In the metaverse, a virtual handshake will feel real, a tech start-up is promising. The metaverse is described as an immersive version of the internet, where we can experience virtual environments in 3D, instead of viewing digital content on a computer.
Emerge, a company based in California, United States, is developing technology it says allows people to physically feel what they see in virtual reality (VR).
The company is a World Economic Forum 2022 Technology Pioneer – one of 100 start-ups from 30 countries that are driving innovation through cutting-edge technologies.
What does Emerge’s system let you do in the metaverse?
Emerge describes itself as a “social virtual connection” company that is bringing physical touch to the metaverse. When you greet someone in the metaverse with a high-five or handshake, you’ll actually be able to feel their hand, the company says.
When you pick up or hold a virtual object, you’ll be able to feel and interact with the object.
How does it work?
A tabletop panel called the Emerge Wave-1 device uses ultrasonic waves to create the sensation of touch. The panel is roughly the size of a 13” laptop and projects the ultrasonic beams into the air above and around its surface.
When users hold their hands above the panel, the ultrasonic waves map virtual objects they can see in their VR headset. Technology called haptic feedback then translates this into the feeling of touch.
Haptic feedback uses motion like vibration or shaking to simulate touch. For example, haptic technology is what makes your phone vibrate. Haptic motion can also be created using motors and air pockets.
Emerge has paired its Wave-1 device panel with the Meta Quest 2 VR headset (formerly known as Oculus) and its hand-tracking sensors. The ultrasonic waves can reach up to three feet (0.9m) above the panel and spread 120 degrees around it.