The latest scientific discovery kicking up a storm in the tech world (or at least on its blogs) is news coming out of the UK that researchers at the University of Bristol are claiming to have developed the first iterations of technology enabling users to feel entirely virtual 3D objects.
Something straight out of a science fiction thriller, the team's research published this month outlines a method for producing the sensation of touching physical objects with the use of focused ultrasound waves in a way that mimics the intended form. By linking up their ultrasound emitter with a Leap Motion sensor the device is able to recognise when a hand comes into contact with a virtual form and focus ultrasound waves to give the corresponding 'haptic feedback.' (See a video demonstration after the jump.)
Now, how precisely this technology is actually able to replicate the sensation of touch is yet to be seen (for a start, it's fairly unusual for a hand to pass straight through on object) but the Ultrahaptics team (now, of course, a start up) are very excited by the possibilities that the technology for creating feel-able holograms could have—citing particular potential in the realms of healthcare (allowing doctors to feel patients insides via CAT scans) and as feel-able interfaces for eye-demanding environments such as driving. One darling quote from the release also begs the question what else these bespectacled boffins might have in mind:
But lets leave that to the imagination.
In a move of visualization genius, the scientists demonstrate the form giving powers of their focused waves by blasting a shape-shifting sequence of rays through a pool of oil. Behold the magic from 1:33 onwards in the video above.