranded Pico Neo 3 Pro, so probably won’t succeed against the Quest 2. Well, honestly, I totally agree with these considerations and I don’t think the Link can be more successful than the Quest. But it represents Bytedance officially entering the consumer VR field, and challenging Meta. And the fact that in the same week it announced both the Pico Neo 3 Link for VR and Effect Studio for AR, shows that Bytedance wants really to compete with Meta in all possible fields in immersive realities.
 Bytedance has huge money, has behind it a powerful and rich government, can sell its headsets in China, and so it has all the means it needs to compete with Meta. Of course, it needs time, so I think that it can become a serious competitor maybe in 12–24 months. I don’t even think the Neo 3 Link is THE device that will compete with Meta, it is just an initial test, most probably the next 1–2 devices will be much more interesting in this sense. That’s why Pico representatives kept talking with me about the future roadmap and future devices meant to compete with the market leaders. You have to see this announcement in perspective, and not for what it is per se now. Maybe Bytedance will fail miserably like many others in conquering the XR field, or maybe this announcement is the beginning of something big, of a new major player entering the field, only time will tell.
 For now… it has been cool that my name and a frame of my game HitMotion: Reloaded were there in the presentation for the launch of this historical product! I am very much flattered by it.
More info (Pico announces the Pico Neo 3 Link)
More info (Pico and Ultraleap partner for hands-tracking)
More info (Pico Neo 3 Link and its DisplayPort cable)
More info (Pico Neo 3 Link games catalog)
More info (Pico Neo 3 Link vs Quest 2 comparison)
More info (Rumors on the next Pico device)
More info (TikTok launches Effect House)
Meta has started offering some beta monetization tools inside Horizon Worlds. They will let some selected creators sell some objects (e.g. accessories or customizations) inside Horizon Worlds, to jumpstart its creators’ economy. This is a piece of interesting news: Meta wants to enter the creators’ economy business, and this is exactly the first step towards that vision.
 But as a first step, it has some problems. First of all, the functionalities are pretty limited, and every item you buy will be limited to the world it belongs to. I guess this limitation will be lifted in the future, but for now, it is a bummer. Then, the company is going to have a 25% cut of the earnings of the content creators… of the net money resulting after the platform cut has been taken. This means that if the sale of a virtual object happens on Quest, that has a 30% platform “tax” on all the in-app-purchases, the creator will see 30% going to Meta for the Quest tax and 25% of the remainder (70%) going to Meta for the Horizon tax. In total, 52.5% of the earnings will go to Meta. In case there is another platform involved, e.g. Android, 30% will go to Google, and 25% of the remaining money (i.e. 22.5% of the total) to Meta. In the process of telling this, Meta has also unveiled that Horizon in the future will come to web and mobile, and in this, it is trying to follow the steps of Rec Room (see more about Rec Room later). On the web, being a free platform, the creators will have only the 25% Horizon share cut.
 This is not exactly what Zuckerberg promised when announcing his metaverse. He complained about having to obey platforms and their taxes (clearly hinting at Apple), saying that he had a different vision. And now his “different” vision becomes taxing 50% of the Quest creators on Horizon. Actually, he was right, it is different: it is much more than what other platforms do. This has even been underlined by Apple itself which called out Meta’s hypocrisy after the announcement of the creators’ fee on Horizon.
 But I think that hypocrisy is all of the corporates, including Apple itself and Epic: what I perceive is that they all claim to do something “for us” while their interest is getting a cut of all the huge transactions happening in the future metaverse. And they don’t want to pay other platforms’ money for that. I remember some months ago reading an article written by someone that theorized that Epic’s battle over Fortnite against Apple wasn’t made only to support the indie developers but also to make sure that when Epic’s future “metaverse” (platform) will become reality, it doesn’t have to pay a 30% cut of all its internal transactions to Apple and Google. So, it seems to me all a battle about “their” money, not “ours”.
 Plus, the problem, is that if we keep having double platform cuts (store platform + virtual world platform), content creators are going to earn very little for what they do. We brought the real-life tax system to the metaverse… and not even a lightweight one, but the Italian one where you have to give 50% of what you earn to the government. We are taking the worst thing of real-life to the metaverse: VR is the technology through which we can make the impossible possible and instead we are just recreating taxes, expensive land, mortgage, harassment, speculation… what a time to be alive!
More info (Meta Horizon creation tools)
More info (Meta Horizon fees)
More info (Horizon World coming to the Web)
More info (Apple on Horizon World fees)
Meta’s Chris Pruett has revealed some new numbers about the Quest Store, and they show that the success stories on it are increasing: more than 124 apps have made more than $1M on Quest, with 8 making more than $20M.
