“It feels like we’re in episode of ‘Black Mirror” - TimeOut
SOMNAI is a one-of-a-kind production, combining cutting-edge immersive tech and theatre experience into a totally unique show. SOMNAI positions itself as a sleep clinic where patients book an appointment to master the skill of lucing dreaming and become a better version of themselves. Experience lasts for 70 minutes through which guests experience different parts of the “dream”, which includes multiple multisensory VR’s, projection mapping, mind blowing set, and thrilling acting. In the middle of the experience patients have to make decision that will dictate their path through the experience, but all ending in the projection mapped bar with the bespoke AR cocktails.
Over 6 different production companies got together together to bring this project to life, alongside freshly formed freelance team. With an overarching narrative of lucid dreaming, each company was responsible for their 'parts of a dream’. I got approached by Carl Guyenette, who co-directed SOMNAI, to lead the production of the two major parts of the show: a multi-sensory, social, full body track, real time VR experience, which was the most technologically advanced room in the entire production ; and the AR dotdotdot app.
The Fantasy VR is a full body-track, multi-sensory experience where 6 patients put on VR backpacks and delve in multiple fantasy scenes built by Christopher Fantauso in 12x8 meter room. The experience is networked allowing guests to interact with each other and the world. We used multiple (38+) OptiTrack cameras and OptiTrack HMD trackers provided by Target3D. For user interactions we used Leap Motion attached in front of each headset. The avatars are driven by FinalIK working in conjunction with Leap Motion and the OptiTrack tracking data. Grigor Todorov developed a bespoke networking system for 6 backpacks using UNET. The backpacks are running a Client application that automatically discovers and connects to a server. The server is running on the same machine that's connected to the motion capture switch and runs the OptiTrack software.
We used sensory elements such as scents, wind, heat and physical props, such as rope bridge, flooring textures, and diverse fantasy plants to add another layer of immersion. We positioned physical real life props in accordance to the virtual worlds so their position match in both realms creating an impression of "layered reality".
Six patients gear up and find themselves on the edge of a canyon facing a high rope bridge. They are guided by the SOMNAI actor, represented by a glowy sphere in the virtual world. Patients are challenged to walk down the bridge to find out what's on the other side. As they walk down the bridge holding ropes to not fall over, they watch glorious sunset, orange skies turning blue, they feel the dimming heat from the sun above their heads.
On the other side of the bridge patients find a portal that takes to the majestic mushroom forest, which is filled with the magical neon fluorescent plants, oversized colour changing mushrooms, and fantasy creatures that patients can touch and interact with.
As patients leave the mushroom forest they find themselves standing on the shore of the lake with the fluorescent plankton raising on the water surface. Clouds get dense and lightning sparks in the sky - this is a beginning of the storm. Patients follow the portal to escape from rain.
Now they are in the candle lit pathway between grand stone walls. They walk down the path, until they reach a large tree with the man-size hole in it. They enter the tree hole and….
... they fall down the underwater cave, on the other side of which they gaze at the stunning corral valley. Patients play with the fish schools swaying through them. They can feel the softness of sand underneath their feet. They explore the cave until SOMNAI leads their way out of a Fantasy dream.
The second piece of work that I delivered for SOMNAI is the dotdotdot app. It is an entertaining app that guests download before the experience and access it once they are being given a wristband with their Patient ID number upon their arrival to clinic. The Patient ID number is a unique code used to identify patient’s data and push it back into the app. Through the app patients are able to access and share their heart rate data generated throughout the experience (captured by Fitbit Charge 2), access and share their 3D head scans (taken upon their arrival) with the sci-fi filters or buy a holographic viewer to preview their scans in 3D, and finally scan AR cocktails to reveal the hidden content in the bar. The app is developed for both Android and Apple devices using Unity, Vuforia, and Fitbit API.
SOMNAI opened in March 2018 for 9 month just off the Goswell Road, London. It's been rich in media coverage and is getting a lot of positive reviews. SOMNAI has been mentioned in the Evening Standard, It's Nice That, Secret London , The Guardian,Huffington Post, The Nudge, The Culture Whisper, and much more. You can buy tickets here.
Director: Carl Guyenette
Producer: Angelina Aleksandrovich
Fantasy VR Developers: Carl Guyenette, Grigor Todorov
Fantasy 3D Artist: Christopher Fantauzzo
UI, UX & AR : Angelina Aleksandrovich
App Development: Laurentiu Fenes
Sensory Installation: The Feelies
Set Design: Alice Helps & Julie Landau
Soundrack: Pascal Wyse
SFX: Luke O'Connell