Technology

A device that helps users feel pain in a virtual universe


A Japanese technology startup is working on a device that allows users to feel the most realistic physical pain when participating in the virtual universe (metaverse).

H2L, a Sony-backed company founded a decade ago, has built a product designed in the form of a wristband to detect flexion of muscle groups in humans. The technology uses electrical stimulation to control the arm muscles and mimic sensations like catching a ball or a bird pecking at the skin. The user’s body movements and emotions will be copied to represent the avatar in the metaverse.

“The perception of pain allows us to transform the virtual universe into a real world with a more immersive and authentic sense of presence,” said Emi Tamaki, CEO and co-founder of H2L.

Tamaki is a researcher in tactile technology with the ambition to free humans from any constraints of space, body and time by 2029.

Tamaki started working in the field after she faced life-or-death due to a congenital heart condition. She came up with the idea of ​​​​creating a technology that allows for a physical experience to be connected to a computer during a hospital stay and co-founded the company after receiving a PhD in engineering from the University of Tokyo.

“I realized how precious life is so I decided to work in a new area that I really wanted to delve into, because no one was doing research at the time,” she says.

Tamaki says the technology can be used for games, but people can also use it to perceive virtual events in real life. Tamaki shared, due to heart disease, she cannot often attend outside events, so technology will help people like her to be able to travel anytime, anywhere.

H2L is not the only company pursuing this direction. Japanese businesses and investors are increasingly focusing on blurring the lines between the real and virtual worlds.

According to data provider Tracxn, the top 10 virtual reality startups in Japan have raised US$60 million. H2L is estimated to have raised $8.4 million and is valued at around $40 million.

The world’s major technology companies are not outside this game. Facebook changed its name to Meta in October 2021, marking its entry into the virtual universe.

A month later, Meta announced that it was developing a tactile vibrating glove. Spanish start-up OWO has developed a jacket equipped with sensors that allow the wearer to perceive sensations ranging from the act of hugging to the sound of a gunshot.

Huong Dung (According to Financial Times)

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