Lynx Secures $4M in Series A Funding, Aims to Become “European Champion of Mixed Reality”

Lynx, the French XR hardware startup known for crowdfunding the Lynx R-1 mixed reality headset, today announced it’s secured $4 million in its Series A round, led by social VR platform Somnium Space.

Alongside Somnium Space, participants in the latest funding round also include what Lynx calls early supporters of the company and “other investors involved in the AR/VR field such as ex-Meta and Google engineers.”

This brings the company’s total outside funding to $6.8 million, according to Crunchbase data, following the R-1 headset’s $800,000 Kickstarter campaign back in late 2021 and a seed round of $2 million in early 2019.  As a part of the deal Artur Sychov, founder & CEO of Somnium Space, is joining the company’s board of directors.

Built on Qualcomm’s XR2 chipset, Lynx R-1 combines high quality cameras and virtual reality displays to achieve passthrough AR in addition to standard VR (aka, mixed reality), making it an early pioneer of the category. The headset also ditches the standard Fresnel lenses for a novel optic called a “four-fold catadioptric freeform prism,” which is said to slim down the size of Lynx R-1 seemingly beyond what current Fresnels can do.

“At Somnium Space we truly believe in the future of open and decentralized Metaverse which empowers its users. This includes, not only software, but also very importantly hardware,” says Artur Sychov, Founder & CEO of Somnium Space. “The Lynx team led by Stan has created an extraordinary AR / VR device (Lynx-r) with openness in mind which will change and revolutionize the way we all think and interact with this market category. I am very happy to support this company and believe that together we will push the boundaries and potential of the VR/AR industry forward.”

Founded in 2019, Lynx has high ambitions for its R-1 headset too. Priced at $600 for its consumer version, the company is looking to lead the way into the same product category that many established players are soon to enter, including Meta with Project Cambria and Apple with its rumored headset, reportedly code named N301.

“We have this opportunity right here to create the European Champion of Mixed Reality with our work at Lynx, supported by a vibrant community of users and developers desperate to see alternatives to Big Tech companies products and their closed ecosystems.” says Stan Larroque, founder and CEO of Lynx. “What’s the point of creating a European Metaverse if the underlying platform, the door we use to access it, remains in the hands of the same big players with their damaging business models?” he adds.

Since finalizing the design of Lynx R-1, the company has also completed an office expansion in Paris, now at more 200 square meters of R&D, and established a new office in Taiwan.

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Bloomberg: Apple Ramping Up Development Of Headset OS For 2023 Release

Apple is ramping up development of the operating system for its headset, with a plan to launch in 2023, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports.

In 2021 BloombergThe Information, and supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released reports claiming Apple is preparing to release a premium headset for VR and AR with high resolution color passthrough. Recent notes from Kuo claim this headset will weigh significantly less than Meta’s Quest 2, feature dual 4K OLED microdisplays, and use a new chip with “similar computing power as the M1 for Mac”.

Apple has in recent weeks ramped up development of realityOS (rOS), its operating system that the headset will run, and previewed the headset to the board of directors, Gurman reports. The board of directors includes CEO Tim Cook. References to realityOS were found in App Store upload logs and Apple code earlier this year.

The Information Apple VR

Separately, The Information released the first half of a report detailing the history of the project. The product was apparently originally supposed to launch in 2019 but this has slipped several times. Early prototypes in 2016 used jury-rigged HTC Vives and software running on Microsoft Windows, with one being so heavy it had to be suspended by a small crane. The report also cites five sources revealing Tim Cook rarely visits the team working on the headset – a stark difference to Meta where some employees are reportedly frustrated at Zuckerberg’s obsession with VR and AR.

The lack of a top level Apple executive championing the project has apparently made it harder to get engineering staff & resources allocated compared to the iPhone and Mac. To get support for the project, team members apparently warned that companies like Facebook and Magic Leap could end up owning the sector.

Gurman is sticking by his earlier reporting that the product will be announced this year or early next for a release in 2023. He explained back in January the delay was due to “challenges related to overheating, cameras and software”. In April a display supply chain analyst also said the headset is delayed until next year.

Both Gurman and The Information report Apple’s headset is set to be priced north of $2000. It should end up competing with Meta’s Project Cambria, slated to launch later this year for “significantly” above $800. If Kuo’s notes are to be believed, though, Apple’s product will have higher resolution, a more powerful processor, and slimmer design.

