Somnium Space Announces a Branded Virtual Reality Headset

Somnium Space’s announced VR headset will work both standalone and tethered (image source)

Somnium Space has been busy! In a Medium post last October, as part of several announcements of investments in various XR technologies such as TESLASUIT and XTAL, they wrote:

We are extremely excited to share with all of you what we have been working on already for months — a Somnium Space VR headset. At Somnium we believe that users must have the right of choice. That VR hardware market should not consist of few big players producing headsets with closed eco systems thus creating silos and with full control over user experience and more importantly data. Moreover, as a decentralized and open Metaverse company we cannot allow Somnium Space to be dependent on hardware gatekeepers to be able to communicate and engage with our users. That is why, earlier this year we have taken a strategic decision to start working on our own VR headset.

Currently we are deep in the R&D phase, finalizing specifications and component details. Testing compatibility and preparing supply chain. In December 2021, during Somnium Connect physical and VR event we will release final specifications and more details about production and delivery timelines, prices and much more. As of now we can share few high-level teasers about headset:

– Standalone mode powered by Snapdragon XR2 chip

– Native PC VR mode

– Open, community driven software eco-system

– Modular design

We can not wait to share more information in December and work on this together with you — community and amazing partner companies for seamless integrations of hardware and software experiences.

On Dec. 22nd, 2021, Bobby Carleton of VRScout reported:

The headset, which [Somnium Space CEO Artur] Sychov refers to as the “Somnium VR Headset”, is packed with some killer specs and designed specifically for a VR audience that doesn’t want to be tied to a specific app store or be boxed into any sort of platform restrictions. 

“We wanted to create a headset that you truly own. We didn’t want to lock you down into our ecosystem,” said Sychov. “We didn’t not want to allow you to do things with your own items. If you buy a VR headset from Somnium Space, you truly own it.”

According to Somnium, the headset features a modular design that allows you to easily customize your experience. You can also remove the sides and bottom of the headset to add custom 3D printed accessories (up to 55 lbs!), making it a truly customizable VR headset. “We really believe in modularity,” said Sychov, adding, “with access to the platform, you’ll be able to extend the life of the headset.” 

Another cool feature is that Somnium’s VR headset is completely programmable, which means you can dive into the system to change the actions of the buttons and sensors in order to meet your custom needs. 

Somnium Space, which is best known for its open social VR platform that integrates blockchain and cryptocurrency for true ownership of digital goods and virtual land, partnered with VRgineers (makers of the XTAL 3 headset) to develop their own hardware. Though not as beefy as VRgineers’ XTAL 3 headset, which is designed for enterprise use, Somnium Space looks to raise the bar for non-enterprise VR headset expectations.

Somnium Space hopes to deliver their branded virtual reality headset to consumers by the fourth quarter of 2022. These are very ambitious plans, and UploadVR‘s Jamie Felton notes:

These are ambitious plans for sure, and it’s worth remembering the difficulties many other small to medium-sized companies have faced bringing VR hardware to market. DecaGear recently drastically revised its plans for a $450 SteamVR headset to $700, citing the realities of competing with Meta. Plus there are many vital elements of Somnium’s plans that still sound up in the air, like a reference to “researching Micro OLED displays” which would surely drastically change the shape and form of the product.

As far as I am aware, Somnium Space is the first social VR platform (besides Meta) to offer a branded VR headset. I wish Artur Sychov and his team every success in their gutsy endeavour!

Barbados to Set Up an Embassy in Decentraland

The Caribbean nation of Barbados is planning to set up a virtual embassy in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland. While the idea of a country setting up an embassy in a virtual world is not new (both Sweden and the Maldives have had embassies in Second Life), this is the first time that a country has set up an official presence in a blockchain-based virtual world, and perhaps a sign of things to come.

According to a recent CoinDesk article written by Andrew Thurman, Decentraland is not the only metaverse platform the country is looking at:

In what could be seen as a historic step toward the legitimization of the metaverse, the island nation of Barbados is preparing to legally declare digital real estate sovereign land with the establishment of a metaverse embassy.

The Barbadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade signed an agreement on Sunday with Decentraland, among the largest and most popular crypto-powered digital worlds, for the establishment of a digital embassy. Per a press release provided to CoinDesk, the government is also finalizing agreements with “Somnium Space, SuperWorld and other Metaverse platforms.”

Both Decentraland and Somnium Space I could see as possible sites for a virtual embassy, but SuperWorld? Really? The last time I looked at the SuperWorld project, back in January, I was less than impressed with the concept. I wonder how much the Barbadian officials understand about the metaverse, if they lumped SuperWorld in with Decentraland and Somnium Space. Let’s hope they are getting good advice!

The CoinDesk article goes on to say:

With the release of the embassy, tentatively scheduled for January, Barbados will become the first country in the world to recognize digital sovereign land. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Ministry of Science and Technology, and many other governmental bodies reviewed the plans over “several, several months,” said [Barbados’ ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, H.E. Gabriel] Abed.

The country has also retained legal counsel, as the embassy will set a number of unique precedents. So far experts have said that the embassy will be compliant with international law as well as the Vienna Convention.