 For VR these are huge numbers, that prove once more how the Quest is the platform to be to try to make your business successful. And the fact that the success stories are increasing, means that this success is repeatable, showing a healthy ecosystem.
 But I would like to point you to what is NOT under the spotlight: what about the apps that are not on the list of 124 high-revenue ones? And what about the App Lab apps? How many developers are failing on Quest?
 According to an article on Protocol, there are over 400 titles on the Quest store, and more than 1,400 on App Lab. This means that 124 titles over 1,800 have made more than $1M in revenues, which means that 69% of the titles published on the Official Store and 93% of the titles published on Quest in general didn’t reach that milestone. Ok, some of those experiences are free, and others are shovelware, so take these numbers with a huge grain of salt, but what I wanted to show you is how it is easy to concentrate on the success stories and forget who fails. This, which is called “survivorship bias” is one of my favorite biases, and I always love to talk about it.
 It’s interesting that Chris Pruett also stressed that “there are apps on App Lab today that have generated over a million dollars in revenue”: I guess Gorilla Tag is one of them. This shows that there are some chances to succeed even if you are not in the official store, but they are much lower.
 He also highlighted once more how he thinks that content curation on Quest has to lead to the success of the platform because it is relevant that the first experiences that new users try are good quality ones. Because the first bad VR experience for a new user is his last VR experience. I still think there are other ways to guarantee this, and I hope that Pico will show that.
 60% of the titles shipped to date are games, and Pruett said that the “vast majority” of the $1 billion in sales is coming from games. So the Quest is still a gaming console.
More info (Oculus Quest Store numbers)
More info (Meta talks about content curation and revenues)
The Verge’s Alex Heath has published one of his typical reports with very interesting info about Meta. According to him, Meta’s master plan is to enter the AR field in 2024 with the glasses codenamed Project Nazare, which will weigh around 100g, be connected to an external computational unit wirelessly, and feature some sensors (like eye-tracking). The expected FOV is around 70° but probably it won’t be met. The next versions of the glasses are expected for 2026 and 2028.
 If the rumor is true, Meta by 2024 is going to basically release the Nreal glasses or a mix of Nreal Light and Magic Leap 2. Personally, I think that this would be quite underwhelming, considering Meta’s investments in XR, so I hope this rumor is not correct. But at least it puts in perspective how the road to having AR glasses we will wear all day is still very long. Remember that Michael Abrash talked about 15 years to have the lightweight glasses of our dreams, and Tilt Five’s Jeri Ellsworth talked about the technology not being ready to have this kind of futuristic device. So don’t expect to have the perfect AR glasses in 2 years.
 These glasses should work with an EMG wristband as the control input, based on CTRL+LABS technology. Whoever has tried its demo said it is mindblowing, according to Heath, so we hope this will actually be released soon. The EMG should be integrated into Facebook’s third smartwatch model, after the one being released this year, and the next one being released next year.
 In parallel with this, Meta is working on new versions of the Ray-Ban Stories glasses that can take pictures, and on a new device, codenamed Hypernova, that should be a pair of smartglasses to show the notifications of your phone, a bit like North Focals.
 I don’t know if all these rumors will prove to be true (probably not), but one thing is clear: Facebook is investing a lot of money to become a hardware company. It wants to become the new Apple and develop all the building blocks of the M-word (or M-world?).
 Talking about rumors on Meta, our favorite “reliable analyst” Ming-Chi Kuo, who is every month saying random stuff about Apple, thought it was time to say random stuff about Meta too, and claimed that Meta is going to launch a “Quest 2 Pro” (most probably Project Cambria) featuring two 2160×2160 Mini LED panels and pancake lenses. The expected sales for 2021 are in the 1–2M ballpark. I find this rumor pretty believable, considering that it is more or less what we were already expecting.
More info (Full report about Meta on The Verge)
More info (Meta’s AR roadmap)
More info (Kuo on Quest 2 Pro — Upload VR)
More info (Kuo on Quest 2 Pro — Road To VR)
Palmer Luckey has published a blog post on his own website to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Oculus, the company he founded. On April, 15th 2012 he published the “About” text of his startup, so according to him, this can be considered the 10th anniversary of the company that started the new revolution of VR.
 Palmer has become recently a controversial figure for his support of Trump and for his new startup, Anduril, which is meant to support the military in protecting the US borders. But that you may like it or not, it is history that he has been the one that has started the new generation of XR. Without him, we would have not what we have now: amazing consumer VR headsets and a dream for the future metaverse. So I’m pretty thankful for what he did on the technological side.