Project Cambria Has A Depth Sensor & Much Higher Resolution Cameras

Project Cambria has a depth sensor and cameras with 3 times the resolution of Quest 2’s.

Cambria is the public codename for Meta’s upcoming high end standalone headset, announced at Connect 2021 in October. It will be sold alongside Quest 2 with a price tag “significantly” higher than $800, aimed at remote workers and mixed reality enthusiasts. The headset looks to have a more balanced design than Quest 2 with a slimmer visor achieved through the use of pancake lenses instead of fresnel lenses. It also has built-in face and eye tracking to drive avatars in social experiences like Workrooms.

But Cambria’s headline new feature is high resolution color passthrough for mixed reality – Quest 2’s passthrough is grainy black & white. And today in a conversation with Jesse Schell (of Schell Games), Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed some of the hardware behind this mixed reality functionality.

Zuckerberg said Quest 2’s passthrough is based on “sensors that were not designed to give you anything more than just a very rough outline of what’s going on around you”.

Cambria, on the other hand will have “a bunch of new sensors” including “high resolution color outward facing cameras” as well as a dedicated depth sensor. “Right now on Quest 2 we hack it a little bit by looking at the cameras and trying to intuit what the depth is”. Zuckerberg told Protocol that this sensor is an IR projector for active depth sensing, and also said the regular cameras have three times the resolution of Quest 2’s.

Hardware level depth sensing is also “more optimized towards hands” Zuckerberg told protocol, though Meta has dramatically improved hand tracking even on Quest 2 by leveraging recent advances in computer vision.

Project Cambria still doesn’t have a product name, specific release window, or exact price; but Zuckerberg re-iterated it will launch “later this year”.

Meta Unveils Project Cambria Mixed Reality Footage

Meta teased its next virtual reality (VR) headset, codenamed Project Cambria, at last year’s Connect conference. In the following months, the company has released further snippets such as its enterprise, rather than gaming focus, and that it won’t be cheap. Today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has showcased Project Cambria in action, or at least the mixed reality (MR) part.

In the promo video, the actual headset has been blocked out so there’s no cheeky reveal of its physical aesthetics. What Zuckerberg is demonstrating is the full-colour pass-through cameras the enterprise headset will feature, rather than the black and white experience you get on the Meta Quest.

To demonstrate Project Cambria’s mixed reality (MR) capabilities Meta created an app called The World Beyond using its Presence Platform. The platform is a set of machine learning and AI tools designed to help developers create MR experiences that utilise natural hand and voice interactions. The World Beyond looks to be a virtual pet simulator, where you can throw toys and pet your digital companion – which looks very similar to Oppy, who made an appearance at Connect 2021.

Better yet, this might be a Presence Platform demo but The World Beyond is coming to Meta Quest’s App Lab very soon, Zuckerberg mentions. The app will be open source so developers can use it to help them build their own experiences for Project Cambria,

Project Cambria

That’s it in terms of Project Cambria news, unfortunately. Meta did release an interview between Zuckerberg and Schell Games’ CEO Jesse Schell where they discussed all things VR but there was no accidental slip of specs, price or availability.

Those details are likely to arrive during Connect 2022 later this year. Meta has confirmed Project Cambria will arrive in 2022, keep it on track to release a reported four devices by 2024 if rumours are to be believed. As further details regarding Cambria are released, gmw3 will keep you updated.

New I Expect You To Die, Resolution Mixed Reality Projects Spotted In Quest Video

A new video from Meta shows new projects from series like I Expect You To Die and developers like Resolution Games.

The video was released as part of a look at Quest 2 and the upcoming Project Cambria headset’s mixed reality capabilities. Mixed reality experiences are those that use a VR headset’s cameras to view the real world, but bring in virtual elements like virtual screens or 3D assets. The effect is similar to that of AR glasses, but AR uses transparent lenses to keep you in direct view of the real world. Though this will one day allow for much more seamless AR, current headsets are limited in field of view and other areas compared to VR.

At one point in the video we see a project called Fish Under Our Feet, developed by Resolution Games. In the clip, the player uses hand tracking to pick up a virtual hammer, smash a hole in their living room floor and then fish from a pond that lies beneath. They can even dive into the pond and have fish swim around them.

