On Tuesday afternoon, Meta, a company formerly known as Facebook, made a so-called exciting announcement: a glove. But not just any gloves. It is a haptic glove lined with small motors that use a blast of air to mimic the feeling of touch and it looks like a wearable nightmare.
There’s nothing wrong with Meta inventing a 21st century power glove that lets you feel digital. The company has apparently been working on the project for seven years, and the team that built it has been thinking about the future for at least a decade. The glove is also less uncomfortable than the Brain Wave-Reading bracelet that Facebook announced earlier this year (the company insisted that the wristband doesn’t fall on your mind). But it is becoming increasingly clear that, even with its shiny new name, it is fighting to create a meta-metavers, a virtual space where people can work and chat through avatars, more accessible – and less terrifying – to the average person.
Some people will love this weird hand gear. Created by Meta Reality Lab, the prototype Haptic Glove is designed to work with future virtual reality systems. Most VR headsets currently work with conglomerate controllers equipped with joysticks and buttons. Meta Quest and Quest 2, more reality lab products, also offer controller-free hand tracking, using cameras on headsets and computer vision algorithms to explain what your hand is doing and translate that motion into the virtual world. So for now, when you create the speed of picking an apple in VR, your real hand will not feel like holding an apple.
Write: Gloves. Metar Prototype Heptic Glove uses the principles of soft robotics and employs pneumatic and electroactive actuators to quickly inflate small air pockets on glove fingers and palate. These actuators are basically small motors that can create a sense of pressure and therefore touch. The idea here is that if Meta can fit these thousands of actuators on a haptic glove and combine those sensations with the visual input or augmented reality glass of a VR headset that projects digital images in the real world, the wearer can reach and feel it. Virtual objects. With these types of gloves, you can one day shake hands with someone else’s avatar in Metaverse and feel the pressure.
Meta did not invent haptic clothing. There are several companies that make haptic vests, pants and even complete suits that look like battery powered Marvel superhero costumes. Various articles on haptic clothing have been around since the early 1990’s – much like the term Metaverse, coined by author Neil Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel. Snow crash. Haptic gloves play a particularly important role in Ernest Klein’s 2011 novel Ready Player One, As well as Steven Spielberg’s film adaptations. In the real world around 2021, most people using this type of technology are really serious gamers with money. A haptic vest that will pierce you in 40 different places on your body, for example, costs $ 500.
It is worth noting that VR has historically been the realm of truly serious gamers and this is a potential problem for its great planning for Meta and Metaverse. If Mark Zuckerberg wants everyone to use his Metavers products, like the nearly 3 billion people who use Facebook, he is not doing himself any favors by leaning towards the sci-fi-inspired innovations that his reality labs are churning out.
Haptic clothing is a futuristic concept, but it is also very strange and potentially aggressive. Would you like to use Meta (Read: Facebook) to log data about your body movements with a special glove or scan your brain waves with a bracelet? Yes, Meta Quest hand tracking technology collects and stores data about your movements. If you are playing a round of the popular VR game Bit Saber in your living room, it may seem innocent enough. When you imagine a world where you do most of your computing with a VR headset or AR goggles – that’s basically what Zuckerberg thinks the future of the Internet will look like.
And there’s plenty of reason to believe that metavers and lifestyle can be great with a pair of Internet-connected glasses. Meanwhile, immersive VR technologies are proving to be useful for a growing number of non-gaming applications. The day Meta Reality Labs unveiled its prototype haptic glove, the Food and Drug Administration approved a VR system for the treatment of chronic pain. And it’s not even the first VR treatment to receive FDA approval this year.
You could say that the Meta Haptic Glove is another misconception – in the midst of a historically bad scandal, Facebook changed its name to Meta and ensured that everyone would talk about Metavers over the next few weeks.
It is reminiscent of another Facebook announcement, which came just days before the name change. In mid-October, Reality Labs said it was launching a research project that would analyze thousands of hours of footage shots from a first-person perspective to train artificial intelligence models. That data set included video captured by Facebook’s smart glasses, a camera-equipped ray-ban. The company calls the data set Ego4D and will release it to researchers around the world this month.
Does this project seem great and relevant to a meta plan to create a metaverse where one day people wearing smart glasses will recognize what they see on a computer? Sure. Does it seem most troubling to see how a company that trains robots – a company that wants to own a large chunk of Metavers, the next generation of the Internet – is destroying democracy? It does.
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