Just under a year ago I was invited with my good friend Chris Long to test out a multi-user VR platform called Somnium Space. Chris and I were joined by Somnium’s founder and CEO Artur Sychov who gave us a tour of the current build and it quickly became clear that this was quite a unique take on the social VR experience. Artur’s a great guy and you can tell that he has genuine passion for what he does.
There are no separate spaces/rooms/worlds in Somnium Space, instead it is single persistent reality spread across a substantial amount of virtual ground. Within this space there’s already a planetarium, a bowling alley, a rock climbing wall and even the early stages of a mall. Somnium also has plots of virtual land which can be purchased and developed on by individuals or apartments to rent for those that might be in need of something less permanent. It really seems to represent the groundwork for a genuine virtual community.
It’s a uniquely connected community too since Somnium Space is part of the VR Blockchain Alliance with High Fidelity and Janus VR. This means that users and potentially even assets will be transferable between the platforms. It also means that right now you can already walk into a teleporter in Somnium Space and teleport directly into High Fidelity!
Towards the end of 2018, Somnium completed phase 1 of their land offering via an Indiegogo campaign. They reached their target in 3 days and ended up with more than 500% of the investment they were seeking for. Ultimately they sold around 3km² of virtual land, split into around 3000 parcels of varying sizes. These parcels will shortly be released to the buyers and then they have the freedom to do what they want with them. They could build something themselves to go in the space (using Unity) or hire someone to do it. They could build a home, a shop or even a theme park (if they have enough space!)
So why am I suddenly talking about an app that I tried almost a year ago? Well last week I redownloaded a stack of VR apps onto my newest laptop and in the process, Somnium caught my eye so I jumped back in to take a peek. I actually bumped into Artur again by chance and we got chatting about the platform’s success, next steps and the timeline for it all. A new iteration of Somnium Space is imminent and this will coincide with the deployment of the aforementioned land parcels. This virtual world is about to have a population spike!
Later that night I was chatting with Chris Long, who I knew had bought one of these virtual chunks of land in Somnium. When I asked him about it, he mentioned that he might build a school on it. Now there’s an idea that could be a game-changer. Think about it – owning and operating your own virtual school within a persistent, connected virtual space that is free to access and even allows you to monetize. You could literally build your own vision of what a school could/should be – then make yourself the principal! You could choose the resources, hire the staff and even choose the colour of the walls!
The fact that the world is persistent is really important to this concept since it negates the need to jump in and out of spaces, potentially causing connection issues for some students etc. It means that you can take students outside of the space and into other areas with less friction. It also means that they can access other social activities outside of learning time. Factor in the integrated links with other platforms like High Fidelity and suddenly a world of immersive field trips is on your doorstep (or even inside your school if you added a teleport station!)
Let’s lay out a hypothetical scenario: Students from around the world join you for a history lesson about Ancient Egypt. This begins with an introduction in one of the classrooms in your Somnium Space school then you jump into the teleporter and jump into High Fidelity to visit Queen Nefertari's Tomb.
After the tour, you jump back in the teleporter and return to the school where you provide the students with 3D models of artefacts to analyse.
Is that currently possible? No.
Is it potentially possible? Yes
(and probably sooner than you think.)
You can find out more about Somnium Space via their website - www.somniumspace.com
You can also download the beta app now for free via Steam.