Haptic system uses ultrasound to give feel to objects that aren’t there

From the ‘I’ll Believe it When I See Feel it Dept’: Ultrasonic gaming.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have been working on using focused ultrasound to simulate the feel of objects that aren’t there. Haptic doodads have been floating around for a while, like this Maglev joystick, but this is the first time I’ve seen one that relies on air to create the sensation.

By using ultrasonic transducers that emit interfering sound waves to a focal point, a virtual object can be perceived by touch. As you can see from the photo, so far only verticality has been established. While the system is able track hand movements to determine where on the ‘object’ the hand is located, researchers hope to improve on the geometry to give a more substantial feel with more detail. Certainly a more involved array would be in the works.

Naturally, anyone who ever seen live music might immediately consider the effect of this set-up to the ear. And they would be right too. Standing in front of a loud amplifier pushes air at you and this works in pretty much the same way. Intensity will certainly be a limiting factor. As awesome as this sounds, I’ll believe it when I feel it – and when my ears don’t.