Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

First product Emerge Home was unveiled on Kickstarter on Tuesday, the VR hardware startup Emerge’s first product Ultrasound is used by Emerge Home to provide a tactile experience in virtual reality without the use of bulky gloves. The Emerge Home app for Meta’s Quest headset, which enables users to play tactile minigames with other Emerge users in VR, is also available to early adopters for $499.

With haptic gloves and suits prevalent in science fiction, Emerge Co-CEO Sly Lee explained that his company is working to develop an alternative to the way touch has been depicted. Lee scoffed at the ridiculousness of the situation. “None of that will come to pass.”

Emerge’s CEO on Building Metaverse Devices

Although Meta is working on its own haptic gloves, it raises an interesting question: What role do hardware startups have in building the metaverse when today’s platforms are being dominated by companies with billion-dollar budgets?

Building your own hardware has a lot of nuance to it,” Lee told Protocol in a follow-up conversation that took place earlier this week. VCs have a common belief that hardware is difficult, and that consumer hardware is particularly difficult.

Lee, on the other hand, was not of the same opinion. There are so many off-the-shelf components available now that it’s an exciting time to build hardware, he said, adding that Emerge was able to develop its entire product with just one hardware engineer, allowing the rest of the company to focus on software. By getting the software experience right, Lee said, Emerge could have been a success.

Emerge’s initial goal was to build a platform and allow third-party developers to use the product. In reality, the company quickly realised that it lacked the money or market clout necessary to win over developers. “We quickly realised [that] this is not scalable as a small company without a Facebook budget,” Lee said.

Starting with half a dozen mini games, Emerge created its own app. Emerge has been in talks with some VR game developers about adding Emerge support to their apps, but Lee said it could be years before the company can release a full SDK.

Emerge plans to use that time to improve its hardware, which includes lower-cost and higher-quality models. Other modalities or features might be added in the future, and VR headsets could become just one of many hardware accessories for the metaverse.

Emerge has no plans to licence its technology to companies like Meta, and Lee believes that hardware startups like Emerge have a place in the future. “We’ve always been very interested in creating a consumer brand and a consumer product,” he said.

By Adam

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