Does TOUCH matter in the world of Metaverse?

 

The world is crazy about the Metaverse and the opportunities this digital world can offer, but people are now probably wondering – “What are the devices that bring them to enter the virtual world of Metaverse?” 

Metaverse is known best to create the set of interactions between the user and digital tools that provides a “compelling user’s interface”. This makes the user experience possible and provides sensations, emotions and memories to the users whenever virtual interaction between human and machine virtually occurs.

The Metaverse allows users to reach an advanced level of unique and engaging immersive experiences. Many presume the gate into the Metaverse is probably represented by the combination of hardware devices and software intelligences that enable such a parallel world to seamlessly combine. However, there is a question about the readiness of devices and how they can make the experiences and sensations as realistic as the expectations of users.

Arguing now in a community of product developers, the concept of user’s interface in a form of “Airy Touch” of the prime devices such as a feature of Augmented Reality Headset as they are designed to complement the user’s experiences in the Metaverse, this might not be good enough.

The recent surveys conducted by National Research Group, a leading entertainment and technology researcher unveiled people are all excited about the new Metaverse. 

In the meantime, a survey disclosed more than 80% of Metaverse users are missing the feeling of physical touch and interacting with others in the virtual world. Especially those gamers and athletes who love feeling how difficult the adventure, race or attack are, and are addicted to the feeling of reactive bouncing forces to push and play in the real world and value the same feelings of virtuality. In addition, people admit that in the virtual world they miss the use of using bare hands to feel, touch and interact as they do naturally in real life.

A report from the survey of the National Research Group conducted in 2021 with over 4,500 consumers who were 18-64 years old in the US NRG Metaverse Press Release (ctfassets.net) concluded that…

  • 84% of consumers say the ability to physically touch and interact with others makes them feel more connected and makes their interactions feel more authentic with others. 
  • 78% of consumers say when interacting with people virtually, they miss the ability to physically touch and interact with them. 
  • 61% of consumers are interested in virtual collaborative experiences with tactile or “touchable” interaction.

From what the statistics reported in the survey, it turns out that the success of the Metaverse relies on the devices and user interfaces. In particular how they will provide AUTHENTICITY AND INTIMACY for the users connected to others. This critical aspect will be key to the successful and sustainable adoption of the Metaverse.

The good news is Emerge, a US based company, founded by the Alumni from Singularity University (https://emerge.io/) has developed a device and technology called the “Emerge Wave-1” device. It allows people to physically feel and touch what they are seeing in Virtual Reality. Emerge describes its product innovation as “social virtual connection” and that it has the ability to provide the missing sense of physical touch to the Metaverse. It is explained simply by one of the inventors that whenever you want to greet someone in the Metaverse with a high-five, handshake or a firm handshake, like what you normally do in the real world, you will feel their palms bumping against yours.

How does it work and are there any limitations of the device?

The Emerge device comes with a table-top panel and uses ultrasonic waves to create the sensation of touch for the users. 

The panel is a similar size as a 13 inch laptop and it projects the point of target in the Metaverse by the ultrasonic beams that radiate to the air above and around the surface of the device. Whenever the user raises their hands and physically holds them above the panel of the device the ultrasonic waves will map the virtual objects, like what users can see in their VR Headset. This technology is called haptic feedback (otherwise known as 3D touch) creating  the feeling of touch felt by the users. 

Haptic feedback uses the motion like vibration or shaking to simulate a physical touch equivalent. A simple example of haptic technology is the vibration of your mobile phone. You might not be able to see your phone shaking, but it really does, and you can feel it when you touch. 

Despite all of these enhanced benefits the ultrasonic waves from the Emerge device come from one direction only and as a result this makes the range of tactile sensations it can produce limited.