Get a feel for the virtual with ultrasounds

Japanese researchers develop haptic system that uses focused ultrasounds to create virtual objects that can be 'felt'.

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  September 3, 2008

Japanese researchers are working on a haptic system that uses focused ultrasounds to produce a virtual object that can be ‘felt’.

For the uninitiated, haptic technology marries computing and the sense of touch using vibrations, force and even motion.

The BBC has reported that Takayuki Iwamoto and a team from the University of Tokyo have successfully demonstrated the device that uses sound’s characteristic of being a pressure wave to create a focal point which seems like a solid object.

The prototype demonstrated last month included a camera to track the position of a user’s hand, shifting output from the device to coordinate with user movements. To the user, this gives the impression of touching the surface of the virtual object. The team has already received proposals from companies with the aim of using the system to provide a ‘feel’ to 3D models and video games.

Presently the system provides a small force only in a vertical dimension but researchers are working on improving their system, including adjusting the power to create more realistic shapes and textures, and minimizing the risk of ear damage that can be caused by excess ultrasonic waves.

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