Gadget Lab got a hands-on demo with prototype magnetic levitation haptic control unit at Carnegie Mellon University, where they got a simulated feel for 3D rabbits, hard surfaces and vinyl records. In addition to simulating the general shapes of objects, the technology can accurately reproduce qualities like texture and elasticity using an interesting dual joystick setup.
The maglev haptic control consists of two bowl shape objects, powered by electromagnets. Inside these bowls, a joystick floats around with a tracking sensor that relays its position back to a Linux Fedora-powered computer. The technology is precise to 2 microns and produces 40 newtons of force. One specific demo was the "physics playpen," where a variety of 3D shapes were displayed on screen and users could interact with them using the joysticks; moving the shapes back and forth between each hand, getting feedback of the collision, and a feel for the volume and weight of the objects.
Ultimately, the goal for this maglev haptic technology would be to have it implemented in a medical setting (microsurgery), military use (drone control) or even data visualisation (Minority Report, perhaps?). Just don't expect it anytime soon, as the electromagnets that power this thing cost tens of thousands of dollars alone. More pics are available over at [Gadget Lab] .