New and potentially breakthrough user-interface devices could enable easy access to future digital environments, including metaverses for work and entertainment. Plausibly, people could navigate metaverses via brain–machine interfaces, view metaverses through very lightweight devices (perhaps even smart contact lenses), and experience virtual sensations via delivery of low doses of chemicals.
Although such breakthrough user-interface devices remain the stuff of long-term research projects, commercial players such as Snap are making investments. Technological and commercial risks are high, however, and truly revolutionary user interfaces could still be a decade or more from commercialization.
Abstracts That Inspired This Pattern
Neurotechnology start‑up NextMind has developed a headband that enables wearers to control virtual objects with their thoughts. The headband uses sensors and machine learning to detect and measure wearers' brain activity. Snap recently acquired NextMind and plans to use the start‑up's brain–computer-interface technology in its augmented-reality (AR) glasses.
Current-generation touch simulation (haptics) typically fails to move beyond various forms of vibration. However, researchers are exploring methods for stimulating more of the various distinct sensations that make up a sense of touch. In particular, using small doses of chemicals on skin can replicate sensations such as heat, coolness, and stinging.
Advances in smart-contact-lens (SCL) technology include biosignal detection and therapeutic tools. "In addition, multidisciplinary research is continuing to develop advanced SCLs with various attributes such as sensitivity improvement, wireless signal transmission, and personalized design using 3D‑printing technology."
NextSense, which spun out from Alphabet's X Development subsidiary, is developing earbuds that can monitor users' brain waves through electroencephalography. Although the immediate uses for the earbuds are medical, NextSense hopes eventually to "build a mass-market brain monitor that, if enough people start using it, can generate enormous quantities of day-to-day brain performance data."