The big picture: Perhaps the biggest challenge facing augmented and virtual reality is immersion, or tricking the human mind into believing what you are experiencing is real. Mastering the audio and visual elements of the metaverse are relatively straightforward, but mixing in touch is much trickier.
Facebook... er, Meta, has been working for the past seven years - presumably ever since it purchased virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014 - to develop gloves capable of bringing the sense of touch to the virtual world... er, metaverse. This week, the company provided an update on its progress.
One of Meta's Reality Labs Research teams has been tackling the issue head-on. For starters, they're creating new soft actuators that generate less heat than existing mechanical actuators. These will work in conjunction with a microfluidic processor which controls the air flow moving the actuators. Together, these innovations will allow Meta to fit many more actuators on a glove than would otherwise be possible, and hopefully make it comfortable enough for extended use.
Another key element involved in bringing touch to the metaverse is hand tracking. Meta said it is building advanced hand-tracking tech that'll allow a system to identify precisely where your hand is in a virtual scene, whether or not it is in contact with a virtual object, and exactly how your hand is interacting with said object.
A haptic renderer, meanwhile, will be responsible for feeding all of this information to the actuators on the glove.
Meta said the glove project started as a moonshot, but has become increasingly feasible over time. It's still in the early stages of development, but it certainly sounds a lot more inviting than applying chemicals to your skin to stimulate the senses.