Ultrasound Haptic Devices Can Project Tactile Shapes Into Thin Air

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have demonstrated a device that can create touchable, creepily invisible floating "objects" using focused ultrasound waves. Though the technology is early testing stages, its designers have already expressed an interest in weaponi- I mean, commercialising it for possible use in gaming and design applications. For now, the team has only been able to simulate resistance in one direction, but say that forming complex shapes and textures is plausible.

Teases for hologram technology are commonplace nowadays, but it is usually taken for granted that the projected images will provide no haptic feedback. Though the researchers have said little about integration with other projection systems, the possibility of a tactile hologram now doesn't seem totally out of the question. There's a major catch, though: the virtual objects won't be provide much resistance or seem very "hard," because at high enough levels the aurally imperceptible ultrasound will destroy your eardrums. Even considering the limitations, my hope remains: that we may soon be able to (very delicately) slap people though a webcam. [BBC]

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