We’re leaving tomorrow for South by Southwest to join the judging panel for the interactive section of Austin’s famous film, music and arts festival. As you can see from our coverage of last year, it is, along with the Augmented World Expo, the must-attend XR event of the year. Last year, the lingering pandemic and a brief surge of COVID crushed attendance, but from social media and nonsensical press releases, it looks like SXSW this year will be bigger than ever.

Pimax Secures $30M in Series C1 Funding to Develop and Support Deployment of Crystal and Portal VR Headsets. Pimax, a Chinese company with 8K (4K per eye) 200-degree field of view (Quest and new Vive Elite are 110) VR HMD, announced a $30 million C1 Series funding round, led by Beijing-based investment firm Tuanmu Capital. The company took a look at its new Pimax Crystal and a high-resolution Switch-like handheld for Steam gaming called Portal in December and showcased them at CES. This follows a Series B of $20M in 2020, bringing the company’s total investment to $69M.

‘Rec Room’ Hosts Its First Ever ‘Rec Rocks’ Music Festival This Weekend. The cross-platform gaming platform will feature eight artists this weekend, March 11-12, and will feature headliners Tokyo Machine (EDM) and pianist/singer/composer Ethan Bortnick.

TikTok’s new face filters are alarmingly good – which could be pretty bad. His effects studio last month introduced a Bold Glamor filter that turns everyone into a supermodel. It is blamed for fueling an epidemic of body dysmorphia that afflicts young women and girls.

Niantic’s virtual AR pet game, Peridot, is coming May 9 Your very own little virtual companion, from the creator of Pokemon Go. As with the old Tamgauchi, users raise “genetically unique” dots (pets) that grow, learn and interact with you and the rest of the world, other people and places. The company says pets will go into phases; being a teenager and an adult. No word yet on aging beyond that. But who wants an old Tamaguchi?

256GB Quest Pro and Quest 2 get major price cuts The Meta Quest Pro goes from $1,499.99 to $999.99. Likewise, the 256GB version of the Quest 2 will drop from $499.99 to $429.99. Meta says its goal is to “create affordable hardware for as many people as possible” and is lowering the price of the Pro to make its technology “accessible to even more businesses and professionals around the world”, but it’s clear the company is trying to clear out inventory before introducing the Quest 3 later this year. The price is infuriating customers who paid top dollar last month.

Bruce Vaughn Returns as Creative Director to Co-Lead Walt Disney Imagineering. The talented Mr. Vaughan, who led the creative team that created Disneyland Shanghai, left the company in 2018 to lead Dreamscape Immersive, the location-based VR startup backed by Steven Speilberg Studios and AMC Theaters. When that business pivoted, Vaughn switched to AirBnB to create new travel experiences. No one needs to say that this is an investment a company cannot make in tough economic times, when profits are everything. He is now back home where he will be partnered with Walt Disney Imagineering President Barbara Bouza. As a former Disney executive myself, I can tell you that they pay you a lot more to come back than to stay. Bruce will ensure that XR is part of the location-based entertainment experience of the future.

This Week in XR is also a podcast hosted by this column’s author, Ted Schilowitz, Futurist, Paramount Global, and Rony Abovitz, Founder of Magic Leap. Our guest this week is Blake Kammrdiner, XR Programming Manager at SXSW. We can be found on Spotify, iTunes and YouTube.

What we read

Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson predicted the Metaverse. What does he see next? (Peter Kafka/Vox)

The race to beat Elon Musk for putting chips in people’s brains (Daniel Gilbert/Washington Post)

This week at Schadenfreude

Quest has sold 20 million units, so why isn’t VR mainstream yet? (Tony Vitillo/Skarred Ghost blog)

Meta has massive plans for VR, although users aren’t that keen (Stan Schröder/Mashable)

Mark Zuckerberg quietly buries the metaverse (Luc Olinga/The street)

Meta to push AR and VR headsets amid cost-cutting plans and layoffs (Yahoo finance)

Meta doesn’t seem to know its VR headsets are game consoles (Alex Kranz/The Edge)

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