It’s been hard to define exactly what Improbable, the London-based company that raised $20 million from Andreessen Horowitz in March, does up until now, but its vision is clearer after it announced Spatial OS — its distributed operating system that is designed to take simulation and data technology to the next level.
Announced by Improbable CEO Herman Narula at the Slush event in Helsinski, Spatial OS is essentially an operating system for developing advanced and large scale data simulations. Ok, so when we said “clearer,” we mean for those who understand the technologies involved.
Either way, there’s a huge amount of scope within the capabilities of the OS. Narula explained that — in practical terms — the system can been used to create virtual worlds — such as Worlds Adrift, an environment that is the size of Israel and contains four million entities — and data-centric systems to map and model traffic, population, housing, economics and other behaviors.
“It transforms how we look at complex systems in areas as diverse as city management, defence, economics and entertainment, enabling a new class of applications and businesses for the future,” Improbable succinctly explains on its website.
Spatial OS, Narula said, integrates a range of modules — such as the Unity gaming engine and popular traffic simulators — and can scale to serve millions of users in the case of consumer products like virtual reality. Mobile devices and VR hardware can be plugged in, he added — without being specific about exactly what devices are supported at this point — to enable developers to build complicated systems using an SDK and browser-based system for managing applications.
Virtual reality is the most obvious example, because it is so visual, and Worlds Adrift was demonstrated on stage at Slush to illustrate what Spatial OS is capable of.
The capacity of Spatial OS, Narula said, enabled the world to be created at such vast scale but, most impressive, is the fact that it is a persistent environment in which objects remain forever. In other words, if you chop down a tree in one part of the environment or move a table, it will remain untouched and in the same position until someone moves it.
Worlds Adrift Screenshot 01
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But virtual reality is just the tip of the iceberg for how Spatial OS could be applied. Narula said he believes it will allow developers to “look again at complex systems… and drive new decision making.”
Some projects that are currently in development include a complete model of London — which could be used to run traffic, population and other simulations — and proposals ranging from rainforest modeling, to simulations for housing, the economy and cellular biology.
“Simulation isn’t ready for [modern] uses,” Narula said before he introduced Spatial OS. “[It’s] where data science was in 1970s… scaling simulations is like trying to scale up a gigantic circus full of thousands of badly behaved circus acts.”
With Spatial OS, Improbable hopes that it has created a system for harnessing the potential of big data and simulations. The OS is already being used by a handful of selected partners, but developers wanting to get in on the action and enjoy early access can apply on the Improbable website.