Somnium Space is Developing a Headset

The “social virtual reality platform company” Somnium Space LTD (London, England)is going into the hardware business. The company explained that “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.”

To address this issue, the company will be developing its’ own headset in collaboration with VRgineers Inc. (Prague, Czech Republic), the company behind the XTAL enterprise headset. More than just a simple collaboration, Somnium Space has also announced a strategic investment in the hardware maker. Details of the investment have not been made public.

Display Daily readers unfamiliar with Somnium Space can find an introduction to the company on the Everipedia website which can be found here. It is interesting to note that the word somnium is Latin for “dream” and may refer to the novel “Somnium,” a scientific fantasy written in Latin by Johannes Kepler in the year 1608.

Initial details of the stand-alone virtual reality headset became available during the first Somnium Space Connect event held in Prague on December 20th. Some of the features and specifications of the headset are as follows. Comments have been embedded in the list.

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2

(LPDDR5 refers to the fifth generation of Low Power Double Data Rate technology. The standard was defined by JEDEC in February 2019.)

  • 512 GB UFS 3.1

(UFS stands for Universal Flash Storage.)

  • Display: Two 3.2 inch 2880 RGB x 2880 fast LCDs

(The Company reports that it is also considering the use of micro OLED displays.)

  • 1283 PPI
  • Refresh rate: 90 Hz

(The possibly of operation at 120 Hz has been mentioned.)

  • Horizontal FOV: greater than 115 degrees.

(The optics are based on custom made XTAL-like non-Fresnel lenses.)

  • Integrated stereo microphones
  • Headphone jack
  • Inside-out 6 DoF tracking
  • Support for inside-out 6 DoF and Lighthouse controllers.

(Lighthouse is a laser-based inside-out positional tracking system developed by Valve for SteamVR and HTC Vive. It accurately tracks the position and orientation of the user’s head mounted display and controllers in real time.)

  • Two USB-C 10 Gbps for external accessories
  • One charging USB-C
  • External battery pack support using USB-C
  • OS: Android 11 AOSP

(AOSP stands for the Android Open Source Project. The project includes a repository that offers information as well as the source code needed to create custom variants of the Android OS.)

  • Two cameras for augmented reality having UHD sensors
  • Direct open access to sensors and cameras

A video appended to the end of this article is from the Somnium Space Connect event. It includes a presentation by the company introducing the Somnium Space headset. (The presentation on the headset can be found between time stamps 1:21:05 and 1:31:50.) The figure below illustrates the headset.

SomniumThe Somnium Space headset.

In addition to operation in a standalone mode, users will also be able to connect the headset to a PC for lossless virtual reality gaming. It is also possible to stream content to the headset by way of built in Wi-Fi 6e. Furthermore, there is a slot for a MicroSD extension UHS-1 card (UHS stands for Ultra High Speed) for expandable storage.

The front panel of the headset will be removable and can be exchanged for other panels. In addition, the side and bottom of the headset have smaller panels that can be removed so that items, such as 3D printed accessories, can be added. Somnium has indicated that the company will release all the details required for user’s to print their own compatible parts thus allowing for production of customized virtual reality headsets.

The Somnium Space headset is reported to have been in development since the beginning of 2021. Although it seems clear that real progress has been made, the headset still seems to be somewhat of a work-in-progress. None-the-less, the current plan is to release the first headsets in Q4, 2022. Somnium Space has not yet announced a price for the headset. The company has stated that it will not offer discounted pre-orders or run any funding campaigns. – Arthur Berman