A jacket equipped with sensors that allow the wearer to feel hugs or even bumps in virtual reality was one of the innovations that gave the metaverse a more realistic edge at the Consumer Electronics Show.
"What is the metaverse if you can't feel it?" questioned José Fuertes, founder of Spanish startup Owo, who designed the jacket. "They're just avatars," he said.
The "metaverse," a parallel universe where human, augmented, and virtual realities intermingle, was a hot topic at the annual electronic gadget show in Las Vegas, CES.
Startups presented computers, headphones and other equipment that promise to improve the user experience in virtual worlds.
Owo promotes its jacket as a device capable of making the user feel “a gunshot, the wind, someone grabbing their arm and even a hug from a loved one” in the video game or metaverse. The piece will cost less than $450 when it hits the market later this year.
"Our mission is to transform the virtual into reality with a second skin," said Fuertes.
The metaverse has become a popular topic since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endorsed it so enthusiastically that the tech company was renamed "Meta."
Metaverse brings reality to CES in Las Vegas
Virtual reality has been used primarily for video games, despite its potential for experiences such as visiting museums or distant cities without leaving your home.
Although companies like Meta and HTC have invested heavily in virtual reality headphones, the device is still not light and comfortable enough to be used for long periods.
"I'm the biggest virtual and augmented reality nerd, but I don't think we're anywhere near anything exciting happening in the metaverse," said Paddy Cosgrave, director of Web Summit Europe.
In his opinion, he expects the metaverse to take more than a decade to come true.
"Nothing can stop him," said Touchcast founder and head Edo Segal of the metaverse.
Touchcast introduced a platform for business-to-business collaboration around virtual reality, complete with "metaverse" domain addresses similar to web.com addresses.
But these domains will be registered in a blockchain-type database, instead of being on regular servers.
"In 1999, it was hard to believe that people were buying things online. See where we are today. Humanity is moving in that direction," Segal said.
Supporters in this sector report that sales of virtual reality equipment were boosted by the pandemic, as people depended on the Internet to play, work, learn and socialize.