CES 2021 moving to an all-digital experience on January 6-9, 2021, extending COVID’s winning streak over the best laid plans. It’s probable the online version will be a shadow of itself. Expect droning Zoom webinars, scores of online product demos, and a smattering of VR side events. The good news is that many people, millions of people, will be able to attend.
While CES and every other conference has been laid low by the virus, Telehealth, long primed to explode, has blasted off, as need has finally overcome institutional obstacles.
Telehealth startup Ro secures $ 200 million in Series C funding. Ro, now in unicorn territory, valued at over $ 1.5 B, operates digital health clinics for men’s and women’s health, and will use the funding to make care more affordable and expand operations with remote patient monitoring, urgent care, and management of chronic diseases.
Telehealth startup Heal Collects $ 100 million in Series D funding. The investment round comes from health insurance company Humana, and brings the company’s total investment to $ 200 million. Since the Covid outbreak Heal has seen its telemedicine services grow 800% and house calls have increased over 30%. Heal will use the funding to expand into more markets centered around major US cities.
Over 1 million people paid for tickets to the digital Tomorrowland music festival. The event took place last weekend with tickets for the event selling at 12.50 – 20 euros. The pay-per-view virtual festival had over 60 acts, including Katy Perry, Amelie Lens, David Guetta, Martin Garrix and Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike. It was built using Unreal Engine, which was recently used to create a patriotic mobile AR event for Finland’s national independence day, which was “attended” by 700,000 people around the world. Prediction: very soon 40 M people are going to pay $ 10 to see Taylor Swift get the Travis Scott treatment in Fortnite, thereby changing the music business forever.
Facebook gets in on video conferencing. Google and Facebook are coming to get their users back from Zoom with free offerings, but no word yet if it’s working. Skype for business is now part of Office365, and Google Meet was just unceremoniously jammed into the gmail interface.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is Japan’s biggest hit this year. This Switch-based Second Life-like 3D virtual world has caught on like Hello Kitty, and selling 5 million units in Japan alone. Five times more than the second best selling game in Japan, Final Fantasy 7.
Polyarc, creators of Moss, closed $ 9 million Series B funding for developing AR games. The round was led by Hiro Capital, followed by Vulcan Capital and Galaxy Interactive. Polyarc will use its experience from creating Moss to build a narrative driven AR game. XR content seems to be back in favor.
LG is working on ultra-light AR glasses in partnership with Japan’s NTT DoCoMo. Like last week’s GioGlass reveal, the LG The designs won’t be revealed until 2021. The company said the glasses are for hands-free videoconferencing and are nearly as light as a regular pair of glasses. This is a bit of a brain teaser. There must be cameras facing the participants somewhere, right? Are they avateering? Or do their glasses launch a little camera drone to shoot the remote participants?
Fox fills empty stadiums filled with fans using augmented reality. Fox Sports partnere with Silver Spoon Animation to fill empty sports stadiums with digital fans during baseball games using Epic’s Unreal Engine. It was on the laughable side of uncanny valley. In fairness, it was characterized as an experiment.
AfterNow launches beta for its XR remote collaboration tool AfterNow Prez Remote. The application works on Oculus and Microsoft HMDs and is intended to promote collaboration and reduce Zoom fatigue. You can sign up for the beta here.
JigSpace has seen a 900% growth in users of its JigSpace Workshop platform since the Covid outbreak. JigSpace Workshop is built for easy presentation of 3D assets using augmented reality, whether for marketing, training, or more.
Blippar expands its leadership team with Emma Witkowski and Steve Doyle. Both hires come from decades of experience at the top agencies working with brands such as Facebook, Nissan, Lionsgate, Nordstrom, and Nestlé.
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“This Week in XR” is written and edited with Michael Eichenseer.