It has been said many times that televisions should have a system to expel aromas, so that cooking shows and some scenes from movies really come through the screen. A similar move now stirs with the height of the metaversetechnologies that, for now, make a lot of noise with a few nuts.
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Virtual reality is not new, but a promised evolution has been on everyone’s lips since Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of Facebook to Meta and thus confirmed his commitment to the metaverse. In the words of the businessman, these intangible scenarios are the next step for the Internet. While we wait for VR devices to become more efficient and accessible (the combination of factors would force us to be patient), a group of ingenious minds is moving towards the conquest of the human senses.
At this point we find a reasonable difference between the virtual reality that we know and the metaverses that promise us. While in the first the enjoyments are directed especially to sight and hearing, for the second one already speaks of a greater integration of the senses, with stimuli for touch, taste and smell.
Kisses and coffee in the metaverse
Recently, the characteristics of a device called Haptics, developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, were disclosed. Although the international attention on this sugar mill focused on the ability to kissing in virtual worlds (and then they all danced mice of virtual sex), the scientists discussed the possibility of generate sensations in the mouth, tongue, and lips. For example, to drink a coffee in the metaverse: don’t actually drink it, although you do feel that the infusion hits the palate.
In a paper They showed other examples, from stimuli that mimic the experience of drinking from a water source, smoking a cigarette or brushing your teeth. “Haptics increases realism and immersion, and in this way the reactions of users”, explained the researchers who for their innovation were based on haptic technology in combination with a virtual reality headset. “It’s roughly comparable to how vibration motors work in joysticks, but with more spatial expressiveness”, they detailed. Of course: we are talking about the mouth, although the sense of taste is not involved.
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An invention of this kind is not trivial, especially now that the metaverse is advancing and in colored mirrors it shows us that in these virtual environments we will interact in a new way and that stores will also open. In the near future, will we drink cups of coffee from VR headsets, without any liquid actually touching our lips?
The Meta glove that promises to expand virtual contact
After Zuckerberg’s announcement (when in October pulled head to the pool of the metaverse), a division of his company showed the world an interesting project, a glove designed to expand the sense of touch in virtual settings.
One of the designs Meta is testing for the metaverse. (Video: Reality Labs Research)
Reality Labs Research, a team at the company that focuses on virtual and augmented reality, showed off advances from a couple of haptic gloves that promote touch. For example, they would allow you to “touch” a rough surface within a metaverse and “feel” the texture. Perhaps in the future these technologies will be standardized and then we will not have the impulse to include the quotation marks in the previous sentence, which relativize these actions.
“Although we are in the early stages of this investigation, our goal is to someday pair a pair of gloves with a VR headset for an immersive experience like playing a concert or playing poker in the metaverse, and eventually with augmented reality glasses, ”the developers commented.
Feel the pain in the metaverse
The H2L company recently launched a virtual reality device that allows you to experience sensations in the body, including pain. The bracelet (which is added to the use of a helmet) also includes haptic technology.
The secret? Haptic technologies, which transcend the borders between the real world and virtual environments. (Video: H2L)
Behind the move there is a story worth knowing. Emi Tamaki, the executive director of H2L, has a disease that does not allow her to travel and she commented that due to this limitation she decided to study the scope of technology that promotes tactile experiences. The company’s motto is “freeing human beings from the limitations of space, time and body.”
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In the demo we see that the ingenuity allows the avatars to copy within the metaverse the movements that the user performs outside of it. And it goes further: it replicates virtual sensations in real bodies. For example, it allows feel the weight of an intangible object, the pricks of a bird with its beak, or the force of a ball in a virtual environment. As Tamaki observed, “feeling pain allows us to turn the world of the metaverse into a real one, with greater feelings of presence and immersion.”
“I realized that life was valuable, so I decided to work in a new field that I really wanted to delve into, since there was no one doing research at the time. People like me, who can’t go out often (I don’t have enough muscle due to heart disease) can travel anywhere, anytime,” said the creator of this device that sells for $80 and was developed with Sony support.
The taste can also be virtual
Promises for the metaverse, expansion of the senses and commitment to tactile experiences. What happens to the taste? Are there developments that attend to that sense? In 2020 we learned of a very unique invention that emerged from the Meiji University, in Tokyo, called “Norikami”. As we count in TN TecnoIt is a machine that tricks the tongue into perceiving flavors without using any food.
Japanese researchers created a device that emulates sensations in the taste buds. The details of a mill with potential.
The device has five different gels that, by combining and adjusting their respective intensities, “create” a flavor when they come into contact with the taste buds. The strangest thing about the case is, as we see in the video, that the user must lick the device.
“When applied to the tongue without voltage, the user can taste five flavors. When an electrical potential is applied, the cations in the gel move towards the cathode side and away from the tongue, so that a flavor is generated”, detailed the creators of this device.
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The invention has potential: it would allow to enjoy flavors of foods that for some could be harmful. But perhaps its juiciest use will appear in connection with virtual reality: imagine, for example, test meals remotely when shopping online. Or perhaps take advantage of these new sensations for audiovisual experiences and video games.
There is more for the taste buds. A few days ago we learned of another development from Japan, where they devised smart sticks that add savory flavor to meals without sodium. As explained by Homei Miiyashita, creator of the device, the “magic” lies in the use of low-intensity electric current that transmits the sodium ions in the food from the sticks to the mouth. “They help to feel a taste similar to that of salt,” observed the researcher who plans to sell his invention commercially around the year 2023.
“As a result, the salty taste improves 1.5 times,” he detailed regarding a new demonstration that confirms that, With the excuse of the metaverse, virtual reality advances towards the conquest of more senses.