Former Head of Qualcomm’s XR Division Joins Google to Guide XR Strategy

Hugo Swart, previous head of Qualcomm’s XR division, announced he’s joined Google where he’ll lead the company’s XR Ecosystem Strategy and Technology efforts.

Swart shared the news in a LinkedIn update, noting the move happened a few months ago:

Happy to share that I joined Google couple months ago and am responsible for XR Ecosystem Strategy and Technology. Super excited to continue the XR journey and working with you all – great things ahead! Thank you Shahram Izadi for the opportunity! Looking forward to AWE this week!!

As General Manager and Vice President of XR at Qualcomm, Swart was a driving force behind the company’s Snapdragon XR series of chipsets, which currently power the majority of standalone headsets on the market, including all of Meta’s Quest headsets to date.

Hugo Swart introduces Snapdragon XR | Courtesy Qualcomm

Following Swart’s departure from Qualcomm in February, Alex Katouzian, Group GM of the Mobile, XR, and Compute Business Unit is currently overseeing XR at Qualcomm.

Swart is joining Google at a pivotal moment in XR, as the company recently announced a strategic technology partnership with Magic Leap, which is seen as an effort to keep up with Meta, Apple, and others in a race to control the burgeoning AR headset market.

This follows a notable setback last year when Google reportedly shelved its Project Iris AR glasses following mass restructuring within the company, which included layoffs, reshuffles, and the departure of Clay Bavor, Google’s then-head of AR and VR.

Meanwhile, Google is developing a new Android-based platform for Samsung’s upcoming XR headset announced back in February 2023, which is set to be powered by Qualcomm silicon. Google is also rumored to be developing a “Micro XR” platform for XR glasses, which is said to use a prototyping platform internally known as “Betty.”

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Meta Restructures Reality Labs to Better Focus on Ray-Ban Smartglasses and Other Wearables

Reality Labs, Meta’s XR division formed in 2020, is now being reorganized into two distinct groups, ‘Wearables’ and ‘Metaverse’, which reportedly comes along a “relatively small” number of layoffs.

As reported by The Verge’s Alex Heath, Meta CTO and head of Reality Labs Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth announced the reorg in an internal memo to employees, stating that all teams in Reality Labs are being merged into either a central ‘Metaverse’ organization, responsible for Quest, and a new ‘Wearables’ organization to dedicated to other hardware, including its Ray-Ban Meta smartglasses.

In the memo, which is available via Heath’s Command Line newsletter, Bosworth says the company’s smartglasses were “a much bigger success than we expected,” spurring the XR division to put more focus on the product.

Image courtesy Meta, Ray-Ban

“We have the leading AI device on the market right now, and we are doubling down on finding a strong product market fit for wearable Meta AI, building a business around it, and expanding the audience,” Bosworth’s memo reads. “Our north star to overlay digital content seamlessly onto the physical world remains the same, but the steps on that path just got a lot more exciting.”

Notably, Ray-Ban Meta smartglasses don’t include displays of any type, AR or otherwise, instead offering input through voice assistant and touch on the glasses’ struts for things like taking pictures, videos, and listening to music. In late 2023, Meta also added AI-powered object recognition.

As for its Quest-related efforts, Bosworth says the company is still “deeply committed to investing in Horizon as the core foundation of our social, spatial Horizon OS, and high-quality experiences for both mixed reality and mobile.”

Meta announced in April it will soon license its Horizon OS (ex-Quest OS) to third parties for the first time, including ASUS, Lenovo and Xbox. This comes part and parcel with it Horizon Store (ex-Quest Store) content library—seen as a bid to become a more prolific alternative to Apple’s Vision Pro.

“The org chart doesn’t primarily determine whether we succeed or fail, our execution does,” Bosworth said in the memo. “But by setting it up this way I hope we reduce overhead and allow people across teams to come together and execute with a more unified view of who our customers are and how we can best serve them.”

Meta declined to comment on the exact number of Reality Labs layoffs, however Heath maintains “it’s a relatively small number and focused on teams in Reality Labs where leadership roles are now redundant thanks to this new structure.”

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‘Gorilla Tag’ Has Topped $100M in Revenue, Making it One of VR’s Most Successful Games

VR studio Another Axiom today announced that its breakout title, Gorilla Tag, has surpassed $100 million in revenue. The company shared other key metrics about its player population that shine light on the state of the VR market.

Not long after its launch back in early 2021 it became clear there was something special about Gorilla Tag. It’s minimalistic ‘tag’ gameplay, unique arm-based locomotion, and novel social architecture made for simple social fun. And it turns out, people really like simple social fun.

This week the studio behind the game, Another Axiom, offered up some key metrics for Gorilla Tag that show just how large it has become. Here’s the quick and dirty:

  • $100 million in total revenue

  • 10 million lifetime players
  • 3 million monthly active users
  • 1 million daily active users

Gorilla Tag’s revenue comes primarily through in game cosmetics which allow for try-ons and a social shopping experience.

These figures make Gorilla Tag one of the most successful and most popular VR games to date. Not only are lots of people playing the game, Another Axiom also revealed the average playtime is nearly 60 minutes. That’s doubly impressive considering how physical of a game it can be.

As for what’s next? The studio isn’t leaving Gorilla Tag behind, but it’s busy at work on a spiritual successor to Lone Echo, the game which inspired Gorilla Tag’s movement in the first place.

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Quest ‘Augments’ Feature for Concurrent AR Apps Needs More Time to Cook, Says Meta CTO

Last year Meta announced the so-called Augments feature, planned for Quest 3, which would allow persistent mini AR apps to live in the world around you. Now, eight months after the headset hit store shelves, Meta’s CTO explains why the feature has yet to ship.

Augments was announced as a framework for developers to build mini AR apps that could not just live persistently in the space around you, but also run concurrently alongside each other—similar to how most apps work on Vision Pro today.

Image courtesy Meta

And though Meta had shown a glimpse of Augments in action when it was announced last year, it seems the company’s vision (and desire to market that vision) got ahead of its execution.

This week Meta CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth responded to a question during an Instagram Q&A about when the Augments feature would ship. He indicated the feature as initially shown wasn’t meeting the company’s expectation.

We were playing with [Augments] in January and we decided it wasn’t good enough. It was too held back by some system architecture limitations we had; it ended up feeling more like a toy and it didn’t really have the power that we think it needed to deliver on the promise of what it was.

So we made a tough decision there to go back to the drawing board, and basically [it needed] a completely different technical architecture. Starting from scratch basically. Including actually a much deeper set of changes to the system to enable what we wanted to build there. I think we made the right call—we’re not going to ship something we’re not excited about.

But it did restart the clock, and so [Augments is] going to take longer than we had hoped to deliver. I think it’s worth while, I think it’s the right call. But that’s what happened.

We’re only two-and-a-half months out from Meta Connect 2024, which would be the one-year anniversary of the Augments announcement. That’s where we likely to hear more about the feature, but at this point it’s unclear if it could ship by then.

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