Entertainment

'It’s an exciting time to build hardware': Emerge’s CEO on building metaverse devices

The company’s ultrasonic touch device went up for preorders on Kickstarter on Tuesday.

Emerge Home ultrasonic touch device

Emerge co-CEO Sly Lee said that his company is looking to build an alternative to the way touch has been portrayed in science fiction.

Photo: Emerge

On Tuesday, VR hardware startup Emerge debuted its first product, Emerge Home, on Kickstarter. Emerge Home uses ultrasound to convey the sense of touch in VR without the need for any complicated gloves. For $499, early adopters also get access to the Emerge Home app for Meta’s Quest headset, which lets them play tactile minigames with other Emerge users in VR.

At Protocol’s How to Build the Metaverse event, Emerge co-CEO Sly Lee said that his company is looking to build an alternative to the way touch has been portrayed in science fiction, which has included haptic gloves and suits. “Those are silly,” Lee said. “Those won’t happen.”

Of course, that hasn’t stopped Meta from working on its own pair of haptic gloves — which brings up an interesting question: What role do hardware startups have to play in building the metaverse when today’s platforms are being dominated by companies with billion-dollar budgets?

“There's actually a lot of nuance to building your own hardware,” Lee told Protocol in a follow-up conversation this week. Common sentiment among VCs is that hardware is hard, with consumer hardware being especially challenging.

Lee disagreed. “It's an exciting time to build hardware, because there are so many available off-the-shelf components,” 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. Getting that software experience right was key for a startup like Emerge to succeed, Lee said.

Early on, Emerge was looking to build a platform and simply open up the product to third-party developers. However, the company quickly realized that it didn’t have the money or market power to win over developers. “We very quickly found out [that] this is not scalable as this small company without a Facebook budget,” Lee said.

Instead, Emerge built its own app with half a dozen mini games as a starting point. The company has started to have some conversations with VR game developers to add Emerge support to their apps, but Lee said that it could take years before the company can release a full-fledged SDK.

Emerge wants to use that time to fine-tune its hardware, which includes cheaper and higher-fidelity versions. Lee also said that the company could add other modalities or features in years to come, and he argued that VR headsets might become just one of many hardware accessories for the metaverse.

Whatever the future holds, Lee said that there’s room for hardware startups like Emerge in it, which is why the company has no plans to license its technology to companies like Meta. “We've always been very interested in creating a consumer brand and a consumer product,” he said.

Update: This story was updated Feb. 8 to clarify that Sly Lee is a co-CEO.

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins