UWB in the Multisensory Metaverse, Part III: Touch and Haptics

  • March 14, 2022



Our understanding of the metaverse – a still relatively new concept, rooted in AR, VR, and XR – is evolving quickly as technologists and pundits debate its many major implications for the future of social interaction, entertainment and socioeconomics. As our experiences in the physical and virtual worlds blend together more frequently and more seamlessly, it’s clear that the underlying quality and immersion of the metaverse experience hinges almost entirely on the robustness of the data communications platform.

In our personal area networks (PANs) of tomorrow, metaverse enabling data will require higher speed wireless data delivery than existing short-range technologies such as Bluetooth can provide.  SPARK UWB (ultra-wideband) technology stands alone in its ability to deliver the requisite data throughput at short range with extremely low latency and power consumption.

In the metaverse, this data will flow to our AR glasses, headsets, VR gloves and other peripherals to stimulate our senses. We’ve addressed the implications of UWB for the delivery of critically important audio/hearing and visual stimuli previously in our blog. In today’s edition, we’ll address the topics of touch and haptics.

Why is Touch Important in the Metaverse?

Our immersion in the metaverse would be fundamentally incomplete absent our ability to touch objects, environments and other avatars, gathering the tactile information we rely on to fuse our full perception and complete the sensory loop.

Haptics and vibrotactile feedback technologies are already commonly employed today in the gaming domain, where console game controllers can feature shake/rumble effects and low-frequency vibration to simulate the force feedback incoming from various virtual game elements. It allows gamers to feel the physical effects of their interactions in virtual worlds, from the thrill of flight simulation to the intensity of battle, and more.

For console game controllers, this is typically achieved today through the use of vibrotactile actuators. Going forward, this technology will get increasingly advanced, leading developers to explore innovations in microfluidic simulated “skin” and other tactile enablers. Today this technology has already yielded VR gloves with simulated material skins only 1.5mm thick.

How touch-sensitive are these gloves? They were specifically designed to give surgeons the real-world feel of surgical instruments and procedures during virtual surgical training.

It doesn’t get much more sensitive than that.

Moreover, this application plainly illustrates the tremendous value of augmentative and assistive apps enabled with AR and VR in the metaverse. Leveraging our smart glasses and VR gloves, the ability to teach and/or guide people remotely – as if they were physically right next to us – portends a huge future for educational, medical, industrial and customer service apps in the metaverse. And these are just a few apps among a very long list.

Haptic Feedback From Head to Toe

Today these touch augmented/augmenting peripherals are largely confined to our hands via game controllers and gloves. But already the use of haptics in immersive entertainment is evolving to provide a more full-body sensation, as evidenced by the recent arrival of haptic feedback chairs designed for experiencing games, music and movies more fully and viscerally.

Other exciting haptic innovations are approaching on the horizon. Torso-mounted peripherals, for example, have been developed to help deliver greater resolution and range for pro and consumer audio apps, leveraging skin, muscle and bone level vibration frequencies.

For these applications and countless others sure to follow, touch-based feedback will play a key role in the advent of the multisensory metaverse. The ability to deliver life-like experiences across all of our senses will require huge volumes of data transmitted wirelessly at extremely low latency to the peripherals that comprise our PANs – and we want these devices to last as long as possible between recharging.  SPARK Microsystems’ UWB implementation delivers on every front, far exceeding what can be achieved with legacy Bluetooth.

Stay tuned for the next entry in our metaverse blog series as we assess these sensory elements holistically within the broader metaverse framework. This is essential to understanding UWB’s deeper, foundational value proposition for tomorrow’s metaverse: mobility.