VIVE X, HTC VIVE’s $100 million global VR/AR accelerator program, saw its latest batch graduate on Monday. 33 startups coming from VR/AR hardware, entertainment, services, as well as enterprise solutions and tools pitched their products to an auditorium full of investors, entrepreneurs, and media.

Immersiveness, or the perception of being physically in a virtual world, means everything for a complete VR/AR experience. Until now, that immersive feeling was largely achieved through the eyes and ears. But is that enough to quench the users’ desires for a more realistic virtual experience? The answer from VIVE X graduates is “no.”

From the latest Batch 2, we saw a number of startups who are trying to add more sensations to VR/AR experiences.

TEGway

TEGway, an affiliate of ThermoReal, is a developer of high performance flexible thermoelectric devices (F-TED). With the F-TED technology, the startup’s “ThermoReal” solution allows players to feel temperature and pain. Along with changes of the scene, users can feel instant heat or cold, gradual changes in temperature or the movement of the heat and cold.

“This solution can be integrated easily to all kinds of devices: joysticks, controllers or gamepads and ultimately to haptic gloves or a VR suits in the future,” CEO Kevin Yi told TechNode.

Currently, the firm has built up four prototype products and is looking to apply the technology in more diversified areas, including education, healthcare, and automobile.

You can feel temperature changes through a stick attached to the phone.

bHaptics

bHaptics offers users haptic feedback. Players are more immersed and focused into VR with haptic devices for the forearm, forehead, chest, and back. The accompanying haptic editing software makes the devices fully programmable. Developers can conveniently add appropriate haptic feedback to various contents.

Aurora AR

Even for the visual experience, we can expect something better. Aurora AR designs super large field of view (FOV) with a range of 110 to 135 degrees and augmented reality glass optics. The company has designed products ranging from compact lifestyle glasses integrated with inside out tracking to 110-degree AR glasses. With Aurora’s product, the AR glasses could be used in both indoor and outdoor or even in bright sunlight.

The company is still under prototyping and the product will be available for integration into mass produced AR glasses in September 2017.

Diminishing hunger for new realities

After quick development in 2016, VCs’ appetite for virtual and augmented reality startups diminished gradually. As 2017 Q1 marks the lowest quarterly number of financings and investment total in over a year, industry insiders have raised concerns about the prospect of this industry. But Alvin Wang Graylin, China President of VIVE, believes the market is still robust.

“It’s true that we have witnessed a sharp YoY drop in total capital injected to VR/AR startups. But most of us overlooked the fact that a single financing case of Magic Leap takes an overwhelming proportion of the total funding raised. The funding size of Q1 2017 will be on par with the one a year earlier if we exclude Magic Leap’s deal,” he commented, adding that the hefty financing from Unity and Improbable, which were sealed in Q2 this year, is pushing the investment upward.

Alvin is also expecting the emergence of AAA VR games that could further fuel the development of this market. “There are at least four AAA-type VR games slated for the second half of this year,” he said. “In addition, Steven Spielberg is planning to launch his latest film Ready Player One. The blockbuster movie will show billions of people what VR is when it comes out one year later.”

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com. More by Emma Lee

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