Consumer Electronics Show | The metaverse looking for problems to solve

(Las Vegas) Smelling imaginary roses, learning fighter jet maneuvers in augmented reality or treating Alzheimer’s with virtual reality: at the Las Vegas technology fair, new companies compete for ideas to build the metaverse, convinced that we are going to be more and more immersed in the virtual world.

The 2023 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which ends on Sunday, was marked by the emergence of olfactory technologies.

OVR has developed an accessory that attaches under the virtual reality (VR) headset to diffuse scents. The user can thus smell the smoke of a virtual campfire and smell a roasted marshmallow.

Smell is essential to the metaverse, according to Sarah Socia, vice president of OVR, because it is “the only sense that is directly connected to the limbic system, a part of the brain crucial for memory and emotions.”

The young company from the American state of Vermont presented a prototype frame that also includes cartridges of chemical odors and allows you to create perfumes via a mobile application.

The user associates them with videos to then share with friends – if they own the strange headband.

Aromajoin, a Japanese competitor, is also betting on the adoption of such devices.

“Most people don’t know what they need. It’s like before smart phones, we didn’t know what place they were going to take in our lives,” said SeonHoon Cho of Aromajoin.

A comparison taken up in chorus by many young companies in the metaverse confronted with circumspect observers.

“Prefrontal Cortex”

At the end of 2021, Facebook renamed itself Meta to focus on “the future of the internet”, as described by Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of the social networking giant.

But last year, Meta’s profits slumped due to the economic crisis, and the tens of billions of dollars invested in this direction drew an avalanche of criticism.

“These days, the metaverse is greeted with skepticism. And it’s true that the term remains quite speculative, ”recognizes Steve Koenig, a vice-president of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which organizes the show.

“But the metaverse is beginning to have substance, we can see the different applications. It feels like the early 1990s, when we were talking about the internet without being able to imagine everything that was going to happen.

For AjnaLens, virtual immersion represents the solution to the problem of unemployment and the lack of qualified labour.

The Indian company produces AjnaXR, a mixed reality headset (virtual and augmented), lighter and more functional than existing models, so that users can wear it for hours.

Its customers, industrialists, use it to teach workers how to handle different tools (welding, painting, etc.), attached to controllers, or manipulated virtually using haptic gloves (with feedback).

“VR has a potent impact on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain where you store things for life,” says Pankaj Raut, co-founder of Ajnalens.

“It’s like when you learn to ride a bike, you never forget it afterwards”.

mixed reality

SocialDream also feels the need to create its own mixed reality headset, adapted to its immersive videos to stimulate the memory of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“Dreamsense is not a helmet, the image is projected in a bubble”, describes Thierry Gricourt, the founder of the young French company. “The face is not tight, no lenses that hurt the eyes, it’s easier to clean and sensors measure emotions in real time”.

The main headsets, those of Oculus (Meta) and Vive (HTC) as well as accessories such as haptic suits were first designed for video games.

The CTA expects 3.1 million VR headsets sold in the United States this year (+20% compared to 2022) and more than 380,000 augmented reality glasses, or “AR” (+100%).

According to an Accenture survey of 9,000 people, more than half of consumers “want to be active users of the metaverse” as soon as possible.

But in the immediate future, excluding video games, professional uses seem to be taking hold more quickly.

Red 6 is currently testing its augmented reality system to train fighter pilots in aerial maneuvers (fueling, combat, etc.).

They see other planes, friend or foe, on their visors. Training therefore costs much less, pollutes less and is less dangerous.

“The metaverse is a bit of a solution in search of problems. We did the reverse. We have found a use case for technology that solves critical problems,” said Daniel Robinson, Founder of Red 6.

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Consumer Electronics Show | The metaverse looking for problems to solve

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