New Tech May Mean You’ll Feel Pain in the Metaverse

A wristband that shocks

  • A company is developing a gadget that lets you experience pain in the metaverse. 
  • The electric wristband allows users to move around in the virtual world and feel sensations like discomfort and the weight of objects. 
  • Another new device called the Emerge Wave-1 pairs with a VR headset and emits ultrasonic waves that let users feel virtual objects and sensations.
Someone playing a fighting game in VR.

Aksonov / Getty Images

Get ready to feel real pain when exploring the metaverse. 

A Japanese start-up company called H2L Technologies is working on creating real-life experiences that involve discomfort for the metaverse. The company's electric wristband allows users to move around in the virtual world and feel sensations like pain and the weight of objects. It's part of a growing effort to bring real feelings into virtual experiences. 

"Providing physical input and haptics allows us to create the most immersive experience possible while using today's technology," Christopher Crescitelli, the creative director at FreshWata, a company that creates immersive VR experiences, told Lifewire in an email interview. "Users who are already getting amazing 3D optics and spatial audio as a form of immersion will find themselves even more immersed when adding haptic gloves, vests, and other toolsets to their metaverse journey."

Virtual but Real

The gadget under development by H2L Technologies works by electrically stimulating a wearer's arm muscles, according to The Financial Times.

The new device is only one of many ways that virtual reality developers (VR) are trying to help users feel real sensations. For example, Meta is working on a vibrating glove that could help you feel sensations. The system needs to know when and where to deliver the right sensations. The Meta team is developing advanced hand-tracking technology that could enable the computer to know precisely where your hand is in a virtual scene and whether you're in contact with a virtual object. 

"People generally think of 'rendering' as visuals," Meta engineer Forrest Smith said in the post on the company's website. "We also use the word 'render' for haptics. What we're doing here is taking the state of this virtual world and your interactions with it and rendering it to the actuators so that you feel the corresponding sensation."

Another new startup, Emerge, is taking another tack to let you feel real sensations while using VR. The company's $499 Emerge Wave-1 is a device that pairs with a VR headset and emits ultrasonic waves that let users feel virtual objects and sensations. About the same dimensions as a 13" laptop, the gadget emits sculpted ultrasonic waves that allow users to feel and interact via touch in the virtual world. The company claims its patented technology creates a mid-air field of interaction up to three feet above the device and 120 degrees around it.

"Emerge Home is the first step in a broader journey to create a new language of touch in virtual worlds," Sly Spencer Lee, the co-founder of Emerge, said in a news release. "Through Emerge Home experiences and game rooms, we are excited to explore how we can better connect, play, and share emotions in the metaverse." 

"You might experience the same level of physical sensations and emotions in the metaverse as you do in real life."

Fear Is the Key

The emerging field of providing real sensations during virtual experiences is called haptics, and it will be an important component of VR in the future, predicted Bob Bilbruck, the CEO of technology consulting firm Captjur, in an email interview. 

"Haptics is needed to get people addicted to using the technology," Bilbrucks said. "Just like gaming heightens adrenaline and pulse rate, the metaverse will be this on steroids. You might experience the same level of physical sensations and emotions in the metaverse as you do in real life."

However, Bilbruck panned the haptic devices that are currently available such as the TactSuit X40, which promises to let you feel things like gunshots during video games. It's a wireless haptic vest that packs 40 individually controllable vibrotactile motors.

"They are all kind of hokey at this stage. True immersion in the metaverse will involve some kind of brain or nerve hookup or both," Bilbruck said. 

Someone working with a wired glove and VR headset to replicate sensation.

Kilito / Getty Images

One such company is NeuraLink, that's working on a chip that allows users to control computers using their thoughts. The device will also help people with paraplegia with simple tasks like operating a phone or interacting with a computer. 

"People will need to experience this level of reality to get the experience in the virtual world as they do in the real world," Bilbruck said. 

Was this page helpful?