Wednesday, December 8

New Ultrasound Technology Lets Users See and Touch 3D Shapes in Thin Air

Haptics, or touch feedback technology, has changed rapidly over the course of the past few years. Now, the Bristol Interaction and Graphics group has developed technology that can create an invisible 3D haptic shape using ultrasound, which can be both seen and felt.

The research paper, which has been published in the current issue of ACM Transactions on Graphics, describes how a new device sends out complex patterns of ultrasound waves. By focusing the ultrasound waves and creating air disturbances, the device creates haptic feedback in mid-air. The system also generates an invisible 3D shape.

In other words, the new device is a projector that can create floating, 3D shapes, which can also be touched.

The researchers believe that this new device could change the way people use 3D shapes. The new technology may be able to allow surgeons to explore a CT scan by enabling them to literally feel for a disease using haptic feedback. For example, the doctor performs a CT scan, and then — without actually performing exploratory surgery — could feel the model of the patient’s brain and check for things like tumors.

“Touchable holograms, immersive virtual reality that you can feel and complex touchable controls in free space, are all possible ways of using this system,” said Dr. Ben Long, a Research Assistant from the Bristol Interaction and Graphics group in the Department of Computer science. “In the future, people could feel holograms of objects that would not otherwise be touchable, such as feeling the differences between materials in a CT scan or understanding the shapes of artifacts in a museum.”

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