Things in the metaverse just keep getting more fascinating. Last week, scientists announced they invented some wearable tech that really changes the game when it comes to virtual worlds.
Yes, the day is finally here … virtual gloves can now replicate touch. That means if you are in a long-distance relationship, you are in luck. Things are going to get steamy.
Metaverse glove: Scientists are on it
Some (probably lonely) boffins from the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) are the brains behind the incredible tactile rendering system. In plain speak, this means that the system can mimic the sensation of touch. It can do this with high spatial resolution.
High spatial resolution means there will be no lag between actually touching, and sensing touch.
There are obvious uses for the gloves, like getting your love on. And, you can even hug your family who live far away. But there are other things we can use them for, once we all calm down about the idea of online kissyfacing.
The team who invented them says they can be used in the metaverse for activities such as virtual reality shopping, and Web3 gaming. But also for the work of astronauts, and deep sea divers, as both are required to wear very thick gloves. They can even be used in surgical operations.
In your feels
Dr Yang Zhengbao is the mechanical engineer who led the team. “We can hear and see our families over a long distance via phones and cameras, but we still cannot feel or hug them. We are physically isolated by space and time, especially during this long-lasting pandemic. Although there has been great progress in developing sensors that digitally capture tactile features with high resolution and high sensitivity, we still lack a system that can effectively virtualize the sense of touch that can record and playback tactile sensations over space and time.”
You read that right. If you have a super lovely experience using the gloves, YOU CAN RECORD THE EXPERIENCE TO HAVE AGAIN. Multiple times. GO AHEAD AND TAKE MY MONEY.
The CityU team collaborated with Chinese tech giant Tencent’s Robotics X Laboratory. Tencent is one of the richest multimedia companies on earth. And it is the largest gaming company based on pure profit. Tencent also is the owner of WeChat, which has a billion monthly users. Being so well-funded, the potential of this technology is mind-boggling.
Existing techniques made by game companies are clunky and have their problems. They aren’t entirely safe as they use electro-tactile stimulators with high-voltage DC pulses to penetrate the outermost layer of the skin.
The team at CityU say their device is very thin and flexible and can be easily integrated into tips they call ‘finger cots’. Instead of using DC pulses, the team used an alternative which makes pressure, vibration, and texture roughness higher fidelity. And it keeps the operating voltage under 30 volts.
Lin Weikang is a PhD student at CityU. He tested the device. “Our new system can elicit tactile stimuli with both high spatial resolution (76 dots/cm2), similar to the density of related receptors in the human skin, and a rapid response rate (4 kHz).”
In other words, it’s the same intensity as actual touch.
Dr Yang said, “This would be particularly useful for people who lose their eyesight later in life, allowing them to continue to read and write using the same alphabetic system they are used to, without the need to learn the whole Braille dot system.”
Touch in the metaverse
Here’s one for shoppers. The electrodes are flexible and scalable, so they can theoretically cover whole areas of your body. A shopper will be able to ‘feel’ the texture of clothes in a virtual fashion shop.
The user can even experience being licked by their cat. They can stroke a real or virtual cat’s fur, and feel a variance in the roughness.
Cats and love in the metaverse. No wonder we all like the idea.