Dec 10, 2014 | By Simon

While we might have taken it for granted by now, haptic feedback technology truly is a remarkable way of interacting with our devices.

Featured in everything from Macbook tracking pads to modern day video controllers, the power of haptic feedback resides in recreating the sense of touch by applying a variety of force feedbacks onto the user during a virtual experience.

Recently, researchers at Bristol University have combined the haptic feedback technology with 3D holograms to create 'invisible' 3D objects that, while there is no physical object, allows a user to 'feel' an object based on a clever use of ultrasound technology.

By focusing an acoustic radiation force to a specific region, researchers were able to craft touch-sensitive three-dimensional objects using the field disturbances caused by sound waves. To track a user's hand, the team incorporated a Leap Motion sensor that allowed the system to interact in real-time with gestural movements in combination with the projected sound waves.

While the sound waves themselves are invisible to the human eye, the team created a visual experience by directing the device at a layer of oil so that the disturbances appeared as objects when illuminated.

Perhaps what's more exciting though, is that the researchers were also able to match a picture of a 3D shape to the shape created by the system...which essentially created an interactive hologram.

Despite being commonly used for entertainment and gadget hardware, haptic feedback is also used commonly in the medical industry for virtually exploring (and feeling) the human body during surgical or other medical procedures. This new advancement in interacting with virtual objects could theoretically allow surgeons to interact with a patient's surgical procedure without the need for more invasive surgeries, among other applications.

As for more casual users, lead author of the project, Dr. Ben Long further explains:

"Touchable holograms, immersive virtual reality that you can feel and complex touchable controls in free space, are all possible ways of using this system. In the future, people could feel holograms of objects that would not otherwise be possible, such as feeling the differences between materials in a CT scan or understanding the shapes of artefacts in a museum."

Whether or not the technology will hit the consumer market anytime soon is still unknown, but to say that we are one step closer to having the interactive hologram technology used by Tony Stark in the Iron Man films is a definite yes.

Posted in 3D Software


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