Haptic feedback has become a common feature of recent technology, but such systems usually rely on stimulation of parts of the user’s body via direct mechanical or acoustic vibration. A new technique being developed by researchers at the University of Bristol promises to change all of this by using projected ultrasound to directly create floating, 3D shapes that can be seen and felt in mid-air.
Building on previous work at the university, the researchers have used an array of ultrasonic transducers to create and focus compound patterns of ultrasound to shape the air at which it was directed. To make these shapes visible, the manipulated air was directed through a thin curtain of oil and a lamp was then used to illuminate it. According to the researchers, this results in a system that produces such accurate and identifiable shapes that users can readily match an image of a 3D object to the shape rendered by the prototype ultrasound system.