Somnium Space is planning to release a new standalone VR headset with the help of XTAL maker, VRgineers.
But, wait, who are Somnium Space?
You’d be forgiven for not having heard of the company before today, but Somnium has been around for a number of years working on what it claims is “the world’s only VR metaverse built on blockchain”. It operates a social VR platform of the same name, available on SteamVR, in which users can buy virtual land. In 2019 the company raised $1 million to expand its platform.
The headset itself was revealed at Somnium’s own ‘Connect’ event (no, not that Connect) in Prague earlier this week. The company says its device is powered by Qualcomm’s XR2 platform with 6DOF inside-out tracking via four cameras and sports 2,800 x 2,800 displays with a horizontal field of view greater than 115 degrees. VRgineers — known for its professional-grade XTAL headset, various models of which offer top-end specs at a high price — is also working with the company to deliver custom lenses similar to those in its own devices.
Other planned features include both wired and wireless connections to PC for SteamVR access, with native Lighthouse tracking and controllers apparently in the works. To that end, the device will be modular, with swappable elements like the front faceplate and there’s onboard buttons too. The headset has been in the planning stages since early 2021.
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.
So, why does Somnium say it’s working on such a device? According to founder and CEO Artur Sychov, it’s to release a headset that customers truly “own”, with an open ecosystem that allows them to do what they want with the device. “We have seen a trend where many VR companies, big companies, were producing VR headsets that started to close their ecosystems, creating these silos of closed ecosystems and we, as the metaverse company, we cannot afford to risk that we will be dependent on some other ecosystems,” Sychov said on-stage during the event.
Somnium plans to ship its first headsets in Q4 of 2022, though it says it will not be running a pre-order campaign. “We won’t take your money until we’re ready to ship,” Sychov said. “Maybe a little bit earlier.” Exactly how much the device will cost hasn’t been revealed at this time, but this too will be key to seeing what kind of adoption and developer support Somnium can gain. If its plans do come to fruition, however, expect its own take on the metaverse to be a big focus for the headset.
What do you make of Somnium’s VR plans? Let us know in the comments below!