A Japanese technology start-up is counting on bringing physical pain to people in the metaverse, one of a growing number of companies vying for profit by providing real-life human experiences in virtual worlds.

H2L, a Sony-backed company founded ten years ago, has built a product with a bracelet to detect the flexion of human muscles, allowing the user’s avatar in the metaverse to copy the movements of the body and make people aware of the presence and the weight of objects. The technology uses electrical stimulation to manipulate the arm muscles and mimic sensations, such as catching a ball or a bird pecking at the skin.

“Feeling pain allows us to turn the metaverse world into a real world [world]with a heightened sense of presence and immersion,” said Emi Tamaki, chief executive and co-founder of the Tokyo-based company.

Tamaki is a researcher in haptic technologies related to the sense of touch. Her goal is to “liberate people from any kind of constraint in terms of space, body and time” by 2029, when – with advances in networks and electronic devices – she expects H2L’s products to have countless applications.

Tamaki’s decade-old company is one of a growing segment of Japanese companies and investors leveraging the blurring line between the real world and the metaverse, as major tech groups invest heavily in the sector. Facebook was rebranded as Meta last October, as the social media group seems to be focusing on building virtual worlds. Japan’s top 10 virtual reality startups have collectively raised $60 million, according to data provider Tracxn.

Meta announced in November that it was developing a haptic vibrating glove, and Spanish start-up OWO has developed a jacket equipped with sensors that allow users to feel sensations ranging from hugs to gunshots.

H2L has raised an estimated ¥1 billion ($8.4 million) and is valued at approximately ¥5 billion and hopes to launch an IPO worth up to ¥20 billion within the next five years, according to those with knowledge of the plans of Company.

Tamaki started working in haptics after having a near-death experience related to congenital heart disease in her late teens. She came up with the idea of ​​creating a technology to link physical experience to computers while in the hospital, and co-founded the company after receiving her PhD in engineering from the University of Tokyo.

“I realized that life was precious, so I decided to work in a new area that I really wanted to delve into because nobody was researching at the time,” she said.

Tamaki said the technology can be used for games, but people can also use it to feel virtual world events in real life. For example, the technology can convey the feeling of participating in a user’s childhood activity, such as throwing a ball with a parent, by mimicking the senses associated with throwing and catching a ball while the activity is taking place. in the virtual world.

“People like me, who can’t get out often because I don’t have enough muscle because of heart disease, can travel anywhere and anytime,” she said.

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This post Japanese start-up wants to cause real pain in the metaverse

was original published at “https://www.ft.com/content/4be5677b-bc03-4e46-bbbb-68074e8dda6c”