Science

REPORTAGE. Actronika: the Metaverse at your fingertips

Will the Metaverse prevail in our lives, as the great players in technology already imagine? Part of it will depend on the effectiveness of the technology. This will have to be able to create a sensation of immersion strong enough to trap us. Virtual reality (VR) headsets as we know them won’t be enough. Of course, they allow us to see and hear, but not touch. Therefore, it will be necessary to develop so-called “haptic” technologies in parallel. Like the fictional X1 combination described in the movie Ready Player One.

The Meta group (formerly Facebook) is up and running, but it is not the only one. Located within Cargo, an incubator in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, the French company Actronika is a master in the art of microvibration dosing. It is expected to launch a crowdfunding campaign in March to promote its haptic jacket model. The equipment, sold between 600 and 700 euros, will be able to make us feel the rain, the wind or virtual explosions. For the first time, RVers will have a high-performance model at an affordable price.

The recent frenzy around the Metavers concept rather smiles on Vincent Hayward, a fellow at the Academy of Sciences and the company’s chief scientific officer. “In the 1960s, there were already cockpit concepts whose aim was to engage all of our senses, he laughs. There was then a lot of research on touch gloves (Meta comes from elsewhere) to present a new prototype, editor’s note). But generally speaking, these systems cannot be industrialized because they have many practical drawbacks: “they are not very comfortable and it takes time to adjust”.

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Why does touch technology seem so immature? Undoubtedly because touch affects not only the hands but the entire body. “Vision and hearing are located in very different organs. Touch is not, confirms Vincent Hayward. When you walked into this office, your perception system was immediately detected on the floor mat. It influenced your gait. Del Similarly, when you sit on a chair, your body perceives the type of material, that is, having haptic gloves is not enough. You would also need shoes, pants, a jacket with tactile properties … And this is precisely what it allows the technology developed by Actronika as it can be integrated into any type of clothing.

Haptic perfumes and car seats.

“The jacket we have developed stands out clearly from the competition,” explains Vincent Hayward. The sensations it offers are more realistic. Like a graphical display that needs to be updated often to give better performance, our system reacts in milliseconds. at the same time, we are capable of generating a wide range of vibrations, between the strongest and the weakest, while other products conform to a single frequency for their actuators ”, explains Vincent Hayward.

The actuators? These are the little motors at the origin of microvibrations. Actronika’s jacket is about twenty. It also incorporates a sensor that records the position of the body. This way, if it is raining (virtually) and you lean forward, you can feel the drops falling on your back. A taste for realism that is already interesting to video game creators, but not only. “The use cases for haptic technologies are potentially infinite. And while it is possible to make virtual universes much more realistic, it is also interesting to vibrate real objects in our daily lives. It’s even simpler,” says Vincent Hayward. To back up his claims, the scientist puts in our hands an empty cup capable of simulating the presence of small objects inside thanks to extremely precise microvibrations. Brag. “It’s the same technology that is used in game controllers,” says Vincent Hayward. Except here, realism goes one step further.

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This magic mug will undoubtedly be the delight of apprentice magicians. But Actronika’s technology can also be applied to the rehabilitation of patients who have lost their sense of touch, to training in firefighting … the customer experience “in the store. In fact, with this technology, a jar Ordinary perfume could convey an emotion by mimicking waves or thunder. Car manufacturers are already envisioning haptic displays and buttons. Even seats may soon vibrate: When a vehicle approaches blind spot, they will warn the driver using specially designed signals. Actronika offices, we are already touching the future.

Reviews (2)

Chronic

CREDIT: LAURA ACQUAVIVAChristophe donner

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