In the metaverse, no one can hear you scream – with this privacy microphone

We’re at CES 2023 in Las Vegas, and now that VR is approaching the mainstream we’re seeing tons of accessories to help players have fun in the so-called ‘metaverse’. Shiftall is a VR accessory and device maker that has solved some interesting problems for users who want to spend serious time in virtual reality, such as how do you stay hydrated without dropping the virtual ball? Or how do you keep your VR sessions private if you can’t see who’s around to listen?

The FlipVR controller from Shiftall relies on the Lighthouse technology used with VR headsets like the Valve Index and the HTC Vive Pro 2. Lighthouse trackers are modular systems, and Shiftall has come up with a unique way to attach a Lighthouse tracker to a handheld controller that flips out of the way when you want to use your opposable thumb. 

Shiftall FlipVR controllers let you hold water while you play (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

With a flick of the wrist, the controller flops over, and you can grab a bottle of water, or start typing on a keyboard. Flip the controller back for quick access to the thumbstick and buttons. 

We got a chance to watch one of Shiftall’s experts navigate a meta-space while flipping a bottle of water from hand to hand. Frankly, the contraption seemed a bit overwrought, and there is a lot of gear swinging around. 

But it also looks like fun – and with some practice, the dance of engaging the controls and flipping for a sip of coffee could add an interesting new level of interactivity, if it works well. There’s a distinct nunchaku element to the gear, though, and we might worry about collateral damage. 

The Shiftall Mutalk makes your talking voice a whisper

In addition to the FlipVR controller, Shiftall has an intriguing new microphone for VR users that could ensure a bit more privacy in the virtual space. The Mutalk microphone straps to your head, and looks like a VR headset for your mouth. There are no cameras inside, only a microphone that connects via Bluetooth. The purpose is to keep your voice trapped inside, so nobody around can hear you. 

It actually works very well. The Shiftall demo artist was effectively muffled as he strapped the Mutalk microphone to his face while bellowing at the crowd. Shiftall says the Mutalk microphone dampens the sound of your voice by -30dB to outsiders; that’s the difference between a whisper and a soft, conversational voice. 

If you’ve used VR, you’ve probably felt nervous about what’s going on in the real world outside your virtual realm. Wondering if someone will sneak up on you, or listen in on your virtual chats, is a real concern for players. 

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The Mutalk device is a bit large and gaudy looking, but it solves an interesting problem. There are not many popular social apps in VR for getting together with friends. As these become more popular, a privacy microphone could help users open up more and enjoy the virtual world more freely.

In fact, the Mutalk microphone works with your phone in addition to VR headsets. If you have been looking for a more private solution for having conversations, and you don’t mind strapping a small VR-looking mount to your face while you chat, you could certainly pick up a Mutalk headset to use with your phone.

These devices are still in development, so pricing and availability are still unknown. Keep checking back for the latest updates on the cool VR gear we’re seeing at CES 2023 in Las Vegas.

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