Feel the metaverse with your bare hands – using ultrasound – European sting – Important news and insights on European politics, economics, foreign affairs, business and technology

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This article is brought to you through The European Sting’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Training Content


  • Emerge, a California-based tech startup, says it’s bringing a physical touch to the metaverse.
  • Handshakes and virtual objects will feel like real touch experiences.
  • Ultrasound helps create the sensation of touch.
  • Emerge is one of the 100 Technology Pioneers of the 2022 World Economic Forum.

In the metaverse, the virtual handshake feels real, and the tech startup is promising. Metaverse is described as an immersive version of the internet where we can experience 3D virtual environments, rather than viewing digital content on a computer.

Emerge, a company based in California, USA, is developing technology that it claims allows people to physically feel what they see in virtual reality (VR).

The company is the 2022 World Economic Forum Technology Leader – one of 100 startups from 30 countries driving innovation using the latest technology.

What does Emerge allow you to do?

Emerge describes itself as a “virtual social connection” company that brings a physical touch to the metaverse. When you greet someone in the Metaverse with a high five or a handshake, you’ll actually be able to feel their hand, according to the company.

When you pick up or hold a virtual object, you will be able to feel and interact with the object.

A desktop tablet called the Emerge Wave-1 uses ultrasound waves to create the sensation of touch. The panel is about the size of a 13-inch laptop and shoots ultrasound beams through the air above and around the surface of the device.

When users hold their hands above the board, ultrasound maps virtual objects that they can see in their VR goggles. Then a technology called haptic feedback translates this into a sense of touch.

Haptic feedback uses movement such as vibrations or vibrations to simulate touch. For example, touch technology is what makes your phone vibrate. Haptic motion can also be created using actuators and air pockets.

Emerge has paired its Wave-1 device board with a Meta Quest 2 VR headset (formerly Oculus) and hand-tracking sensors. Ultrasound can reach 3 feet above the plate and move 120 degrees around it.

Are there limits?

A review on the New Atlas news site notes that the Emerge Wave-1’s ultrasound comes from one direction, so it is likely that the range of tactile sensations it can produce is limited.

The range of apps and games the board can be used with is also currently limited to Emerge content. New Atlas says connecting the Emerge Wave-1 to the larger library in the Quest system would be an “easier sale”.

Why is touch important for the future of virtual reality?

Most people are excited about the Metaverse, but 78% say they lack the ability to touch and physically interact with people in the virtual world, according to a report by the National Research Group, which specializes in entertainment and technology research.

Half of the clients said they wanted to physically feel or touch virtual objects as they would in real life.

The ability to use our “naked hands to physically feel, interact, and connect with those we care about most” is a central pillar of our human experience in virtual worlds, which will increasingly become the center of social interaction, Emerge says.

The company hopes that helping people connect emotionally in a natural way, regardless of distance, could be the “next paradigm shift” in human interaction.

By 2026, about a quarter of us will spend at least an hour a day working, studying, shopping and socializing, according to a recent report from research firm Gartner. This should benefit companies. According to JP Morgan, the metaverse is expected to create a market worth more than $1 trillion in annual revenue.

The 2022 Technology Pioneers will be invited to participate in WEF workshops, events and high-level discussions during two years in the community.

They also join the Global Community of Innovators, part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Center Network, where members help craft new policies and strategies in areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and digital assets, the Internet of Things, and autonomous vehicles.

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