The next wave of communication and social technology is set to move beyond 2D screens toward a more immersive experience relying on augmented and virtual reality. This new platform is generally referred to as the “Metaverse”. The Metaverse is Meta®’s vision of an interconnected network of virtual worlds that are connected to the real physical world. While many people are talking about the Metaverse, its features and implementation remain unclear to others. For some, the Metaverse reminds them of the world envisioned in the movie “Ready Player One”.
Many people remain skeptical about the general adoption of the Metaverse. Nevertheless, almost everyone can come up with a specific and meaningful example for some parts of the Metaverse, or how technology innovations driven by the Metaverse may benefit other areas in life. Gaming could be the most obvious use case for the Metaverse. The Metaverse could also allow immobile individuals (or in fact anyone) to travel to exotic places without the need to leave the comfort of their home. You could enjoy a live music concert without worrying about the distraction of recording the event, with the help of autonomous built-in cameras in your AR eyeglasses. Other applications include remote machine maintenance in harsh industrial environments, and distance learning or telemedicine that involves remote surgery. Additional use cases are limited only by the imagination.
The Metaverse can be described as a highly immersive internet where users can access augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)-based persistent environments. AR includes a set of technologies that will fundamentally change the way we interact with our environment. It represents a merging of the physical and the digital worlds into a rich, new context aware environment. AR and VR will enable the next generation of computing and bring computer power so close to the user that the boundary between the computer and the human will seem non-existent. Substantial technology innovation will be required to reach this goal. From displays that seamlessly combine real and virtual content that are indistinguishable from one other to frictionless input devices that understand a user’s intent, the innovation required is immense .
This new world will only be accessible after the appropriate user interfaces, such as augmented reality eyeglasses (or other AR interfaces in a marketable form factor) become readily available. One of the biggest challenges to a comprehensive AR experience is the performance and form factor of these new user interfaces. Many of these devices will require custom silicon chips to meet user interface size and performance requirements .
Yole Development  has stated that these AR and VR requirements will drive the development of next-generation MEMS devices until 2030. What kinds of MEMS devices and technologies will be needed to make the Metaverse a reality? Let’s review the history of computer interface technologies, and see where they might be going in the Metaverse.
Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) started with the keyboard in the 1960’s, went on to include a Graphical User Interface (GUI) in the 1980’s, and continued with touch interfaces in the 2000’s. The next era of HCI will be based on AR and VR. Building this type of AR/VR interface is a difficult, long-term undertaking, and according to Meta there are years of research ahead . AR glasses will be one key device in the development of a contextually aware and AI-powered interface. The interface will let you use the information you choose to share, infer what you want to do next, and react when you want to take an action. AR glasses will benefit from the integration of multiple emerging technologies, including neural input, hand tracking, gesture recognition, voice recognition, and computer vision, along with several new input technologies such as inertial sensor-based finger-clicking and self-touch detection. A wrist-based device with neuromotor input will combine optical sensing, space positioning via a MEMS-based inertial sensor unit and actuator-based haptics . MEMS-based PMUTs could be a part of the solution for entering the Metaverse, by being used in touch-based haptics applications and during presence monitoring. MEMS-based microphones and micro speakers will be key to delivering higher quality sound and will enable 360-degree audio sensing capability in the Metaverse.
Here are 5 of the interactive technology requirements that will be needed to develop the Metaverse, along with a list of MEMS technologies that can help deliver those requirements.
Metaverse Interactive Technology Requirements
|MEMS Technology Solutions|
From these examples, it is clear that there are a large variety of potential MEMS-based solutions to Metaverse technology requirements. MEMS products can be used to build the highly interactive user interface required in the Metaverse, and will play a key role in the development, delivery, and adoption of the many novel and exciting applications that will be born in this new environment.