Brit Tech Firm Develops Technology for 'Feeling' Holograms

10:30 AM EDT 4/9/2015 by Kara Michelle, Celebeat Reporter

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British firm Ultrahaptics has developed a unique technology that enables users to receive tactile sensations from invisible three dimension objects floating in mid-air, according to the Daily Mail. Ultrahaptics is the world's leading touch-less haptics company. The technology it developed uses ultrasound to project sensations through the air and directly onto the user. By focusing complex patterns of ultrasound emanating from a specially designed pad, the air disturbances can be manipulated into floating 3D shapes that can be 'felt.' Users can 'feel' touch-less buttons, get feedback for mid-air gestures, or interact with virtual objects and holograms. The firm says the technology could even allow surgeons to reach 'inside' a hologram of a scan and 'feel' tumors.  

Professor Sriram Subramanian, who co-developed the haptic technology at the University of Bristol's Computer Science Department, explained that their device applies the principles of acoustic radiation force, whereby sound waves produce forces on the skin which are strong enough to generate tactile sensations. "If you go to a night club or a rock concert, you feel the music in your chest," he said. "And it's the same principal - you feel the sound vibrating your chest. And instead of using the bass sounds, what we use is low frequency ultrasound - about 40 kHz - and that way we can target it at a precise point on your finger tip or on your palm, and then you feel the palm vibrate and it feel precise as well."

"Typically what we've done is try to create one focal point at a time," the professor explained. "And that's been computationally quite expensive until now. What we've doubled up right now is a way we can speed up this process substantially. And that means that, instead of doing one at a time, I can do hundreds at a time. And when I do hundreds at a time and put a hundred focal points around your finger tip or around your palm, those hundred feel like a circle. And if I track your palm and move them up and down, and if I change the diameter of these focal points, you start feeling like you are going through a sphere. And this is how we generate shapes."

The company recently announced the closing of a $918,000 seed round of investment which would allow them to accelerate the development of the Ultrahaptic device, including substantially improving the computing power and performance of the technology. The device which is still at the prototype stage, has a diverse range of potential real world applications - with touchable holograms, immersive virtual reality that you can feel, and complex touchable controls in mid-air, all being possible practical applications of the system.  

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