Feel the Metaverse With Your Hands – Using Ultrasonic Waves – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights On European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology

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This article is brought to you in collaboration with the European Sting of the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Training Content


  • Emerge, a California-based tech startup, says it brings a physical touch to the metaverse.
  • Virtual handshakes and objects feel like real touch experiences.
  • Ultrasonic waves help to create a tactile sensation.
  • Emerge is one of the 2022 World Economic Forum 100 Technology Pioneers.

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

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

The company is a 2022 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer-one of 100 startups from 30 countries pushing for innovation using the latest technologies.

What does the Emerge system allow you to do?

Emerge describes itself as a “virtual social connection” company that brings a physical touch to the metaverse. If you greet someone on the Metaverse with a high-five or a handshake, you can really feel their hand, according to the company.

If you pick up or hold a virtual object, you can feel and interact with the object.

A tabletop panel called the Emerge Wave-1 Device uses ultrasonic waves to create a tactile sensation. The panel is about the size of a 13-inch laptop computer and shoots ultrasonic beams of air above and around it.

When users hold their hands over the panel, the ultrasonic waves map the virtual objects they see on their VR headset. The technology called haptic feedback then translates it into a sense of touch.

Haptic feedback uses action such as vibrations or shakes to mimic touch. For example, haptic technology is what makes your phone vibrate. Haptic movement can also be performed using motors and air pockets.

Emerge paired its Wave-1 device panel with the Meta Quest 2 VR headset (formerly known as the Oculus) and its handheld tracking sensors. The ultrasonic waves can reach up to 3 feet above the panel and travel 120 degrees around it.

Are there any limitations?

Because Emerge Wave-1’s ultrasound waves come from one direction, the range of tactile sensations it can produce is likely to be limited, a review on the New Atlas news site suggests.

The range of apps and games available on the panel is now also limited to the Emerge content. Linking the Emerge Wave-1 to the larger library of the Quest system would be an “easier sale,” says New Atlas.

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 physically touch and interact with people in the virtual world, according to a report by the National Research Group, which specialist in entertainment and technology research.

Half of the customers said they wanted to physically feel or touch virtual objects as much as they could in real life.

The ability to use our “bare hands to physically feel, interact and connect with the people who matter most to us” is a key pillar of our human experience in virtual worlds, becoming more central to social interaction, says Emerge.

The company hopes that helping people connect emotionally in a natural way, no matter the distance, could be the “next paradigm shift” in human interaction.

By 2026, un-rooms of us will spend at least an hour per day in the metaverse working, studying, shopping and interacting, predicts a new report from research firm Gartner. This should benefit businesses. According to JP Morgan, the metaverse is expected to create a market worth more than $ 1 trillion in annual revenue.

2022 Technology Pioneers will be invited to participate in workshops and events at the World Economic Forum and high-level discussions during their two years in the community.

They also participate in the Global Community of Innovators, which is part of the Centers for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network, where members help shape new policies and strategies in areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and digital assets, internet of things and autonomous vehicles.

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