Following on from that, there’s footage of a new title from Schell Games called I Expect You To Die: Home Sweet Home. I Expect You To Die is Schell’s long-running VR puzzle series with escape room-style challenges. The footage here showed a user picking up a phone from a virtual telephone box that appears in their room, and opening virtual gates. There’s also a look at VR creation tool, Gravity Sketch, being used in MR.

Neither Schell nor Resolution has formally announced these projects and it’s quite possible that neither will be officially released on the Quest store. Schell Games told us that Home Sweet Home is a one-level demo intended as a showcase, but there’s a possibility that it could see wider release in the future. Meta itself is releasing its own MR experiment, The World Beyond, on App Lab next week.

Amazon Job Listings Reference ‘New-To-World’ AR/VR Consumer Product

Amazon job listings reference a “new-to-world” AR/VR consumer product.

Spotted by Protocol, one listing explains “You will develop an advanced XR research concept into a magical and useful new-to-world consumer product” while another references “developing code for early prototypes through mass production.”

Another job listing describes the role as working on “the core system interface along with end-user applications spanning from multi-modal interfaces to 3D AR entertainment experiences”.

Protocol also spotted that in March Amazon hired Kharis O’Connell to lead a “Futures Design” group, described as “helping Amazon experience what it’s like to live in the future, today”. O’Connell once worked for the now defunct Meta View startup, and then worked on Google’s AR operating system.

Amazon is the only consumer tech giant with no announced or rumored AR or VR headset product. Meta has its Quest VR line and is working on AR glasses too. Microsoft has its HoloLens AR headsets. Multiple reliable sources claim Apple is working on a mixed reality headset, and The Verge reported Google is too.

The company currently sells “smart glasses” called Echo Frames, but these lack any display system or cameras – the use cases are talking to Alexa, taking calls, and playing music. It’s possible – even arguably likely – that Amazon intends to develop this product line into AR glasses in the long term future.

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Detailed Renders Purportedly Show Meta’s Project Cambria Headset

YouTuber Bradley Lynch claims to have seen Meta’s upcoming Project Cambria headset, and collaborated with a product designer to produce detailed renders.

Cambria was announced in late October at Connect 2021. Cambria isn’t Quest 3 – CEO Mark Zuckerberg described it as “a completely new advanced and high end product” positioned “at the higher end of the price spectrum”. Cambria will be sold alongside Quest 2 as a higher end alternative.

Cambria appears to have a much more balanced design than Quest 2, with a significantly smaller frontbox and a strap resembling Quest 2’s elite strap accessory, potentially housing the battery. Meta says this is achieved through the use of multi-element pancake lenses used instead of fresnel lenses. Whereas Quest 2 has grainy black & white cameras, Cambria will have high resolution color passthrough for mixed reality experiences. It will also include eye tracking and face tracking to drive avatars in social VR.

At the time of the announcement, Meta confirmed it had sent development kits out.

Past ‘Quest Pro’ Leaks

Cambria was seemingly once known as “Quest Pro”.

In February 2021 now-CTO Andrew Bosworth was asked about the prospect of ‘Quest Pro’. He replied “Quest Pro, huh… Interesting…” and winked at the camera. By April 2021 Bosworth’s stance on “Quest Pro” became more solid. In a public conversation with “Consulting CTO” John Carmack, he remarked “I did hint at an AMA earlier this year about Quest Pro because we do have a lot of things in development where we want to introduce new functionality to the headset”.

In September references to ‘Quest Pro’ were found in the Quest firmware, as well as eye and face tracking calibration steps. Just two weeks later, the leaks significantly intensified.

Screenshots of a video call leaked showing Touch controllers with onboard cameras instead of an LED tracking ring. But days before this, a redditor going by the username Samulia had posted low resolution renders of these same controllers, alongside detailed apparent specs of the headset.

In that reddit post Samulia claimed:

  • The headset’s codename is “Seacliff” and the controllers codename is “Starlet”.
  • The display is a Dual-Cell LCD with the same resolution as Quest 2 but an advanced backlight with pixel-level control, enabling OLED-like black levels without OLED’s black smear or manufacturability issues.
  • Three sensors are on the exterior of the headset: a 4K 120FPS RGB camera for color passthrough & mixed reality and two side-facing 1K near-infrared 120FPS cameras.
  • Some form of laser pattern projection guides controller tracking and potentially aids hand tracking.
  • Internally there are 480p 120FPS eye tracking cameras and two 400p 120FPS face tracking cameras.

