A jacket fitted with sensors that allow wearers to feel hugs or even punchings in virtual reality was among the innovations giving the metaverse a more realistic edge at the Consumer Electronics Show.
“What is the metaverse if you can’t smell it?” Asked Jose Fuertes, founder of Spanish startup Owo, which made the jacket. “They are just avatars.”
The “metaverse” – a parallel universe where human, augmented, and virtual realities are meant to merge – was a hot topic at the annual gadget extravaganza in Las Vegas, with startups showing off computers, headsets and other gear promising to improve the time spent in virtual worlds.
Owo claims his jacket as capable of immersing wearers, whether in video games or the metaverse, allowing them to feel “a gunshot, the wind, someone grabbing your arm and even a hug. ‘loved one”.
The bodycon jacket features bands that stick to the skin, with sensors that sync with a mobile app. Before putting on a virtual reality (VR) headset, the wearer can choose the intensity of each sensation.
“Our mission is to turn the virtual into reality with a second skin; to add the sense of touch in metaverse or video games,” Fuertes said as AFP tried on the jacket.
The Owo suit – priced at less than $ 450 when it hits the market at the end of the year – is reminiscent of the sci-fi novel-turned-movie “Ready Player One,” in which the people of a dystopian world live alternate lives. a virtual universe.
The future of science fiction seems distant given the lack of full body suits and comfortable headsets for simulated experiences, or a ubiquitous high-speed internet service to handle such rich data streams.
Nonetheless, the metaverse has become a popular topic since it was endorsed by Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg with such enthusiasm that the tech company was renamed “Meta.”
– Sound of inevitability? –
Virtual reality has primarily been used for video games, despite its potential for experiences such as allowing people to visit museums, monuments, or distant cities while sitting at home, and even to provide seating literally at home. middle of feature films.
While companies like Meta and HTC have invested heavily in virtual reality headsets, the gear is still not light and comfortable enough to be worn for long periods of time.
âI’m the biggest type of augmented and virtual reality nerd out there, but I don’t think we’re close to anything exciting happening in the metaverse,â said Paddy Cosgrave, head of the Web Summit in Europe.
He expects it to take over a decade for the Metaverse to become real.
âNothing can stop it,â Touchcast chief and founder Edo Segal said of the Metaverse.
Touchcast introduced a platform for business-to-business collaboration in virtual reality, with “.metaverse” addresses similar to .com web addresses. But the domains will be registered on a blockchain database, instead of on servers.
âIn 1999, it was hard to believe people would buy things online,â Segal said.
“Look at where we are today. Mankind is moving in that direction.”
Industry trackers report that sales of virtual reality equipment have been boosted by the pandemic as people relied on the internet for games, work, learning and socializing.
– ‘Like a cyborg’ –
Since the pandemic started restricting people’s movement, Takuma Iwasa has started spending weekends on a virtual reality platform where people chat and party in a virtual world with avatars as their proxies.
As the year 2020 drew to a close, the young Japanese entrepreneur focused on how the movements of a person’s legs or torso can be reflected in avatars and other means of rendering visits from more realistic virtual worlds.
Its startup Shiftall, a subsidiary of Panasonic, unveiled lightweight, high-resolution VR glasses at CES.
âIn the future, some of the special combinations like in ‘Ready Player One’ will contain all systems,â Takuma said.
âCurrently, Metaverse users have to use different products, like a cyborg. “
Israeli start-up Wearable Devices is working on a bracelet that detects electrical signals sent from the brain to the hand. The wearer can control the synchronized objects with a simple snap of the fingers – a feature that could prove useful if people use augmented reality glasses and need to select items displayed on the lenses.
But as the metaverse evolves, society will also need to be wary of the dangers of online evils such as misinformation, harassment and loss of contact with the real world, some experts have warned.
“Counterfeit goods are also going to exist in the Metaverse. Forged identities are also going to exist in the Metaverse,” said Dan Guenther, Extended Reality Specialist at Accenture.
“And we’ve seen in many other developments of the Internet that many timesâ¦ (there) are parts of the Internet that we are uncomfortable with.”