Japanese startup wants to cause pain in real life in metaverse

A Japanese tech start-up is working to bring physical pain to people in virtual worlds, one of a growing number of companies scrambling to profit by providing real-life experiences. of people in the virtual world.

H2L, a Sony-backed company founded a decade ago, has built a product that features a wristband to detect human muscle flexion, allowing the user’s avatar in the metaverse copy body movements and people really feel the presence and weight of objects. The technology uses electrical stimulation to control the arm muscles and mimic sensations, such as catching a ball or a bird pecking at the skin.

“Feeling pain allows us to make the world upside down [world]with an increased sense of presence and immersion,” said Emi Tamaki, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Tokyo-based company.

Tamaki is a researcher in tactile technology, related to touch. Her goal is to “free people from any kind of constraints of space, body, and time” by 2029, when – with advances in networking and electronics – she hopes products H2L products will have a multitude of applications.

Tamaki’s decades-old company belongs to a growing segment of Japanese companies and investors touch the blurred line between the real world and reverse, when large technology corporations invest heavily in this field. Facebook changed its name to Meta last October, when the social media team wanted to focus on building virtual worlds. According to data provider Tracxn, the top 10 virtual reality startups in Japan have raised US$60 million.

In November, Meta announced that it was developing a tactile vibrating glove, and the Spanish startup OWO had developed a vest equipped with sensors to allow the user to feel sensations ranging from hugs to gunshots.

According to people familiar with the company’s plans, H2L is estimated to have raised 1 billion yen ($8.4 million) and is valued at around 5 billion yen.

Tamaki started working in haptics after she had a near-death experience in her late teens related to congenital heart disease. She came up with the idea of ​​creating a technology that would allow physical experiences to be linked to a computer while she was in hospital and co-founded the company after earning a PhD in engineering from the University of Tokyo.

“I realized how precious life is so I decided to work on a new field that I really wanted to delve into, as there was no one to study at the time,” she says.

Tamaki says the technology can be used for games, but people can also use it to perceive virtual world events in real life. For example, technology can convey a user’s sense of participation in an activity from childhood, such as throwing a ball with a parent, by recreating the senses involved in tossing and catching a ball while activities take place in the virtual world.

“People like me, who can’t go out often because I don’t have enough muscle due to heart disease, can travel anytime, anywhere,” she said.

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