Madison companies, colleges work to embrace the metaverse

UW-Madison engineering major Alex Janis uses her hands to bend an aluminum rod, testing how much force it takes to change the shape of the malleable metal. But while the pressure she feels in her hands is real, the aluminum rod exists only in her perception.

That’s because Janis is conducting the experiment inside a virtual reality simulation at UW-Madison’s makerspace on North Randall Avenue. She joins dozens of other students as they navigate this strange, disorienting digital world using hand controllers and headsets that look like large, clunky goggles.

What the students see inside their headsets can be projected onto a screen, offering others a chance to view the video game-like virtual space developed by Madison startup EduReality. The company is one of several Madison-area businesses and colleges building and exploring what many futurists and technology experts see as the next big advance in the internet — the “metaverse.”

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Note: EduReality and its co-founders Clayton Custer and Taylor Waddel are currently UW-Madison students and participants in the Discovery to Product (D2P) Igniter spring 2022 session.