Days after this YouTuber Basti564 – known for finding upcoming features in Quest firmware on multiple occasions – posted a new video backing up Samulia with firmware findings revealing the same sensor configuration as claimed and the same “Seacliff” codename. That suggested either Samulia had insider knowledge, or was using the same firmware decompiling methodology as Basti. Basti also found references to Seacliff having two cooling fans, up from one in Quest 2. The primary CPU cores in Quest 2 are actually underclocked. Better cooling could allow for significant improvement in CPU clock speed, and perhaps even GPU overclocking too.

Oculus quest Pro Leak

In October, just days before Cambria was teased by Meta, Basti discovered tutorial videos in the firmware giving us the first look at the headset’s design.

By November, just weeks after the dark teaser video, Basti had found textures of Cambria and its controllers, and formed them into a 3D model.

Bradley’s Spec Claims & Renders

Last week YouTuber Bradley Lynch posted a video to his channel SadlyItsBradley claiming a “friend” gave him impressions of the headset:

“Don’t expect Cambria to be something that different. It’s different, but not that much.”

The source apparently claimed Cambria has a resolution of 2160×2160 per eye, up from Quest 2’s 1832×1920 per eye, and that the field of view feels “very similar” to Quest 2.

Yesterday Lynch posted a new video in which he claims his source showed him real images of the Cambria headset via an app which prevents screenshots. Lynch worked with product designer Marcus Kane in the VR app Gravity Sketch to produce a detailed 3D model of what he saw for renders, seen above.

The renders look essentially identical to Meta’s teaser video and the leaked tutorial video, with one notable exception. Underneath the front of the headset is two cameras near the bottom (in a similar position to Quest 2’s) as well as an apparent sensor suite directly in the middle. It’s unclear whether these sensors are a recent addition to Cambria, were simply not included in the 3D models and dark renders we’ve seen to date, or whether the reconstruction reflects the actual sensor layout of the upcoming device. Lynch speculates these may be time-of-flight sensors for hand tracking, though it may also be the laser pattern projectors Samulia claims.

Meta hasn’t given a specific release window for Project Cambria, but as recently as December confirmed it’s still on track to launch in 2022.

Korean News: Samsung Working On Its Own AR Headset, Separate From Microsoft

Samsung is working on its own Android-based AR headset separate to Microsoft, South Korea’s Electronic Times reports.

Four weeks ago, a report from Insider’s Ashley Stewart claimed Microsoft shelved HoloLens 3 last year in favor of letting Samsung build hardware powered by Windows mixed reality software. One of Stewart’s sources described the partnership as a “shit show”. But the Electronic Times report claims Samsung is planning “its own AR devices and the AR devices developed with Microsoft”.

The report suggests Samsung will use one of its own Exynos chips in the device, rather than sourcing from Qualcomm. Samsung has apparently completed a prototype, and “is deciding the release date”.

From 2014 Samsung partnered with Facebook on the phone-based Gear VR, technically the first widely shipped consumer VR product, but by 2019 then-CTO John Carmack declared it dead as standalone headsets took over. In January 2020 at CES, Samsung showed off a concept of AR glasses, but didn’t actually say whether this was a planned product. That same month China’s intellectual property office awarded Samsung a patent for a VR headset with four tracking cameras, but no product emerged from this either.

It’s unclear what exactly would distinguish Samsung’s own headset from its partnership with Microsoft, but if the report is to believed Samsung is finally ready to re-enter this market again.

Psychedelic Puzzler ‘Squingle’ Shows Just Why Mixed Reality Trailers Are So Important

Squingle, the psychedelic puzzle game for PC VR and Quest, is one of those “so out there, it’s difficult to explain” type of experiences. And as VR games creatively explode in every possible direction, the more vital it becomes to pop a human into frame to visually explain just what the hell is going on and why it’s so cool.

Squingle is admittedly difficult to pigeonhole just by looking at some screenshots or even a few gifs. We already have a good 450 words on the subject too, and it still may not be enough. It’s not that Squingle is overly complex, it’s just that the clever little ball maze-puzzle-thing is simply better understood in-headset.

To see what we mean, take a look at the original pre-release trailer:

Maybe it’s the undulating intestinal pathways, or the shimmering patterns that seem to change with every touch as you lead orbs around its increasingly circuitous routes. It’s so otherworldly and seemingly chaotic that you don’t implicitly know what to expect when looking at Squingle, whereas a different VR title might be easily explained with something as simple as a screenshot of a zombie and a gun. It’s a lot to take in.

If you were looking for some quick clarification though, the game’s new mixed reality video does a much better awesome job of shedding more light on why Squingle is so cool.

Mixed reality trailers like this aren’t new; Valve tossed out one of the best marketing pieces for VR we’ve seen, and that was way back in 2016 when they were hyping the general public for the original HTC Vive. In the following years, mixed reality capture has grown leaps and bounds, with many studios getting wise to third-party software like LIV—an easy to integrate mixed reality capture platform that many (many) studios use today. Still, there are plenty of games out there that would benefit from this sort of immersive, third-person view.

This is precisely why Meta is starting to push its own mobile mixed reality setup, which critically doesn’t require specialized equipment outside of a Quest and an iPhone. It’s easier for streamers looking for views, and anyone hoping to show their grandma what all the fuss is about. It’s not as good, or as full-featured as LIV, but the utility here is clear.

This is all happening while the medium is celebrating some all-time highs in terms of growth. Steam’s monthly hardware survey last month revealed that an estimated 3.4 million monthly-connected VR headsets are in the wild.

This will undoubtedly bring a wider swath of would-be VR developers, some of which likely want to make something they’ve never seen or experienced before—typically meaning unique, but difficult-to-explain mechanics. And using an actual human being as an anchor to visually tell what’s happening just seems more relatable than a ghostly avatar outline or claustrophobic first-person view. The protagonist is clear, so the objective becomes more apparent.

If you’re curious to learn more about Squingle, indie developer Benjamin Outram has published it on Quest via App Lab and on PC VR via Steam. You can also download the Quest demo or SteamVR demo for free if you’re still skeptical.

– – —  ––

The Squingle mixed reality video above was taken by TougeVR, featuring Twitch streamer and sometimes Vtuber ‘Dubu’ (@dubusaeyo).

TougeVR is quietly making some of the highest quality mixed reality cinematics out there, and has a tutorial series called ‘Mixed Reality Masterclass’ which guides you through the process of mixed reality filmmaking. Check out TougeVR’s channel for more.

The post Psychedelic Puzzler ‘Squingle’ Shows Just Why Mixed Reality Trailers Are So Important appeared first on Road to VR.

Apple Leaks ‘realityOS’, Rumored For Upcoming Headset

App Store logs and GitHub code from Apple confirm the existence of realityOS, expected to be used in Apple’s upcoming headset.

The existence of realityOS was first reported by Bloomberg all the way back in 2017. In 2021 BloombergThe Information, and supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released reports claiming Apple is preparing to release a premium headset for VR and AR with high resolution color passthrough. Recent notes from Kuo claim this headset will weigh significantly less than Meta’s Quest 2, feature dual 4K OLED microdisplays, and use a new chip with “similar computing power as the M1 for Mac”.

The Information Apple VR

Three weeks ago, iOS Developer Rens Verhoeven spotted a new platform “com.apple.platform.realityos” in the App Store app upload logs. Apple’s existing operating systems include iOS (com.apple.platform.iphoneos), iPadOS, watchOS (com.apple.platform.watchos), macOS, and tvOS.

This week, “award-winning git repository surgeon” Nicolás Álvarez spotted Apple committing code to its open source GitHub repository referencing ‘TARGET_FEATURE_REALITYOS’ and ‘realityOS_simulator’ – the latter likely a feature to allow developers without the headset to test building AR or VR applications. Álvarez says Apple quickly force-pushed the repo to try & hide the change, suggesting making this public was a mistake.

This isn’t the first public confirmation of Apple working on AR & VR software. In December a job listing was posted for ‘AR/VR Frameworks Engineer’, with the role described as “developing an entirely new application paradigm” for “software that is deeply integrated into our operating systems”.

If Apple can pull off putting an M1-tier chip in a slim headset, it could deliver a significantly higher fidelity experience than Quest 2, and even Meta’s own upcoming take on a premium headset, Project Cambria. Last month Bloomberg reported the product release may have slipped to next year, and claimed Apple has “weighed prices north of $2000”.