As virtual reality technology continues to progress, one of the major hurdles that still must be overcome is creating holograms that people can actually touch and feel. Scientists are using sound waves to project “haptic holograms” that let you touch virtual objects with your bare hands.
This technology is one step on the road to holodecks, like in Star Trek, but it also has some more immediate applications. For example, this technology could allow doctors to use their hands to examine a lump detected by a CT scan.
Ben Long and his colleagues at the University of Bristol, UK, created this new UltraHaptics technology using an array of tiny speakers. The speakers create the sensation of touching an invisible object as the sound waves exert pressure upon the hand.
Researchers have tested a number of shapes, like spheres and pyramids. The level of detail that is possible is limited right now, but using more speakers that are smaller in size could improve the resolution of what can be projected.
Companies have already approached the team to develop it for commercial applications. Stuart Cupit, technical director of Inition, a design studio in London, is also interested in the technology. He remarked, “Touch is a missing element in virtual interfaces today.”