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Japanese Metaverse Wristband Will Cause a Buzz (On Your Body)

In an attempt to make the much-talked-about metaverse more real to those in it, a Japanese start-up has built a new wristband that will generate physical pain on users’ bodies. The wristband, says H2L Chief Executive Officer Emi Tamaki, will “release humans from any sort of constraint in terms of space, body and time”.

H2L's new metaverse wristband
Credit: H2L/Mashable India

Of course, it is not all about physical pain, as Mashable India reports. The new wristband’s design and mechanics aim to allow wearers to experience different physical sensations as part of their avatar’s time in the metaverse. Among other things, if they pick up objects such as a stone or book, they will feel the weight.

The way H2L intends to do it is a literal shock to the system. Electric muscular stimulation, already in use as a therapeutic technique for various applications, triggers neurons with a mild electric shock that will, in turn, move one’s muscles. The technique doesn’t tax one’s central nervous system, but the body will pick up those movements in the same way as when that system works to move muscles by firing up neural networks.

The inspiration for the wristband was Tamaki’s own near-death experience, which happened in her early teens after experiencing cardiac arrest. While recuperating, she imagined what it would be like if computers could link up with people’s physical experiences. This led her on the path that has led to the yet-to-be-named wristband, developed by H2L with funding from Sony.

One future possibility was teased in a video clip from H2L collaborator and mobile provider NTT DoCoMo. In that clip, a Japanese actress plays the piano as Japanese YouTube piano sensation Cateen would. Their movements would sync up because the actress’s wristband could simulate Cateen's piano playing skills by triggering the right set of muscles.

Tamaki hopes to achieve her goal of releasing humans from constraints by 2029. As a haptic technology researcher, she studies how touch works, and such interests are leading her to this bold vision for the future. She says that the wristband’s technology will have several applications as the technology develops. Games are one obvious application, but she envisions how people will react in the real world to virtual world events and thus make connections between those events and past real-life experiences.

According to reports, H2L, a company that has been in existence since 2012, has already raised US$8.4 million in funding. It is set to have its initial public offering within the next five years. Her work is part of increasing interest among Japanese tech companies in the potentially booming metaverse, a word that gained massive attention when Mark Zuckerberg renamed Facebook’s parent company, Meta, in October 2021.

Neil Stephenson first coined the term “metaverse” in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. The term refers to a network of virtual worlds built on social connections, and in recent discussions has come to mean how the Internet will evolve into a virtual universe where its users will interact. Among the earliest attempts to construct a metaverse was the 2003 Linden Labs creation Second Life, where avatars traded goods, had conversations and even staged concerts.

  • Japanese start-up H2L has announced that it has built a wristband that aims to make its wearers feel physical sensations that their avatars sense in the metaverse.

  • The wristband uses mild electrical stimulation to trigger neurons that will allow wearers to feel muscle movements, synchronising with experiences their avatars have.

  • The wristband is just the latest in a series of technological developments emerging around the metaverse, a term that gained greater prominence after the Meta rebranding event of October 2021.

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