Barbados is among the friendliest countries in the world for cryptocurrencies and has been among those leading the charge on the development of a central bank digital currency.

A view of Barbados (Photo by Kathryn Maingot on Unsplash)

Thank you to Akumie for the tip!

Somnium Times Covers News and Events on the Blockchain-Based Social VR Platform Somnium Space

The Somnium Times website

I may have been belabouring the point lately, but I still feel, quite strongly, that many of the newer social VR platforms have not been promoting themselves very effectively lately. I have written before about how Second Life’s bloggers, vloggers, and livestreamers promote SL, saying:

Second Life has a vibrant and thriving community of thousands and thousands of bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and machinima makers. Combine that with a flourishing ecosystem of programs and tools, such as the Black Dragon viewer, and you get a creative frenzy of activity which is, as yet, unmatched by any other social VR platform or virtual world (although VRChat comes close!). It’s essentially a self-sustaining marketing machine at this point, selling SL to a wide outside audience…

So my message. to all those companies which are toiling away, hoping to inherit the mantle of Second Life and become the next massive metaverse platform, is this: pay attention to your community, and encourage their creative pursuits! You might be pleasantly surprised at the spin-off benefits of cultivating and leveraging your fanbases.

Well, today I want to spotlight a great example of someone who has done just that, promoting the blockchain-based social VR/virtual world platform Somnium Space. Somnium Times is a website and an associated YouTube channel focused on news and events in Somnium Space, by Marc Demar. Here’s an example video:

Yes, that’s right, in much the same way that I originally started this blog four years ago to focus on Sansar, Marc has started his website and channel to focus on what’s happening in Somnium Space. Every social VR platforms out there should be asking themselves: What do I have to do to find someone like Marc Demar?

And if you can’t find someone to volunteer to do it because they’re such a fan of your platform, perhaps you should consider how to better cultivate those raving fans. You might want to ask yourself if there are ways or tools (like the Black Dragon viewer) to allow those fans to create high-quality, compelling content to spread via social media. Perhaps, you should consider even taking the step to (gasp!) pay someone to create sponsored content to advertise your world. (If you’re interested, here are my rates for advertising and sponsored blogposts. Was that subtle enough for you? 😉 )

The point I am trying to make is this: you can’t just create a platform, then sit back and do nothing to either a) promote it, or b) enable other people to promote it. The platforms are not just going to magically sell themselves (as Sansar has discovered to its detriment over the past four years). As RuPaul says: You have to work!

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk 😉

The New Ready Player Me Hub: The Ability to Import Your Avatar to Any Supported Platform!

An example of the avatars you can create using the new Ready Player Me Hub (source)

Wolf3D’s Ready Player Me, the customizable avatar system I have written about before here, here, and here, has issued a brand new update! In the email I received yesterday:

The Ready Player Me Hub lets you create one or multiple avatars and use them in all apps that support Ready Player Me. With one click, you can import your existing avatar or create a new one and add it to apps like VRChat, LIV, and Somnium Space.

According to the official blogpost announcing the update (which I recommend you read in full):

Ever since we launched Ready Player Me back in May last year, our goal was to create a cross-game avatar platform for the metaverse – one that gives you a consistent digital identity everywhere you and your avatar go. Think of it as a passport that gives you access to thousands of virtual worlds. Today, we are making the metaverse passport real with the launch of the Ready Player Me Hub

When you sign in to the Ready Player Me Hub, you can see all your avatars and connect them to your favorite applications in one click. To import your avatar into a partner app that uses Ready Player Me, all you need to do is sign in with your account.

VentureBeat reports:

Wolf3D’s platform allows users to travel between video games, virtual reality experiences, and other apps using a single virtual identity, said cofounder Timmu Tõke in an interview with GamesBeat.

“We’re trying to build a cross-game service to enable a lot of virtual worlds to exist,” Tõke said. “We see more people spending more and more time in virtual worlds. The metaverse is kind of happening around us. But most of it isn’t happening in one world or one app. It’s a network of many different worlds that people visit for work and play and collaboration. And doesn’t really make sense for the end user to create a new avatar identity for each of those experiences. It makes sense to have one portable entity that travels with you across many different games and apps and experiences.”

In fact, 300 games, apps, and social VR/virtual worlds now support the Ready Player Me avatar system, including the following platforms (all links below redirect you to blogposts I have previously written about each platform, which might be somewhat out-of-date, as I am covering so many different platforms on this blog!):

You can peruse the complete list of Ready Player Me partners here.

If you are interested in trying out the Ready Player Me Hub to create an avatar (either from a selfie or from scratch), you can access it here. You have a choice of making either a full-body avatar or a head-and-shoulders avatar:

The Ready Player Me Hub starting screen

When your avatar is ready, simply click Next in the top right corner of the website. You will be redirected to the new Hub interface. To save your avatar, click Claim now and sign in with your email address. You will get a one-time login code that you need to type in the Hub. You can use the Hub to connect your avatars to available apps in the Discover Apps tab. To import your avatar into a new app, all you need to do is click Connect avatar (some applications may require a few extra steps).

We are getting ever closer to the dream of having a consistent avatar which you can use in multiple social VR platforms! Be sure to give the Ready Player Me Hub a try.