Maglev joystick developed at Carnegie Mellon


front-poster Force feedback plus six dimensions of movement — I like what I’m hearing so far.

This yet-to-be-named device has been in the workings for 11+ years by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and uses a bowl-shaped apparatus connected to a joystick, all of which sits inside a larger bowl-shaped apparatus that magnetically levitates the smaller bowl.

There are only ten such devices in the world so far but the project’s been spun off into a commercial company called Butterfly Haptics (web site here) and more details will be announced at a haptics conference in Reno on March 13th and 14th. 

According to a press release by Carnegie Mellon,

The system eliminates the bulky links, cables and general mechanical complexity of other haptic devices on the market today in favor of a single lightweight moving part that floats on magnetic fields.

At the heart of the maglev haptic interface is a bowl-shaped device called a flotor that is embedded with six coils of wire. Electric current flowing through the coils interacts with powerful permanent magnets underneath, causing the flotor to levitate. A control handle is attached to the flotor.

A user moves the handle much like a computer mouse, but in three dimensions with six degrees of freedom — up/down, side to side, back/forth, yaw, pitch and roll. Optical sensors measure the position and orientation of the flotor, and this information is used to control the position and orientation of a virtual object on the computer display. As this virtual object encounters other virtual surfaces and objects, corresponding signals are transmitted to the flotor’s electrical coils, resulting in haptic feedback to the user.

Levitating Computer Interface Heads to Universities Nationwide [DailyTech]