[REVIEW] : AT THE CES DE LAS VEGAS FAIR, WHAT ABOUT THE METAVERS?

AT THE CES DE LAS VEGAS FAIR, WHAT ABOUT THE METAVERS?

At the Las Vegas Technology Show (CES), many start-ups this week unveiled their innovations intended to build the “metaverse”, a parallel universe where human, augmented and virtual realities must merge.

“What is the metaverse without the sensations?” It’s just avatars, ”says José Fuertes, whose haptic jacket, lined with sensors, allows you to feel both the hugs and the punches in virtual reality. The bodycon jacket features strips that stick to the skin, with sensors linked to a mobile app. Before donning a virtual reality (VR) headset, the user can choose the intensity of each sensation, from insect bites to blood flowing from a gunshot wound.

“We want to give shape to the metaverse, with a second skin, which adds the sense of touch in virtual worlds”, explains José Fuertes, the boss of the Spanish company Owo. The garment, which will be marketed for less than 400 euros at the end of the year, evokes the novel Ready Player One, where humanity lives, plays and studies in a parallel virtual society thanks to haptic devices.

This science fiction horizon seems distant, when bandwidth is still often too low in many parts of the world, including California, if only for video calls. But Facebook, recently renamed Meta, gave unprecedented impetus to the vast metaverse project when its boss Mark Zuckerberg decreed last year that it was the future of the internet and announced colossal investments.

Many bricks are needed to make it emerge on a large scale, beyond existing pockets in video games, like Roblox or Fortnite. Glasses will have to become comfortable and affordable, and immersive use cases will have to multiply. There is also the question of interoperability, in order to be able to move from one virtual world to another, which is not yet possible. “I am a big fan of augmented reality and VR (virtual reality), but the equipment is not up to date. I don’t think anything exciting will happen for 5 to 10 years, ”notes Paddy Cosgrave, boss of the Web Summit, a European technology fair.

“Nothing can stop” the metaverse, assures his side Edo Segal, the founder of TouchCast, a specialist in events and VR. On Wednesday, he launched a collaborative VR platform for companies, which will be able to create their “.metaverse” address there, like “.com” on the web. But their domains will be registered on the blockchain, and not on servers. “In 1999, it was hard to believe that we were going to buy things online”, enthuses Edo Segal. “Today we are witnessing the migration from web 2.0 to web 3.0, the decentralized internet”.

The pandemic has already popularized VR a bit. In the fourth quarter of 2020, 1 million copies of the Quest 2 headset from Oculus (Meta) were sold worldwide, according to Statista. – Cyborg – Since health restrictions, Takuma Iwasa spends his weekends on VRChat, a platform where avatars can create 3D worlds and spend time chatting and hosting parties. At the end of 2020, the young Japanese entrepreneur decided to design suitable equipment: sensors to attach to the torso and legs to make the avatar’s movements more faithful, a box that gives the sensation of temperature and a microphone that isolates from the real world.

Above all, its start-up Shiftall (Panasonic) is releasing VR glasses that are lighter, more sophisticated – and more expensive – than current models in the spring. “In Ready Player One, they have combinations with all the integrated systems. But for now you have to wear them separately, like a cyborg, ”he laughs, showing dance movements that his avatar, a female manga character, reproduces on the screen. The Israeli start-up Wearable Devices is working on a bracelet that detects the electrical signals sent by the brain to the hand: the user can control connected objects with a snap of the fingers. A function which could in particular make it possible, in the future, to control the display on augmented reality glasses, without taking out our smartphones.

“We are going to test a lot of completely crazy things, a bit like the first planes and cars”, reacts Marc Carrel-Billiard, head of innovation at Accenture. But as the metaverse gains ground, we will also find the pitfalls of society, from harassment to disinformation, he admits. “We will have to educate users about the risks, for example that you are projected a ‘false reality’ on your glasses”.

Bringing virtual reality to life: the metaverse project

At the Las Vegas Technology Show (CES), many start-up companies this week unveiled their innovations intended to build the “metaverse”, a parallel universe where human, augmented and virtual realities must merge.

The bodycon jacket features strips that stick to the skin, with sensors linked to a mobile app. Before donning a virtual reality (VR) headset, the user can choose the intensity of each sensation, from insect bites to blood flowing from a gunshot wound.

“We want to give shape to the metaverse, with a second skin, which adds the sense of touch in virtual worlds”, explains Mr. Fuertes, the boss of the Spanish company Owo.

The garment, which will be marketed for less than 400 euros at the end of the year, evokes the novel “Ready Player One”, where humanity lives, plays and studies in a parallel virtual society thanks to haptic devices.

This science fiction horizon seems distant, when bandwidth is still often too low in many parts of the world, including California, if only for video calls.

But Facebook, recently renamed Meta, gave unprecedented impetus to the vast metaverse project when its boss Mark Zuckerberg decreed last year that it was the future of the internet and announced colossal investments.

Inescapable?

Many bricks are needed to make it emerge on a large scale, beyond existing pockets in video games, like Roblox or Fortnite.

Glasses will have to become comfortable and affordable, and immersive use cases will have to multiply.

There is also the question of interoperability, in order to be able to move from one virtual world to another, which is not yet possible.

“I am a big fan of augmented reality and VR (virtual reality), but the equipment is not up to date. I don’t think anything exciting will happen for 5 to 10 years, ”notes Paddy Cosgrave, boss of the Web Summit, a European technology fair.

“Nothing can stop” the metaverse, assures his side Edo Segal, the founder of TouchCast, a specialist in events and VR.

On Wednesday, he launched a collaborative VR platform for companies, which will be able to create their address there in “. metaverse “, like”. com ”on the web. But their domains will be registered on the blockchain, not on servers.

“In 1999, it was hard to believe that we were going to buy things online,” enthuses Mr. Segal. “Today we are witnessing the migration from web 2.0 to web 3.0, the decentralized internet”.

The pandemic has already popularized VR a bit. In the fourth quarter of 2020, 1 million copies of the Quest 2 headset from Oculus (Meta) were sold worldwide, according to Statista.

Cyborg

Since the health restrictions, Takuma Iwasa spends his weekends on VRChat, a platform where avatars can create 3D worlds and spend time chatting and hosting parties.

At the end of 2020, the young Japanese entrepreneur decided to design suitable equipment: sensors to attach to the torso and legs to make the avatar’s movements more faithful, a box that gives the sensation of temperature and a microphone that isolates from the real world.

Above all, its young shoot Shiftall (Panasonic) is releasing VR glasses that are lighter, more sophisticated – and more expensive – than current models in the spring.

“In Ready Player One, they have combinations with all the integrated systems. But for now you have to wear them separately, like a cyborg, ”he laughs, showing dance movements that his avatar, a female manga character, reproduces on the screen.

The Israeli start-up company Wearable Devices is working on a bracelet that detects the electrical signals sent by the brain to the hand: the user can control connected objects with a snap of the fingers.

A function which could in particular make it possible, in the future, to control the display on augmented reality glasses, without taking out our smart phones.

“We are going to test a lot of completely crazy things, a bit like the first planes and cars”, reacts Marc Carrel-Billiard, head of innovation at Accenture.

But as the metaverse gains ground, we will also find the pitfalls of society, from harassment to disinformation, he admits.

“We will have to educate users about the risks, for example that you are projected a ‘false reality’ on your glasses”.

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