 Interestingly, Palmer wants to publish in the next weeks some behind-the-curtains episodes about Oculus and some of its technologies, and he also promises to tell some stories that have been “revisioned” publicly, so maybe we can also expect some spicy things against Facebook. I’m grabbing some popcorn for when it is going to happen.
 In the meanwhile, Happy 10th birthday, Oculus!
More info
It seems that the beta of the upcoming iOS 16 is full of references to glasses and the Reality OS operating system, so it seems that the launch of the Apple XR headset is imminent. But according to some analysts, it may be delayed until 2023. The reason? There are not enough displays because of the supply chain problems. And PSVR 2 may suffer from a similar destiny.
More info (References to Apple headset in iOS 16)
More info (Apple and PSVR headsets postponed to 2023)
We are at it again. HTC is teasing the launch of a new device: from the picture, it seems a box that can connect with Vive Trackers, maybe aimed at virtual productions for professionals. From the leaked pictures, it doesn’t seem like a consumer-oriented device, but we will see.
More info (HTC teasing the device)
More info (New leaked images of it)
More info (A twitter user writes his speculation on what the device can be)
Rec Room has shared some numbers of its platform: after the holidays it got to the peak of more than 3 million VR users. The VR community is very big on it, but actually, it is just a small percentage of the whole Rec Room ecosystem, that now spans across mobile phones and consoles.
 These numbers put really into perspective the 300,000 users that Meta shared for Horizon Worlds a few weeks ago: this means that just the VR part of Rec Room is 10x Horizon Worlds for now. And the fact that VR is just a tiny fraction of Rec Room users shows why Meta wants to port Horizon to web and mobile.
More info
More info (Epic getting $2B)
More info (Alvin Graylin on Forbes)
Tom Ffiske has written a very interesting article about the Ukrainian XR communities and the difficult situation they found themselves in. It’s good to see that some of them are still trying to do their job to distract themselves from the sufference of each day.
More info
Qualcomm is already working to implement Wi-Fi 7 in future mobile phones and standalone headsets. Wi-Fi 7 should guarantee an even wider bandwidth, which will be very beneficial for XR devices.
More info
HTC is doing a good job in keeping updating its flagship standalone headset: the Vive Focus 3. News of this week is that the headset now supports in beta OpenXR, the standard for interoperability between XR hardware and software.
 On a separate note, it also added play-space calibration between multiple users in the same space through the use of Aruco markers. 2 years ago I made a prototype of Aruco marker tracking on Vive Focus Plus… I wonder if I have been a source of inspiration for them…
More info (OpenXR in public beta for Vive Focus 3)
More info (Vive Focus 3 colocation via Aruco Markers)
More info (My experiments with Aruco Markers and Vive Focus Plus)
More info (In Death: Unchained Season 5)
More info (In Death: Unchained Season 5 hands-on)
More info (Into the Radius)
More info (Niantic Peridot)
More info (Painting VR)
More info (Wraith The Oblivion Afterlife price slash)
More info (Sushi Ben VR)
More info (TWD: Saint And Sinners Chapter 2)
More info (Zenith users count on Steam)
Mike VRO plays a shooter game with real paintball bullets hitting him every time he gets shot
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Somnium Space is going to offer its Live Forever mode (where an AI version of you keeps living after you die) in the next 2 years
Learn more
Join the On|Metaverse Summit!
I am in the team organizing On|Metaverse Summit 2022, the first international B2B summit on metaverse and virtual transformation in Italy. Yes, there is the M-word in the name, but the event is going to be very cool with some international speakers like Tony Parisi and Suzanne Borders (we are still updating the speakers’ list and the agenda on the website). The event will be held in Milan and online on the 21st of April.
 We are pleased to reserve a special -20% discount to the community of this blog, valid for the purchase of both online or in presence tickets. Just use the code ONMETA02COUPON when you buy the ticket and you are good to go!
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Vote for Oxymore!
Vote for Oxymore as the best musical experience for the Webby Awards and make us of VRrOOm happy. Pleeeeaasseee 🙂
Do it!
The taserverse is now reality.
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“I live my life 50 degrees of FOV at a time”
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Ouch, this hurts
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The Green Screen Of Death
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Like last week, also this week in this final paragraph I won’t ask you to donate for my blog, but to the poor people that are facing the consequences of the war. Please donate to the Red Cross to handle the current humanitarian situation in Ukraine. I will leave you the link to do that below.
 Let me take a moment before to thank anyway all my Patreon donors for the support they give to me:
And now here you are the link to donate:
Support The Red Cross in Ukraine
(Header image by Pico Interactive)
AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I’ve no idea what I’m doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I’m not giving up: I’ve started an AR/VR agency called New Technology Walkers with which help you in realizing your XR dreams with our consultancies (Contact us if you need a project done!)
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