Jun 27, 2024

At AWE 2024, we were encouraged to “examine our past to gain insight into our future” throughout the conference. This was the fifteenth year of AWE, and for the first time, the XR community has outgrown the conference’s Silicon Valley home. Moving to Long Beach Convention Center enabled AWE to accommodate 6,500 spatial peers, an uptick reflective of the steady industry growth the media often glosses over.

Things that stood out most were a thoughtful XR Museum, highlighting a rich history of contributors going all the way back to 1968. There was an eye-opening amount of women featured on their Wall of Progress, and the total array of historic contributors was rivaled only by the scores of headsets and development kits arranged chronologically on the opposing walls.

Another area that stood out was the battalion of independent developers, demonstrating the growth and vitality of the XR community. These entrepreneurial-minded operators commanded dozens of booths towards the fringe of the Expo Floor, and were also complemented by a trove of wandering presenters, not tethered to any particular booth.

Some of our favorites included the MIT Reality Hack, a venue where rising stars co-mingle with enthusiastic veterans, the Nevermet dating platform, an avatar based dating platform with 30k daily active users and 3M successful matches, and Future Circus, an upcoming XR-forward mobile attraction combining go-karts and VR headsets deployable in any open space from city parks to parking lots.

One of the many wandering demonstrators we encountered and loved was Steven Christian, a recipient of the Unity for Humanity Grant. With his project Welcome to Iltopia, Steven found a way for people to engage with reading on an interactive level: Creating an emphasis on the tactile value of a book, each page in his colorful storyworld spawns an exciting AR experience.

The usual industry giants were also present, with Meta, Unity, Qualcomm, Sony, and others showing off the latest and greatest at booths that ranged from lavish to cozy.

The themes of “looking back” and “progress” were not only present in the Expo Hall; many talks featured this message including two of our favorites.

The first was a talk called Why Open Wins by Metaverse Standards Forum board member Ben Erwin. In this talk, Ben reflected on how proprietary, black-box implementations can fail, as compared to open source plugins and tools which endure the test of time due to an active community invested in their preservation and continued growth. What’s more, he showcased examples of how open models can be profitable to the tune of billions, whilst closed ecosystems and walled gardens can be stranded without even a legacy as their tools break down over time. This was a profound message rooted in history, and directed at today’s XR decision makers as they look to the future.

Meanwhile, Founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, and founder of BigscreenVR, Darshan Shankar, looked back at our hardware history, marveling at how we 20x’ed the pixel density of head mounted displays in just ten years time. Along with host Stephanie Riggs, they encouraged us to contemplate the 20 million units of Meta Quest 2’s sold, and how this was considered a flop by laypeople. They asked us to recognize that Meta Quest 2 has outsold the widely celebrated and nostalgic Nintendo 64 by a magnitude, and weigh this truth against the popular messaging that XR is still “too early”. At a time when Apple has just announced they will suspend development of the current VisionPro, these industry titans encouraged us to focus on our successes and very real market traction, as compared to fearmongering and fud from popular media.

With its theme of looking back to look ahead, AWE has reaffirmed our roadmap: Looking back at from AOL screen names, to Facebook profile pictures, and now forward to embodied 3D avatars, netizens eagerly await the coming evolution of online identity.

But an online identity is not enough, the internet is a place where community happens. In the same way that screen names are being replaced by avatars, message boards are being replaced by IP universes, an immersive virtual space where a confluence of like minded individuals meet to share ideas.

Genies has a hold in both online identity and community: With a robust 3D avatar pipeline and a growing roster of virtual worlds, we are building for the spatial web of the future with a wise wink to our past. 

Our first product in this XR pipeline is Genies Camera. This includes Genies user accounts, avatars, face tracking, hand tracking, eye tracking, blend shape hookups, avatar locomotion, emotes, and animation trees. Instead of developing these features in isolation, we integrated them into a product that enables limitless self-expression in XR, leading to the creation of the Genies Camera. Our roadmap doesn't stop there, we're also developing an exciting new product called Genies IRL, which will feature some of the first spatial NPCs in this medium. We're working on a gaze and attention system for these avatars, giving them spatial awareness through mesh segmentation. This is just the beginning of our vision for the future of XR.

If you are interested in discussing the future of XR with avatars at the center of digital identity, reach out to us at contact@genies.com. As a developer, for more information about our Tool Kit, we invite you to apply for access here.