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Mid-Air Tactile Sensory Ultrasound Technology Developed

UltraHaptics demo

(University of Bristol)

Computer scientists at University of Bristol in the U.K. developed a system for conveying information through a sense of touch in mid-air without physically touching a screen or device. The team from Bristol’s Interaction and Graphics lab, led by doctoral student Tom Carter will present its findings and demonstrate the technology later this week at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in St. Andrews, Scotland, U.K.

The technology, called UltraHaptics, transmits ultrasound waves through a screen directly to a user’s bare hands. An array of ultrasonic transducers emit very high frequency sound waves. When the acoustic radiation waves are aimed at the same location at the same time, they create sensations on human skin.

Carter and colleagues conducted a number of tests with UltraHaptics to determine the range of ultrasound frequencies that can generate tactile sensations. The ultrasound waves are then modulated to generate a vibration feeling on the skin. In addition, by varying the modulations, UltraHaptics can generate various vibration sensations, creating a form of ultrasonic texture.

The Bristol team enhanced the technology creating applications to allow for interaction with the UltraHaptics system through mid-air gestures. The researchers also created interfaces with tactile information layers, and for visually restricted screens. Tests with users indicate that once trained they can distinguish between different tactile properties.

In addition, Carter and colleagues devised a vocabulary to describe or communicate about haptics. The human-esperienctial vocabulary, as its called, is tied back to neurophysiological and psychophysical data on the human hand.

The following video tells more about and demonstrates UltraHaptics.

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