About five years ago, Artur Sychov’s father was stricken with a serious form of cancer. Sychov was upset by his father’s illness. He told me last week that he realized his time with him was limited. Sychov’s children were small, and he was saddened to think that they would not know their grandfather.
He worried whether his children could communicate with their grandfather after he died.
Sychov is the CEO and founder of the new metaverse Somnium Space. Somnium Space is VR headset compatible, allowing for a 3D experience.
Sychov’s father’s death inspired “Live Forever” mode, a future feature in Somnium Space that allows users to have their movements and conversations saved as data, then replicated into an avatar that moves, talks, and sounds just like them—even after they die. Individuals may speak with their departed loved ones in Sychov’s dream.
“If I die and this data is recorded, individuals or my children may converse with my avatar, gestures, and voice,” he said. “You’ll run into him. For the first ten minutes of the chat, you’d have no idea it was AI. That is the goal.”
These potential advances make Sychov’s investment in the metaverse worthwhile. “They think it’s about selling NFTs and brands, but it isn’t,” he said. Deeper.
Sychov also indicated that the data will be able to capture how you speak and sound, but he didn’t provide much specifics other than stating how he is periodically duped by internet chatbots. “The same will happen in VR,” he predicts.
Somnium Space will use all of that data to create an immortal mirror image of users with the same visual movements and manner of speech—the stuff of science fiction from Dollhouse to Dune to Man of Steel, in which Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon fought over a thumb drive containing a sentient representation of Russell Crowe, who, despite being dead, sought to mentor Cavill.
“We can utilize AI on this data to create you as an avatar on your land parcel or in your NFT environment,” Sychov said.
First, collect and preserve data from customers who pay for the “Live Forever” feature. Somnium Space intends to begin gathering data on user movements and sounds on their parcels this year.
The beauty of the concept, according to Sychov, is that this other version of you may evolve alongside AI in the coming years, even if all of the data was collected years ago. “Let’s imagine you or someone dies,” Sychov said. AI can recreate you better over time with the same amount of data.
When I asked Sychov about a VR corporation storing so much user data, he didn’t back down.
“That’s why Facebook is scary,” he said when we first met. The dominance of Facebook in the metaverse is perilous.
Somnium Space, unlike Meta, formerly Facebook, does not sell people’s data to advertisers. “We’re decentralized,” says Sychov. “Your name is unimportant.” What is your name?
Sychov is developing a more ethical business model so that clients would feel comfortable providing infinite data for analysis. The option to “Live Forever” will be deactivated by default, and the firm will not collect data unless consumers pay for it. The company plans to keep the price low—Somnium Space paid early adopters $50 for a year—but Sychov anticipates that data storage expenditures will always need payment.